Characterization in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Characterization is a physical description of a character, the way the character acts and the personality traits of the character. Bailey Johnson Jr. is the older brother of Marguerite Ann Johnson, the protagonist of the novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. In order for Maya to become independent, she needs to separate from Bailey. Their original relationship was holding her back. Bailey is described in the book as a bright, clever and light-spirited person. Maya needs to separate from Bailey because she relies on him to fight her battles. He is also a “God-like” figure to her, which is an unhealthy obsession. Bailey also keeps Maya from believing in herself because Maya puts too much faith in him. Bailey influences Maya both positively and negatively throughout the novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Bailey influences Maya negatively because she depends on him to defend herself in her battles. Maya says in the book that, “Bailey was the greatest person in my life.” Bailey is really the only person for Maya in her life and she looks up to him. He is basically the big brother of Maya’s dreams. Bailey gives Maya that confidence and couragement such as getting back at Maya’s family members and friends who tease her about her imperfections. In the text, Maya describes one of his actions when she explains, “When our elders said unkind things about my features, Bailey would wink at me from across the room, and I knew that it was a matter of time before he would take revenge.” This is one of the key examples of Maya relying on Bailey too much and giving him that faith instead of herself. Since Maya is relying on her older brother to defend her, she could never become a stronger person individually. Maya is not capable of becoming more independent because she is ignorant of her own reliance on Bailey.

Bailey is described in the book by Maya as a savior in her eyes, which is an unhealthy obsession for Maya. She believes that he is a...
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