Upon her return to Stamps, Arkansas, from the damaging stay in St. Louis, Maya undergoes a drastic transformation. She is mute and morose, and it seems certain to the reader that she will tragically continue on in this way, creeping further back into her cocoon.' Maya is suspended in this mindset for nearly a year before meeting the woman she later described as my first lifeline.' Mrs. Bertha Flowers impacted Maya so profoundly that she later says of the woman, " she has remained throughout my life the measure of what a human being can be" (pg. 94).
It was through her interactions with Mrs. Flowers that Maya first experienced an African woman's potential for grace and refinement. This was the beginning of Maya's journey towards acceptance: granting herself permission to be who she was, and liberating herself from the expectations of others.
Mrs. Flowers also introduced Maya to the beauty and potential of literature and the human voice. Education and knowledge had always been at the forefront of Maya's upbringing, but it was through Mrs. Flowers that she encountered a more advanced and meaningful means of communicating her intelligence. She gained an appreciation for speech, and felt the ways in which it can move the spirit.
Perhaps the most endearing element of Maya's interaction with Mrs. Flowers...