Influences of Maya Angelou

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Adam Baginski
Mr. Kearney
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Influences of Maya Angelou
Everyone’s lives are shaped by their childhood lessons and experiences. Most people are directly influenced by their parents and other important adult figures in their lives. Children are prone to have certain characteristics and beliefs because of what is told to them or a specific event which they encounter. In I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou’s life evolves and is enriched because of the people who take care of her. She receives advice from many human beings, and must choose what guidance to follow. Maya is influenced the most by Momma, Daddy Clidell, and Mrs. Flowers. To begin, Momma, as her name indicates, is like a mother figure. Even though she was Maya’s grandmother, she takes on full responsibilities as if Maya were her own child. Since Maya is abandoned by her parents, Momma takes her in and teaches her many important life lessons. She always makes sure Maya puts God first and has respect for all religion. “I would have wriggled just a bit, but each time I looked over at Momma, she seemed to threaten, ‘Move and I’ll tear you up,’ so, obedient to the unvoiced command, I sat still.” (Angelou, 31) Momma always makes sure to bring her grandchildren to church and makes sure they behaved properly. Ever since Maya was a small child, it was forced upon her that church and God were number one priorities. In the future, Maya recalls all the punishments she had for her “blasphemous” actions so she remembers to keep the Lord close to her heart. Religion intertwines with another aspect of Momma’s influence on Maya. She makes sure her grandchildren are clean of body as well as clean of soul. “‘Thou shall not be dirty’ and ‘Thou shall not be impudent’ were the two commandments of Grandmother Henderson upon which hung our total salvation.” (Angelou, 21) Momma is very religious, and always brings God into her arguments whenever possible. She states that it was a sin to be dirty or to misbehave. Maya learns these very significant lessons and, although they are important in day-to-day life, they taught her to survive in life and assisted her in achieving her goals, which she had made for herself. These lessons distinguished her as a child and made her more mature than she was. Lastly, Maya’s grandmother shows Maya how she should always work hard in life, especially in school: “When Bailey was six and I was a year younger, we used to rattle off the times tables with the speed I was later to see Chinese children in San Francisco employ on their abacuses.” (Angelou, 8) One of the most pieces of advice Maya receives was that, in order to achieve any form of success in life, she must work hard. She was taught through very tedious and repetitive methods to memorize the times tables. Because of this experience as a child, she is used to working hard in order to be at the top of the spectrum. She always strived to get highest levels possible. Her habits of persistence and hard work ended up making her the first black, female streetcar conductor, as well as making her famous around the world today. Momma raised Maya from a very young age, and was able to teach her much more than anyone else. That is why Momma made the greatest influence on Maya. While Momma taught Maya how to live her life very formally and morally, Daddy Clidell taught her about realistic life in the world around her. He loved Maya and treated her in a way that every father should, much unlike the way Daddy Bailey treated her: “Soon after, Mother married Daddy Clidell, who turned out to be the first father I would ever know.” (Angelou, 177) For the most part, everyone’s parents influence them and their development as a human, but Maya did not truly have parents throughout her life. Momma and Daddy Clidell took the initiative of that role for Maya later on in her life. She only met Daddy Clidell much later in her life, but she still learned a lot. His behaviour was...
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