The Triumphant Race
Maya Angelou’s “Chapter 19 of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” describes a small Southern town who’s gathered in the local store to listen to a championship boxing match on the radio between an African American, Joe Louis, and a Caucasian, Carnera. Louis almost loses the fight, but in the end defeats his contender. He is not only triumphant by winning the title of champion of the world, but through his win, his race is also victorious. It appears as that Angelou makes reference to the fact that her race can be beaten, but will never be broken down. Another theme explored is that of how major events unite people through a common desire or belief.
Angelou uses tone to enhance the meaning of her message. It appears as though the author uses a slow paced tone at the beginning which creates a sense of comfort and ease in the reader. When the fight begins, the author creates a sense of hope, and then completely removes it when Joe Louis shows signs of losing. The tone switches from hopeful and confident to utter despair. The author demonstrates their desperation through the single line “If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help” (135). The tone and diction immerses the reader into a mood of great sadness. After this break-down of the spirit, the author lifts the reader out of depression into great victory. Angelou intentionally sets a mood of despair to contrast the mood of rejoicement as to make it that much more powerful. The theme and tone are relative because from despair blooms a greater sense of triumph. The same applies to the African American race. They were dejected, but they in the end were victorious.
Imagery is prevalent throughout the chapter. The strongest image is that of the contrast of black and white. The first is “a black sky streaked with lightning” (133) and the second is “white lightning in their soft-drink bottles” (136). The imagery depicted is that of streaks of...