The Meanest Influence
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the autobiography of Maya Angelou’s life. She tells the story of her life in Stamps, Arkansas as well as her life moving from place to place. She deals with many problems including prejudice in many forms. Because of this prejudice, Maya must deal with the extremely influential actions of segregation, racism, and sexism.
One of the largest factors that affected Maya’s upbringing was segregation. Segregation is the separation of white people and African American people. Maya is forced to do everything separate from the white people when she was growing up in Stamps. She has to go to a different school and church, and even sit in a separate section in the movie theater. One of the most important statements that Maya says about segregation is when she says, “A light shade had been pulled down between the Black community and all things white, but one could see through it enough to develop a fear-admiration-contempt for the white “things”—white folks' cars and white glistening houses and their children and their women. But above all, their wealth that allowed them to waste was the most enviable” (49). This quotation clearly explains the way the segregation is so complete. She explains how her city really is white and black. On one side of her metaphorical “light shade” is the black area of town where everything is cheaper and not nearly as expensive because of the lack of opportunities that African American’s have available to them. Maya sees glimpses of the much higher quality of life that the white people enjoy and she is in awe of it. She does not understand how one set of people can have the entire splendor while her people must suffer. Another way Maya shows how the segregation in Stamps affected her is when she says, “I remember never believing that whites were really real" (25). This statement describes the interaction that the two races have. As a small child, Maya only has a few glimpses of white...
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