Swan 1 Luis Perozo Prof. Padilla English 2 June, 2011 The Presence of Exemplar Male Figures as an Approach to the Representation of Marguerite Johnson’s Weakness in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings “My head was up and my eyes were open, but I didn’t see anything.” Using this line in the prologue of her autobiographical novel, Maya Angelou introduces the lack of power of the main character of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Marguerite Johnson. This phrase introduces to the reader a vulnerable girl who attempts to recite a poem in front of her Church in the Black section of the segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas. Marguerite is looking up from a position in which the eyes of many overwhelm her attempt to speak. Marguerite keeps her eyes open, aware of the world around her, but she sees nothingness in her life. Within this context, Angelou introduces essential elements that mirror some of Marguerite's weaknesses. Symbolically in this scene, Angelou suggests that for this young Black girl, religion, race and gender are her most vulnerable characteristics. For this reason, in Marguerite’s life role models become an essential motif, for she constantly keeps her eyes open looking for hope in her elders. Although Marguerite gains hope and support in different ways from many female mentors, male role models become a notable reminder of her powerlessness in society, and as such, are used by Angelou as a poignant approach to the main characters weaknesses. In Marguerite Johnson’s life men are the icons that ambiguously symbolize her human condition in direct and ironic examples. Firstly, Angelou introduces two mentors related to the subject of Religion. As a direct example, the
Swan 2 author presents Uncle Willie, whose limitations are selfcompensated by taking shelter in God’s devotion. In the same matter of religion, Angelou employs Reverend Howard Thomas as an ironic...
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