To what extent does Angelou achieve self-actualisation
in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings?
“Those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth with wisdom, innocence with understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization…” – Bo Bennett I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is the first in a series of autobiographical works by Maya Angelou, an African American author and poet. Published in 1969 the novel captures and amplifies the socio-political zeitgeist in Black America. It is a bildungsroman that follows a young African American girl with an inferiority complex on her psychological and characteristic development to become a more socially aware and proactive individual. An individual beginning to adopt or preparing to adopt the attitudes that Bo Bennett discusses in the above quotation. This essay will explore the extent to which Angelou achieves self-actualisation in the novel. Without a sound understanding of what self-actualisation is, it is easy to assume that Angelou finishes as a healthy, assertive and thus ‘self-actualised’ individual. However, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualisation is achieved after fulfilling the preceding stages of development; physiological needs, safety, love and belonging, and esteem. This leads the reader to realise that Angelou does not entirely achieve self-actualisation by the end of the novel. “The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power…”...
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