I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Literary Analysis
By Aaliyah Smith
Maya Angelou wrote an amazing and entertaining autobiography titled I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, about her hard life growing up as a black girl from the South. Among the hardships are things known as "cages" as stated from a metaphor from Paul Dunbar's poem "Sympathy." "Cages" are things that keep people from succeeding in life and being everything they want to be. Some of Maya Angelou's cages include being black in the 1940's and her overbearing grandmother. In my life, a "cage" is my young age, that restricts me from carrying on with goals I hope to achieve.
A major "cage" from Maya Angelou's youth was that she was black in a prejudice southern town. Maya has recounted in her book the times when she was discriminated against. When she was working for a white woman named Mrs. Viola Cullinan, Mrs. Cullinan started calling her Mary, "That's [Margaret] too long. She's Mary from now on."(pp.91) One of the most important aspects of a person is their name. It is a great insult for someone to change your name, without your consent. If Maya was white Mrs. Cullinan would not have changed her name and she did it only because of her racist friends and attitudes. Even some of the white adults who supposedly supported her had hidden their racist messages in seemingly nice speeches. Maya conveys the words of Mr. Edward Donleavy, one of the people in the masquerade, "The white kids were going to have a chance to become Galileos and Madame Curies and Edisons and Gauguins, and our boys (the girls weren't even in on it) would try to be Jesse Owenses and Joe Lousises."(pp.151) Maya was forced to listen to Mr. Donleavy's stereotypes of how white children could be thinkers and black children can only be athletes.
What was supposed to be an encouraging speech, which Mr. Donleavy probably thought was sincere, turned out to be just another racist and stereotypical...
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