I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Critique

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the autobiography of Maya Angelou. I find it to be a rather interesting novel, since it is based on a true story. It also helps the reader understand how black people lived and felt during that period. In the novel, there is a wide range of themes, from family ties, to rape, and even literacy. In Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the three main themes are racism, prejudice and the roll of black women. The first and most visible theme in the novel is racism. During 1969, it is common to see a black person as inferior to a white person. In the novel, Angelou shows the crudeness of white Southern attitudes toward African Americans. For example, in chapter 24, Marguerite goes to the dentist and Dr. Lincoln, a white man, refuses to treat her because she is black. He says: “I’d rather stick my hand in a dog’s mouth than in a nigger’s.” (Angelou 189). Not even because of necessary medical attention does a white person leave aside the race and treat a black patient. Putting aside her strong feelings against racism, Angelou demonstrates how she develops the understanding of the rules for surviving in a racist society. For example, in chapter 5, when the “powhitetrash” mock Momma, she stood humming while Marguerite is filed with rage, indignation and helplessness. Momma instead shows her how to maintain dignity and pride while dealing with racism. With her indifference towards the disrespectful white girls, Momma serves as a role model to all black people in her community by being the bigger person in a situation like this. The second theme in the novel is prejudice. Maya, her friends and her relatives will always be subject to prejudice simply because they are black. For example, in chapter 23, during Marguerite’s graduation, Mr. Edward Donleavy gives a speech in which he mentions how blacks only achieve greatness through sports, not through academics: One of the first-line football tacklers at Arkansas Agricultural and...
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