I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Maya Angelou's turbulent experiences through late childhood and adolescence transformed into an almost positive force in her adult life as they helped enlighten, inspire, motivate and shape her very being. They provided her with the vehement fuel that drives her achingly powerful words and allowed her the knowledge and wisdom that led to self-discovery (finding one's inner self) and eventually knowledge of self (understanding one's inner self), two endeavors that most of humanity is never able or perhaps willing to acquire. In Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Marguerite Johnson experiences a particularly difficult childhood where she is often displaced geographically, socially and racially, and is even raped at a young age, yet she is able to overcome these adversities and succeed in life. Growing older, Maya becomes more aware of both the peccability and the vitality of her community. She attends a church revival throughout which a priest moralizes unreservedly against white hypocrisy through his sermon on charity and benevolence. The spiritual vigor and zeal achieved during the sermon soon disperses as the revival crowd walks home past the purlieu. Furthermore, Maya observes the entire community focusing on the Joe Louis heavyweight championship boxing match, dreadfully yearning for him to secure his title against the white man.

Maya encounters the sinister effects of racial discrimination and segregation in America at an awfully young age. Growing up in Stamps, she comes head to head with an entrenched southern racism that patents itself in formidable daily indignities and affronts, as well as petrifying lynch mobs: "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult" (4). This vivid assertion ends the opening section of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Although this portion, which acts as a prologue, mostly emphasizes...
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