Vitally important to Momma Henderson and the black community of Stamps, religion keeps them going in the face of tough times. Maya is raised with a strong sense of religion, which serves as her moral guide; however, she is enough of a realist to see how people use it to help themselves feel better about adversity, and doesn't believe this is a completely good thing.
Religion also serves a perhaps less-pure purpose in black society. Faith gives them a sense of self-righteousness, that someday they will win out over the white people and be recognized by God as better, more faithful people. It is ironic, in a way, that the black people of Stamps think that white people won't go to heaven because "the Lord loved the poor and hated those high-cast in the world"; their reasoning is obviously skewed, and meant to make them feel better about their economic hardship. Angelou refers to the proverb that it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven," again a justification to make people feel better about their status.
Conflict: Angelou suffers internal as well as external conflicts. She is highly intelligent and self-educated, reading classic literature like Beowolf, and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. She has knowledge of the world beyond Stamps that is in conflict with the unjust world in which she lives. This knowledge will serve her well as an adult but contributes to her unhappiness as an adolescent. The external conflicts are people, strangers who discriminate and oppress, and her mother who not only fails to protect her from the boyfriend, but sends her away afterward. Angelou explains, “if growing up was 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.”
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Introduction Summary Caged...
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