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Connections of Their Eyes Are Watching God, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Poem)

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Two works of African American women’s literature are Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and, Maya Angelou’s, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Both stories give example to an oppressed character and the difficulties of their lives. Through description of character, language and their surroundings they tell that adventure. As well as these two works, “What to a Slave is the fourth of July,” also shares a special connection to the literary works. These connections include the story and poem similarity, Authors input, and how the speech ties all these points together into the single topic of racism.
In Their Eyes, Hurston uses the life and trials of Janie, to display the pliancy and ability of African American women to transform much of what others use to oppress and destroy them, such as race, gender, education, and poverty, into a source of strength and self-dependence . Janie is initially a young woman forced to entertain the wishes of those surrounding her, but she later transforms into a confident woman who unapologetically takes control of her circumstances, which is represented in her evolving hairstyles, manner of dressing, and self-assured portrayal of her body, especially her “firm buttocks” and “pugnacious breasts”. A similar form is portrayed in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The main character in “Caged Bird” develops an understanding of why the “caged bird” is in such a bad condition and has limit itself. This is just like Janie when she was in her first and second marriage where she was “trapped” and wasn't allowed to do all she wanted or kept silent when she wanted to speak out. However, the free bird can do what it chooses and is free to express itself anyway it chooses, just like Janie when she was able decide her life for herself in her third marriage and loved her choice in the man.
The works of Hurston and Angelou are related on various levels to their own lives. In her autobiographical series, Angelou shares the trials she faced as a young black child who was shipped between family members living across the country. Her unstable family life; the rape she suffered at eight years of age; her dealings with drugs, alcohol, and prostitution; and her teen pregnancy are representative of a few of the adversities that could have withheld her from greatness. Angelou overcame not only over these personal issues, but also over the bitter pains of racism and segregation. She conquered difficulties that once surrounded her and achieved prominence in singing, acting, and writing. While only a few of Angelou’s works currently receive significant attention, Hurston’s eccentric personality, and abundant writing skills earned her a place in literary history. Hurston’s strong and independent character is evident in the self-assured state of Janie at the beginning of the novel. Hurston herself was a dynamic writer from the Harlem Renaissance period who inspired fellow authors of that day to write. Renowned African American writers such as Langston Hughes and Alice Walker describe Hurston’s unusual behavior and her splendid writing abilities. Hughes writes about her intelligence and friendliness in his autobiography, stating, “Miss Hurston was clever, too—a student who didn’t let college give her a broad a and who had great scorn for all pretensions, academic or otherwise.” Each of these authors, Hurston and Angelou, with varying personal trials and hurdles to overcome, shared components of themselves in their works. A large factor of these two literary works is racism, Although Angelou is careful to let the readers know of humorous occurrences, she balances this throughout with reminders of how racism de-humanizes and terrifies those who are regarded as being at the bottom of the hierarchy. She describes the complete segregation of the town and how African-Americans have been taught to dread the ‘white folks’ and is trained by Momma to never be insolent . “I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings” stands as a testament to the bravery of those who have been oppressed but not silenced by this deeply racist society. Also the caged bird, that is taught the necessity of living a restricted life through fear, Angelou’s work shows a refusal to be silenced. Hurston had an extremely similar viewpoint as she states ““...physical contact means nothing unless the spirit is also there, and therefore [I] see small value in [integration]. I actually do feel insulted when a certain type of white person hastens to effuse to me how noble they are to grant me their presence. But unfortunately, many who call themselves `leaders' of Negroes in America actually are unaware of the insulting patronage and rejoice in it.” However these two people feel strongly about it the speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July,” Is a standpoint against all of racism or in this case, slavery. The speaker, Frederick Douglass, was an escaped slave who was saying that the Fourth of July doesn’t mean as much to a slave who is oppressed even after an American event when the just were freed from oppression. He said how much he respected America and since it is still in its youth it has potential to be so much more than it was. However he points out their faults just as strongly and pointing out that the slaves can’t consider the holiday to be theirs as well. Stating “But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. Douglass says slave people should no longer just take the abuse and roll-over, but fight back and express their minds and be able to share celebration with white men. All these literary works have a single thing in common, that someone is trapped and oppressed and the writers are encouraging them to stand up, not roll over, and dare to want more. This message is portrayed through characters and people have to go through these situations that the authors have seen or have openly been aware of and feel strongly enough to write against it.

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