Maya I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Topics: White people, Black people, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 5 (1710 words) Published: June 28, 2008
. Race Relations
The reasons listed by the censors for banning I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings do not explain the widespread controversy around the novel. There is reason to believe that the question of the novel is in its poignant portrayal of race relations. This explains why the novel has been most controversial in the South, where racial tension is historically worst, and where the novel is partially set. Therefore, understanding the blatant and subtle effects of racism on the young Marguerite help explain the censorship controversy, and the person she became. One of the earliest examples of race relations in the book symbolizes the strict dichotomy of opportunity for black and white children. On the second page, Marguerite explains how she wished that she would wake up in a white world, with blond hair, blue eyes, and she would shudder from the nightmare of being black. Thus, from the beginning of the book, race relations were one of the major themes. Maya Angelou also shows the effect of oppression on the black people, and that impact on her as a child. One early example occurred when the po' white trash children confronted Mama in front of the store. They were represented as clownish, dirty, and rather silly. On the other hand, Mama simply stood like a rock and sang the Gospel. Her beauty of soul versus their disgusting antics creates a powerful scene about the nature of the oppressed and the oppressor. Marguerite, meanwhile, lies crouched behind the screen in agony at the inability of her class to command respect simply because of their color. Then, as the scene progresses, she understands that in spite of the disparity of power between the po'white trash and Mama, Mama has won. The dichotomy of power is also shown later in the book when Maya attends her eighth grade graduation ceremony. The disparaging remarks pertaining to white versus black ability filled Marguerite with despair. When the young boy giving the commencement address turned and sang the black anthem, it changed that despair to hope. It showed her the ability of her race, and in turn her species, to survive and overcome incredible odds. It is examples such as these that impact Marguerite and shape the woman she was the become. One can see the seeds of this woman in many of the examples of race relations in the novel. For example, when Marguerite works as a maid in a white house, her employers change her name for their convenience. After being called Mary, she determines that she must leave this employment. Her inability to adapt to this situation which was considered normal, shows the rigidity of character which was more fully developed later in her life. Another example of the seeds of who she became occurred when the revival came to Stamps. Here, Marguerite makes the observation that it had occurred to her that her race is masochistic. She thought that not only were they condemned to live the worst lives, but they liked it like that. In this example, Marguerite shows the frustration she had with her circumstances, and with life for Southern Blacks. When considering the amount of persuasive power Maya Angelou has it is not surprising that the book has had a great many detractors. The depiction of hatred between the races can not be comfortable for Southern whites, whom the novel implicitly criticizes. From subtle racism like the inability for Maya to become a streetcar conductor, to more blatant examples like the doctor's statement, "My policy is that I'd rather stick my hand in a dog's mouth than in a nigger's," the novel shows the evilness in segregation and prejudice.

I know why the caged bird sings.
It is interesting to note the poetical nature of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. You truly sees the events through the eyes of a young girl. For example, the molestation scenes are depicted simply and innocently, which bothers one's consciousness. Another aspect of the book is the way in which the chapters are laid out. At the beginning...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Racism in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay
  • "I know why the Caged Bird Sings" Reflection Essay
  • Essay about I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Influences On Maya
  • I know why the caged bird sings Essay
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Summary Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free