I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is a memoir that describes the author’s life from being a child to growing into a young adult. Angelou narrates her experiences affected by society’s biased thinking and racial practices towards people of color and describes differences between the black and white populations and resentment towards each other. The author raises many questions concerning segregation, discrimination, violence, and sexual assault alongside one’s search for identity and love for literature. The novel presents a journey of a girl who learns to overcome considerable challenges and finds the strength to become an exceptional woman.

Angelou discusses many obstacles that she has encountered during her youth. Since the writer depicts her life in the XX century in areas affected by racial mindset, I am not certain my personal affairs resonate with those of hers. Nonetheless, I have noticed some parallels that made me feel connected to the author to a certain extent. For example, Angelou had an uncle who was “underemployed and underpaid” and “crippled” but had a proud and sensitive personality (4). Similarly, I have a distant relative who is a king and gentle individual but with work-related troubles due to having a health impairment. Furthermore, Angelou states that her “life-long distrust was born” when she witnessed a group of white girls parodying her grandmother (15). Likewise, I first doubted people’s intentions when my childhood peers made fun of my cousin but acted friendly before the incident. Although I have faced certain troubles, I do not suppose they can be fairly compared to Angelou’s experiences of being discriminated against, sexually assaulted, or traumatized. Some small aspects of the author’s life resemble mine, but the novel shows that Angelou’s struggles were quite difficult.

In her narration, the writer provides an extensive insight into her educational journey and literacy background. It appears that Angelou was always fond of books and curious to learn. Ever since being a little girl, Angelou loved Shakespeare but also “enjoyed and respected” such authors as Poe, Kipling, and Thackeray (6). When Angelou went to elementary school in California after leaving Stamp, she was significantly better than other students due to having to do “math at an advanced level” when helping in her grandmother’s “Store” (25). However, after being sexually violated, the narrator had trouble speaking and mostly communicated only with her brother. While having “very good school work,” Angelou wrote significantly more than she talked (43). Gradually, with assistance from Mrs. Flowers, Angelou started overcoming her trauma and was told not to tolerate ignorance but be “understanding of a lack of knowledge” (44). By the time of graduation from elementary school, Angelou was at the top of her class, and her assignments were “among the best of the year” (58). The writer’s educational journey could be positive but was almost hindered by her intense experience.

Nonetheless, the novel demonstrates that regardless of the author’s academic achievements, she had little chance of success due to racial and gender discrimination. As she finished elementary school, Angelou realized that the white population did not expect black boys to accomplish much, and black girls “were not even included” in conversations about the future (61). In high school, Angelou had good grades but was not “even nearly the most intelligent student” because white children had more opportunities to excel due to being confident without society’s restrictions (71). Moreover, while white and black pupils learned the same grammar in the classroom, the latter did not follow the standard vocabulary rules in the street and their homes. Consequently, although it was done effortlessly, Angelou learned to “change from one language to another” (74). The writer had a period of losing interest in formal instruction because she and her classmates had different backgrounds and dissimilar prospects. However, new information soon became “exciting for itself,” and Angelou “found delight in the logic of mathematics” (97). Angelou’s educational journey was both positive and negative as, despite encountering obstacles, she was genuinely curious about learning.

When comparing the author’s academic life to my own, I would say that our experiences significantly vary. For instance, I was interested in books during my childhood, but I did not read the works of Shakespeare or Poe. Similar to Angelou, I received satisfactory grades in school, but I did not do mathematics at a particularly advanced level. Unlike the writer, my educational journey has not been hindered by such substantial barriers as not having enough opportunities to advance, being discriminated against, or being traumatized. I have been quite sociable and grew up with sufficient resources to improve my literacy skills. Overall, the novel suggests that a person’s interest in obtaining new knowledge can help them overcome obstructions and succeed.

The author’s narration was fascinating, but some moments were more compelling than others. The most exciting and captivating points were those involving the writer’s relationships with her family members. For example, Angelou’s bond with her brother was very engaging to read about, as Bailey was the first to learn about the assault and the only one Angelou chose to speak to after the incident. Although her parents’ actions were predominantly questionable, Angelou’s relations with Bailey, Uncle Willie, and Momma were intriguing. The least compelling scenes of the story were in the chapter about Angelou’s father’s girlfriend Dolores, who was neither an enjoyable nor pleasant person. Notably, the moments describing Angelou’s ravishment were rather unsettling because they were uneasy but also captivating considering that the author felt sorry for the offender. Overall, the novel was engaging as the narrator presented problematic topics discussed in an entertaining manner.

Angelou concerns several themes throughout the book, but it seems that one lesson that the writer wants the reader to learn is that life never stops, and it presents cheerful experiences alongside obstacles. For instance, while their parents practically neglected Angelou and her brother, Momma and Uncle Willie made the children happy sometimes. Although Angelou constantly faced racism, especially at school, she had people who supported her, such as Mrs. Flowers and Miss Kirwin. Despite society assuring her that black girls could not have a prosperous career, Angelou was “the first Negro on the San Francisco streetcars,” allowing her to provide for herself (92). The novel explores Angelou’s early years, but it is apparent that the author overcame many hardships in her youth and discovered that one must always move forward because life offers both positive and negative ventures.

To conclude, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings depicts the story of a girl who learned to live through considerable struggles. The book examines such subjects as racism, discrimination, offense, and family issues and suggests that people must strive to see favorable aspects of life even when being oppressed. The book affected me by helping me understand that each experience matters and challenging times will perish. Accordingly, I would recommend the novel to others because it describes difficulties that not many individuals face in modern days.

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StudyStroll. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou." April 19, 2023. https://studystroll.com/i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings-by-maya-angelou/.


StudyStroll. 2023. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou." April 19, 2023. https://studystroll.com/i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings-by-maya-angelou/.


StudyStroll. (2023) 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou'. 19 April.

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