The childhood of an individual is what sets the base for their future, and how they will evolve. For many, it is surrounded by happiness and joyful memories, though this fate isn’t destined among everyone. I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings, is an autobiography about the author, Maya Angelou. The story revolves around Maya’s path of maturity and the incidents that lead up to it. Marguerite’s misguided innocence and trust in a man whom she looked up to as a father figure, brought her to the fate of becoming molested and raped as a child. As she progresses in life and moves away from home, her memories and teachings do as well. Every new destination brings a new lesson, and this is true within Marguerite. She soon faces the beauty of motherhood and sees that is not only a privilege but a passage of life. Marguerite surpasses her prior frightening encounters with men and managed to create a life with one that felt right. In this novel, written by Maya Angelou, it is portrayed through Maya’s personal journeys that as she discovers more, she gains more sense of self.
Marguerite’s rape was the beginning of a new chapter of her life. As an 8-year-old she is faced with an incident that is mentally and physically wicked but shapes the woman that she soon becomes.
“I couldn’t sit long on the hard seats in the library (they had been constructed for children)” (Angelou 79)
Marguerite physically could not sit in the library chairs due to the pain that was stricken through her 8-year-old body during the rape. After the rape she tells Mr. Freeman that she wants to go in bed to rest, but to cover up his devious act, he forces her to head to the library, and act as though nothing happened
This quote also represents the ending of her childhood. She states how the seats were made for children and hints at the fact that she is no longer a child because she cannot sit in the library seats. It can be assumed that she is telling the reader that the rape had stripped her of her innocence and childhood. She no longer could act like the 8-year-old child that she is seen to be because of such a traumatic act that has concurred upon her
This is the beginning of her maturing and realizing how grown she has become. The rape sets the tone for the rest of her personal growth journey and allows the readers to follow along. She represents the blooming of a child that comes from harsh backgrounds to the flourishment of a strong, independent woman
“…the doctor said I was healed. That meant that I should be back on the sidewalks playing handball or enjoying the games I had been given when I was sick. When I refused to be the child they knew and accepted me to be, I was called impudent and my muteness sullenness. For a while I was punished for being so uppity that I wouldn’t speak; and then came the thrashing, given by any relative who felt himself offended.” (Angelou 88)
This scene is after her rape, where she is hospitalized, and her rapist (Mr. Freeman), is murdered for his sinful act. Though she should start her life again, and act as a regular 8-year-old as she once did. She no longer feels the child in her
Marguerite has matured from a regular child to a girl who has gained knowledge that she is unsure what to do with. As her family members want to erase this horrific incident in her life, by pushing her to be the child she is, she cannot. Instead, she takes the beatings, and stayed quiet, in the case her voice will hurt another because when she said Mr. Freeman raped her, he got killed
She knows her actions have consequences, and unlike most 8-year-olds, she takes that rule word by word. So instead of acting, she stays silent and hidden behind the adults that serve to protect her, but yet harm her
“ My car was an island and the junkyard a sea, and I was all alone and warm. The mainland was just a decision away” (Pg 252)
Marguerite’s choices often make her lonely and almost as though if she is observing everything going on around her and barely experiencing it. As shown earlier in the book, she always feels like she is stuck in her mind, and not connected to her body. As she matured, she felt more distant from herself, and never understood why she felt so out of body. She always feels lonely, even in a crowd, and as Bailey distanced off, she felt worse
As she was alone, with no familiar faces, she found a sense of peace within herself. She no longer felt alone at this moment and felt connected to herself entirely. She was there on her makeshift island (car), and on the vast sea (the junkyard). It was up to her to be like every other citizen or begin her new life as who she is
Marguerite is hidden away by all the adults in her life in the past. But now she feels like she has a voice in what she wants to do. With no one to thrash her, or order her around, she feels sane
The power Marguerite holds from her knowledge that she gained from the rape, assists throughout difficult times in her life. It helps her mature into a young, wise lady at an early age.
The novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, written by Maya Angelou, shows the progression of Maya Angelou’s coming to age story mentally and is represented through the events she experiences. The autobiography gives readers a sense of the time period, and what a coloured female child had to do to survive. Giving insight into what the protagonist experiences and her thought process shows the harsh circumstances she had to face. The story shows the development of the relationship between Mr. Freeman and Marguerite. Mr. Freeman feeds Marguerite’s innocent mind with affection with different intentions than she expects. The false trust that he built up in her, lead her into the hands of a monster, that takes her naiveté for granted, and sexually abuses her. Marguerite soon takes the ways she was grown up to be to the places she is brought. While practicing what she is always taught, she learns new lessons, which help her prosper even more intellectually. Finally, Marguerite finds peace within her past experiences and finally finds a man that she feels is right. She soon feels she is blessed by the gift that is given to her, in the name of pregnancy. This is one story, of many children that experience this type of abuse. Though we get an insightful perspective into the mind of an 8-year old who experiences a tragic occurrence, soon, grows into an influential woman.
- Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Ballantine Books, 2009.