Written by: Ezekiel Gacee
Following her parents’ divorce, Maya and her brother Bailey shifted to Arkansas to reside with Annie, their grandmother, who they addressed as a momma. Annie ran the only store in the black segment of Stamps, and she became the central ethical figure in the childhood period of Maya.
Additionally, Maya suffered the torment from the conviction that she was a repulsive child who would never match the refined, white girls. She did not also regard herself as identical to the other black kids. Nevertheless, Bailey stood up for Maya when individuals made fun of her by brandishing his charisma to put them to their places. The church’s opening prospect foreshadows the resistances Maya overcame in her life when she could not even deliver the poem, consequently fleeing the church.
Basic Trust vs. Mistrust – Hope
While crying and peeing as she was fleeing from the church, Maya took note of fear of the individuals laughing at her and her sense of inferiority and displacement even amongst other black persons. Maya also left the church laughing even though that foreshadowed her eventual accomplishment. During her growing up period in Stamps, Maya encountered profoundly entrenched racism in draining daily humiliations, and frightening lynch mobs.
Maya recounts her childhood experiences in this writing piece and compares her perception as a grown person. The central conflict is in her maturity as a southern African American girl, confronting violence, racism, loneliness, and sexism.
Autonomy vs. Shame – Will
Maya deals with the insidious influences of racism and segregation in the US at an incredibly tender age. Maya internalizes the concept of blond hair being stunning and considers herself an overweight black girl ensnared in a nightmare. As a kid, she did not consider white persons’ existence as Stamps encompassed specific instances of segregation. During her advancement into adulthood, Maya faced more blatant and personal racism occurrences, such as the condescending address by a white speaker during her eighth-grade graduation.
Initiative vs. Guilt – Purpose
The significance of the world championship boxing competition to the blacks’ community revealed the passing away of publicly acknowledged African American descent heroes. It also served to illustrate the desperate character of the black community’s hopes for dismissal during the athletic success of a solitary man. Such unwarranted social realities demean and confine Maya and her relations.
Maya realized how the pressures of staying in an exceedingly racist social order have profoundly fashioned the moral fiber of her ties with Maya endeavoring to overcome them.
Industry vs. Inferiority – Competence
Growing up to sixteen, Maya shifted through seven separate homes ranging from Los Angeles, Stamps, California, Oakland, San Francisco, and St. Louis. As exemplified in her recited poem during Easter, the proclamation I did not come to stay became her protection against the cold veracity of her roving. Overwhelmed by the tripartite crossfire of sexism, racism, and supremacy, young Maya encountered belittling and degrading at each turn, consequently making her not able to surrender her safeguard and feel contented hanging about in an isolated location.
At the age of thirteen, when she shifted to San Francisco alongside Bailey, mother, and Daddy Cidell, Maya felt she belonged for the only time. Maya is related to the city as a township occupied with displaced individuals. Maya’s displacement echoed the broader social pressure, which displaced black people all over the country.
Maya realized that countless other frightened black kids made a similar journey akin to hers and Bailey, moving about themselves to new well off parents in the northern cities, or transverse to the southern townships when the North ruined in the supply of the promised economic prosperity. African Americans tumbled down from slaves majorly displaced from their homelands and homes in Africa.
The resistance to racism by black persons takes numerous types in the novel. Annie maintained her dignity by perceiving things pragmatically and keeping to herself. The friends to Daddy Clidell learned to use racism by the whites against them in a lucrative and elaborate con. The family Vivian establishes attachment and cultivates toughness to the underground pressures, which discourage any harassment.
Maya initially tried out with resistance when she broke her white boss’s heirloom in China. However, Maya’s defiance act happened when she became the foremost black conductor for a streetcar in San Francisco. Black people also made use of the churches as places of subversive opposition. During the revivals, the preacher would present thinly oblique sermons criticizing the whites’ charity, and the community would revel in the thought of white individuals burning in torment for their exploits.
Integrity vs. Despair – Wisdom
Even though Maya struggled with displacement and insecurity throughout her childhood, she had a significant number of strapping role models in her community and family. Annie, Grandmother Baxter, Vivian, alongside Bertha Flowers, all encompassed too different perceptions and personalities regarding life. Nevertheless, they all charted their paths and managed to preserve their self-respect and dignity. They never capitulated to the indignities of racism.
Maya, too charted her path, struggling to become the foremost black conductor for a streetcar, and she did so with the backing and motivation of her female antecedents. After Chapter 34, Maya notes that the perception of a black woman’s towering temperament should be the predictable result of a hard-fought effort. The majority of black women fell along the road with the ones who weathered the storm of racism and sexism shining with greatness.
Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation – Love
Maya’s foremost love was William Shakespeare. All through her existence, literature played a large part in bolstering her self-belief and offering a world of escape and fantasy. When she felt lonely in St. Louis, the library became a haven for Maya. Maya’s description of Bertha Flowers was as a woman in the English novels. Bertha assisted Maya with the rediscovering of her voice following her rape by motivating her to use the expressions by other poets and writers.
Maya continually quoted and referred to the literature she had read during her childhood. Case in point, on one occasion, she cleanly gave San Francisco the tag Pride and Prejudiced devoid of referring distinctively to the novel by Jane Austen with a similar name. Bailey appreciated the love Maya had of literature. Bailey frequently presented her with presents, including a book by Edgar Allen Poe, which he and Maya read loudly while walking in their patch in Stamps (Manora, 2005).
Identity vs. Role Confusion – Fidelity
Marguerite was Maya’s actual name, with most of the family members referring to her as Rittie. The verity that she opted for Maya as an adult, a name given by Bailey, demonstrated the depths of admiration and love Maya held for him. During Maya’s reunification with her mother and her mother’s relations in St. Louis, Maya’s uncle narrated to her how she acquired the name.
As such, the discovery of her links connected with her finding of the word and her distinctiveness. Overall, for the African Americans, Maya noted that naming was a sensitive matter owing to its provision of a feeling of individuality in an aggressive world, which aimed to erase the blacks’ identity through stereotyping them (Angelou, 2012).
Accordingly, given the prevalence of the derogatoriness such as nigger frequently used to bring down blacks, Maya noted the threat attached to referring to black persons anything, which could have a loose interpretation to be insulting. The act resulted in Maya getting enraged, thus committing her singular resistance act.
The store Annie owned was a central assembling location in Stamps and the core of Maya’s childhood. Maya witnessed the cycles of labor and nature, treatment to the labor force in the season of cotton picking alongside canners all through the season of killing. Before leaving Stamps forever at the age of thirteen, Maya took pleasure in the store as her favorite location to pass the time.
Maya’s Easter Dress
The dress of lavender taffeta design, which Annie altered for Maya during the Easter celebration, symbolized Maya’s lack of affection for herself alongside her desire for acceptance by transforming. Maya believed that beauty implied white beauty. The dress looked magical from its hanging position by the machine of sewing. Maya imagined that the dress would reveal her factual self to persons who would find her exquisiteness stunning.
However, a harsh reality struck on the morning of Easter at her discovery that the dress was only a throwaway by a white woman, which could not awaken her from the outlandish of being black. Consequently, Maya learned that her transformation would have to happen from the inside (Angaza, 2001).
Angaza, M. (2001). Maya—A Precious Prism. Black Issues Book Review, 3(2), 30.
Angelou, M. (2002). A Voice of Power: THE MAYA ANGELOU STORY. Scholastic Scope, 51(7/8), 4.
Long R. Maya Angelou. Smithsonian [serial online]. November 2005;36(8):84. Available from: MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 3, 2012.
Manora, Y. M. (2005). “What you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay”: Displacement, Disruption, and Black Female Subjectivity in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Women’s Studies, 34(5), 359-375. DOI:10.1080/00497870590964011
Sparks L. Racism in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings/Racism in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. School Library Journal [serial online]. April 2008;54(4):164. Available from: MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 3, 2012.