In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou symbolizes the caged bird to be an African American trapped having hope one day will be let out free just like the soaring, free bird representing the Caucasian class, she expresses her comparison through her issues she faces like segregation, racism and life as a young colored girl in the 19th century South.
Even after Lincolns presidency, The Emancipation of Proclamation, Civil War, and 13th, 14th, 15th amendments, minds were still not changed into the belief that African Americans were just as equal as Whites; even having stated in the United States Constitution everyone had equal rights, regardless of race. African Americans had finally had their prayers granted, though even given rights protecting every single inch of them, whites views were just unchangeable, you can state the rules and laws, but that didnt mean you could see a white undergo a whole new view, when it once was set on a strong discrimination toward African Americans. Having trouble accepting such a big movement, discrimination still appeared and acted, some Africans and specifically Marguerite Ann Johnson in this situation seen it first-hand.
Marguerite Ann Johnson (Maya Angelou) was a colored little girl living in the south, with the huge cloud covering the whole town with tension between colored and whites. Being raised by her grandmother and in a religious manner, she was a well brought up child. The little girl was aware of her color of skin and how it affected her way of life, who would ever think such a thought would cross a little girls mind, and why this girl had to do things differently, at the end of the day she was just the same as the others, the complexion was the interfering factor. Maya could be seen as an insecure girl, but who wouldnt when youre exposed to be that way towards whites. When Maya had her grandmother make her a dress for Church, she shows her willingness to be accepted, Hanging softly over the black Singer sewing machine, it looked like magic, and when people saw me wearing it they were going to run up to me and say, Marguerite, forgive us please, we didnt know who you were, and I would answer generously, No, you couldnt have known. Of course I forgive you (Angelou, pg.2). Maya would feel satisfaction to be accepted; surprisingly it shows how much it meant to her, wanting to get a bit of the attention theyve never gotten. Girls like Maya were openhearted, willing to forget the cruel thoughts of them, to feel appreciation. Astonishing how a little girl could have different thoughts from another girl, in todays world all little girls seem express a same thought, like what doll will be their favorite for the day, but the differences between a white and colored girl were definitely evident , also not just these little girls but adults too.
A stereotype is presented in the story that depresses Maya. The big event of graduating the eighth grade was meaningful to her and nothing was going to interrupt her broad moment. Until at graduation, Mr. Edward Donleavy the white guest speaker states that colored people seem to only succeed in sports, not academics. The white kids were going to have a chance to become Galileos and Madame Curies and Edisons and Gauguins, and our boys (the girls werent even in on it) would try to be Jesse Owenses and Joe Louises (pg. 179). The speaker spoke in front of a colored crowd, ensuring them a chance of them being successful is like a chance of getting rain in a desert that hasnt seen rain in years, but maybe as a participant in sports more realistically. By having someone say such a comment about you is a big disappointment, having the question of doubt run across your mind, if you really just can live up to the standard that society has set you to? Though that person doesnt know you personally, so whos he to judge, whos he to tell you what you can do and what you cant, by a stereotype he believes. The color of skin, race, and religion doesnt determine what you can and what you cant do, what determines your future relies on oneself.
When Maya was growing up she had a lot of women in her life, her grandmother who raised her majority of her life and her mother who becomes a strong character near the end of the book, unlike Maya both women share a strong dignity of themselves that never seems to be dropped not even by racism or by any crude comment. One day in front of the store Mayas grandmother owned , her grandmother faced an encounter with foolish white girls who taunted grandmother, but she didnt take any of it to heart and stood there taking all the cruel manners of the white girls, Through the fly-specked screen-door, I could see that the arms of Mommas apron jiggled from the vibrations of her humming. But her knees seemed to have locked as if they would never bend again (pg.31). Mayas mother hasnt been present her whole entire life but when she does, her part as a mother is just as good as a full-time mother, shes built up her life to become dependent on herself and herself only. One day Mayas fathers girlfriend claimed her mother was a whore, Maya took that to offense and slapped the women for such talk, Maybe if I had been older, or had had my mother longer, or understood Dolores frustration more deeply, my response would not have been so violent. I know that the awful accusation stuck not so much at my filial love as at the foundation of my new existence. If there was a chance of truth in the charge, I would not be able to live, to continue to live with Mother, and I so wanted to (pg.245). The comment wasnt directly stated to Mayas mother but even if it was the actions of Mayas would be the same of her mothers, not taking that assumption to heart. You can see a change in Maya and how she stands up for her mother, When she was younger she didnt have a voice, all of the raw hate that was shown was taken in and swallowed her whole, but now she starts to become as strong as her role models are.
In the last year of high school in San Francisco with her mother, Maya goes and applies for a position as a street car conductor, going in with high hopes for the job the receptionist turns her down in even thinking about applying, hiring a colored girl was out of the question. Though Maya doesnt take no for an option and with her mothers encouragement not to give up , she arrives every day until the receptionist gives in and gives her an application. Maya becomes the first Black person to be hired by the San Francisco streetcars. The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, with illogical hate and Black lack of power. The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence (pg.272). Maya receives what she wanted, even though struggling all her life with jolts of racism, she took those moments of weakness building off of them to become the person people thought she would never become. By Maya receiving the job it signifies a turning point in her life, which she has never experienced before. She has never been quite accepted as who she was; she was always seen as the Black girl who has nothing to give. Getting the job opens up new beginnings, she never took no for an answer and demonstrated that by being determined to go back every day until she got an opportunity. The bird in the cage was no longer trapped, it had a purpose in this world it didnt sing or preach to the world for no reason, the bird was caged, Maya was held captive, but she didnt let that hold her back, she still sang like the bird till she got her taste of freedom. Breaking the chain of discrimination was assisted by Maya and her inclination to be something the society never pictured, she achieved it greatly, and being able to change the view.
Todays society we accept everyone, there is not a strong judgment against races. Whites started realizing that people of all races were going to be around them, theyre people werent going to the only majority of the area. The issue of blacks vs. whites is a controversy and ironic topic. How can society go from one big idea to another, coming from discrimination to pursuing into acceptance, questioning why couldnt they have accepted from the very beginning? Was there a an legit reason to put the African American people as objects and not humans, did the pro-slavery gain anything in the end of their torture, no, but the African Americans did, rights for themselves to be counted as someone and have a chance to not have a imprisoned life. Was this something that could have been taken care from the beginning, yes, but it wasnt and was blown into a big conflict. Controversy uproars with two different opinions on whether racism was right or out of line, there are people today who are still bitter over the different races, and not just towards African Americans but towards other races. Why does a difference in someone mark them a bad person, everyone is different from one another even the people of the same race, so what is the winning outcome of being judgmental, nothing, nothing at all? One thing we all have in common is that were human and all want to be accepted as who we are, why cant people see that in the eyes theyre putting down?
The topic of racism was seen in about every section of the book, and in every part of Mayas life. The way Maya sees it at the beginning changes near the end by achieving actions that once seemed to be impossible to her; she took the issue of her race and lived through it, how can someone take action when you were not believed in? Going through lot of learning and built of self-respect and dignity of herself, she had the right to change.