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Literary Response to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

  • Date Submitted: 05/03/2013 05:32 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 62.4 
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“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” Literary Response:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a moving autobiography written by Maya Angelou. The story details her life from the ages of three to 18. Throughout her story Maya is faced with several obstacles such as rape, oppression, abandonment, and even teenage pregnancy. These circumstances give substantial meaning to a quote she gave later in life, "All my work is meant to say, ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.’" Throughout the story this theme is very pertinent in that Maya is faced with several obstacles but perseveres. It can even be said that she utilizes these hindrances in order to become the strong and successful woman that she is today.   While Maya faces several challenges throughout the book, there are two which significantly highlight the theme of perseverance shown in her quote. One is the severe amount of discrimination Maya faced as a black female. The second is Maya’s struggle for a secure family identity. Both of these obstacles highlight Maya’s ability to persevere no matter what the circumstances.
The time period of this book is from the 1930’s to the 1940’s. Because of this it is easy to see how the life of a young African American girl, such as Maya’s, could be filled with intense discrimination. During the period both African Americans and females were severely looked down upon, this made the life of an African American Woman very difficult. They were attacked and doubted on all sides. Maya was no exception to this. Instead of letting the discrimination define her, however, Maya utilized it as an opportunity to make herself stronger and prove those around her wrong. One instance in the book where this is shown excellently is when Maya attends her eighth grade graduation. There a man gives a speech to the audience. In essence his speech tells the African American graduates that they can only hope to be athletes or laborers. The speech drains all of the hopefulness...

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