How does Maya's relationship with Bailey change over the course of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is clear that for most of the novel, the relationship that Maya and Bailey have as brother and sister is a very close one that is very important to Maya. This is particularly evident in their childhood relationship, as they would often conspire together to do things they knew they shouldn't. For example, their closeness is seen in the way that they worked together to trick Momma so that one of them could hear the gossip when the Reverend Thomas came to call:

We had a system that never failed. I would sit in the big rocking chair by the stove and rock occasionally and stamp my feet. I changed voices, now soft and girlish, then a little deeper like Baily's. Meanwhile, he would creep back into the Store. Many times he came flying back to sit on the bed and to hold the open lesson book just before Mommma suddenly filled the doorway.

Their closeness is shown in the way that they conspire together and have fun together, and by the amount of time that they spend playing together.

However, as they both grow up, Maya is forced to concede that things change and people develop. Although Bailey remains incredibly important to her, the beginning of Chapter 33 makes it clear that during her absence when she went to spend some time with their father, Bailey has changed:

Bailey was much older too. Even years older than I had become. He had made friends during that youth-shattering summer with a group of slick street boys... Although I had no regrets, I told myself sadly that growing up was not the painless process one would have thought it to be.

This sense of division only widens as Bailey struggles with his feelings of love and attraction for their mother, which finally ends in his leaving both Maya and his mother. Thus, although Maya and Bailey are incredibly close throughout the novel, as they grow up and age, they are shown to grow apart, slowly but surely.

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