The Heart of a Woman Essay - Critical Essays

Maya Angelou

Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction The Heart of a Woman Analysis

The Heart of a Woman can be viewed either separately or as part of Angelou’s continuing autobiography. This series of books begins with the innocence of childhood and the cruelty of coming of age black in a white society, as recounted in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and then describes alienation and fragmentation in Gather Together in My Name (1974) and her search for personal identity in Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976). The fourth installment of Angelou’s autobiography focuses on the meaning of what it is to be an African American especially an African-American woman.

Angelou’s goal in The Heart of a Woman is to move from entertaining people to making them think. In doing so, she creates a new image of the African-American woman, especially the single mother. No longer is she automatically associated with welfare and food stamps. She is a resourceful entrepreneur who is unafraid to attempt any task because “If I ended in defeat, at least I would be trying. Trying to overcome was black people’s honorable tradition.” This attitude and self-assurance served Angelou well in New York, where she organized a fund-raiser for the SCLC, arranged a protest when Patrice Lumumba was killed, and sought help from Malcolm X when the protest turned into a riot. She was equally resourceful when she fearlessly confronted the leader of a street gang who had threatened the life of her son.

In Cairo, she called upon these strengths when she went against...

(The entire section is 634 words.)