Does the concept of "hope" have meaning behind Maya Angelou's choosing of the title I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Knowing what I know about Angelou, I believe that the title of this novel has great significance, and that hope is an integral part both of the title and the entire narrative.  On her website, Angelou has posted these words:  "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song."  The caged bird is a metaphor for Angelou's early life in Stamps, Arkansas, where she felt like a prisoner of her community, a community so segregated that early in her life, she didn't believe that white people really existed because she had never seen one.  In addition to being disconnected from whites, Maya doesn't feel like an accepted part of the black community, which makes her withdraw into herself, and will eventually make her vulnerable to sexual assault, an experience that will cause her to become mute.  The song that Maya found seems to be in the arts, beginning with one Mrs. Flowers, who took an interest in the unhappy child and began reading to her over cookies and lemonade.  Literature would be a savior of sorts to Angelou, who read voraciously as an escape, a habit that she has maintained her entire life.  To sing because one has a song implies hope and a need to tell one's story, which Angelou did in her autobiographical novels.  The themes of survival and strength in the face of adversity, ever present in her work, relate directly to the title I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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