In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, how does Maya make an adventure out of working at the store?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maya is a very observant child with a vivid imagination. She is at first mesmerized by the variety of things available in the store, "food staples, a good variety of colored thread, mash for hogs, corn for chickens, coal oil for lamps, light bulbs for the wealthy,shoestrings, hair dressing, balloons, and flower seeds." She describes the feeling of working in such an interesting place as akin to being "locked up in a Fun House of Things where the attendant had gone home for life." Maya describes the "soft make-believe feeling" which the lamplight in the Store gives off; it makes her "want to whisper and walk about on tiptoe" (Chapter 1).

As Maya becomes more familiar with the workings of the Store, she finds that her jobs, which include "weighing the half-pounds of flour, excluding the scoop, and depositing them dust-free into the paper sacks (hold) a simple kind of adventure for (her)." She develops an eye to be able to tell just by looking how much flour, mash, meal, sugar, or corn it takes to make a pound. When she is correct, she receives high praise from the appreciative customers, and when she is wrong, she "quietly but persistently punish(es) (her)self," denying herself the chocolate treats that she loves so much as a consequence of her inaccuracy.

During her time in Stamps, Maya considers the Store her favorite place to be. She describes it as "an unopened present from a stranger" in the early mornings, and says that "opening the front doors (is like) pulling the ribbon off (an) unexpected gift" (Chapter 3).

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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