How do Bailey and Marguerite come to understand their mother is human after all in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bailey and Marguerite come to understand that their mother is human after all because she is so nervous when they come back to live with her during the second world war years. Marguerite observes,

Although we were both enraptured, neither Bailey nor I was unaware of her nervousness. The knowledge that we had the power to upset that goddess made us look at each other conspiratorially and smile. It also made her human.

Marguerite is thirteen and Bailey fourteen when they are returned to their mother to live with her in California. Neither have spent very much time with her during their short lives to this point, and both are in awe at her beauty and liveliness. Mother is light-skinned, wears makeup, and is a singer; she has an aura which is completely alien to anything the children have experienced in the small town of Stamps, where they have been living with their grandmother. Bailey in particular is infatuated with Mother, and holds her on a pedestal which is only more lofty because his imagination is untempered by reality.

When the children are entering their early teens, their grandmother sends them back to their mother because of the dangers they would face as black children coming of age in the Deep South. Although their mother seems happy to have them, she is obviously nervous about the changes "her abruptly enlarged family" will bring into her life. As she drives Marguerite and Bailey from Los Angeles to their permanent home (at least for now) in the San Francisco area, she "talks(s) incessantly" and puffs furiously on a cigarette. Although the two children are delighted to be able to spend time with their glamorous mother, they recognize herĀ unease and realize that she is only human after all (Chapter 26).

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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