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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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How does I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings end?

In the end of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Marguerite starts to think that she is a lesbian. A sleepover with a friend reinforces this belief. To prove to herself that she’s not a lesbian, Maya has sex with a popular boy from school, and she becomes pregnant. In the final paragraphs, Marguerite's mother teaches her that she has the ability to care for her newborn baby.

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A lot happens at the end of Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel. One main development concerns Marguerite's sexuality. Marguerite reads The Well of Loneliness multiple times and starts to identify with the lesbian women in the novel. The connection between herself and the women in the novel causes her anxiety.

Marguerite, a teen, also grapples with her changing body near the end of the novel. She asks her mom about one of these changes. Her mom answers her question with quite a bit of frankness and some humor.

Marguerite's thoughts about lesbianism return when she has a sleepover with a friend from school. She sees her friend’s breasts and is “stunned.” She compares her friend to the nude paintings that she has seen at museums.

As way to redirect her sexuality, Marguerite has sex with a popular boy at her school. Three weeks later, Marguerite realizes that she is pregnant. “The world had ended,” Marguerite proclaims.

Yet Marguerite's despair is tempered by her belief that her pregnancy somehow precludes her from being a lesbian. Her mother handles her pregnancy with the same kind of frankness and humor that she handled Marguerite's questions about her body.

After the baby is born, Marguerite is scared to hold him. She thinks she’ll harm him. In the final paragraphs, her mom shows her that Marguerite is in fact capable of protecting her baby boy.

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Why does Maya Angelou's book, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", end where and when it does?

Maya Angelou's autobiographical book ends with the birth of her son because it reinforces the main theme of the novel, the maturation of the main character Marguerite.  By keeping the pregnancy a secret, Marguerite is able to graduate from high school, something she would not be able to do if her pregnancy is known.  All through the book, Marguerite is faced with hardships and insecurities that she tries to overcome.  It is finally through the birth of her son that she realizes how far she has come. She expresses her feelings for this accomplishment by saying:

“No one had bought him for me. No one had helped me endure the sickly gray months. I had had help in the child’s conception, but no one could deny that I had had an immaculate pregnancy.”

With the help of her mother, she finally learns that she can care for and love her baby.

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