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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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How does Mrs. Flowers’s lesson change the way Marguerite feels about books and words in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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Mrs. Flowers is an important part of young Marguerite’s life. This is in large part because she teaches Marguerite firstly to love and respect books and secondly to understand the significance of well-chosen and well-spoken words.

Mrs. Flowers tells Marguerite that she will “accept no excuse if you return a book to me that has been badly handled.” This quotation demonstrates Mrs. Flowers’s understanding that books are precious and deserving of respect. This is an understanding which Marguerite also comes to.

Mrs. Flowers also tells Marguerite that “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of a deeper meaning.” Marguerite comments that this explanation “seemed so valid and poetic.” This advice helps Marguerite to become a sensitive and imaginative reader.

Marguerite says that Mrs. Flowers gave her the “secret word which called forth a djinn who was to serve (her) all (her) life: books.” In other words, Mrs. Flowers taught Marguerite how to love books so that they became almost magical and also dependable. Because of Mrs. Flowers, books became like friends that Marguerite could always turn to for comfort.

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