Maya Angelou's I know why the Caged Bird Sings traces Maya's life from the time that she was three and sent to live with her grandmotherAnnie Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas to the time that she...

Maya Angelou's I know why the Caged Bird Sings traces Maya's life from the time that she was three and sent to live with her grandmother

Annie Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas to the time that she gives birth to her son. During that period, she encounters a number of expreiences that help to shape and form her character. Discuss some of these major experiencess, showing or is hse fully aware of who she is and what she wants out of life? Back up your conclusions with the complete explicit references to the text. Compare and contrast to two works read this semester from the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, Our Nig or Home to Harlem.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are some strong level of similarities between both Maya Johnson and Frado.  The first level of similarity is that both women possess a great deal of unique individuality that cannot be fully repressed by social conditions.  Frado is subjected to a great deal of pain and humiliation, but that does not cause her to completely lose her voice of and sense of self.  Maya is insightful and intuitive enough to be able to assert her own sense of self, even when conditions, such as being a maid in the white family, might dictate otherwise.  Both use this keen sense of their own identity to carve out a life for themselves that addresses the social conditions that immerse them, but does not become victimized to it.  Both characters experience loss of adult figures in their childhood, as Frado is abandoned, and Maya grows up through experience, as opposed to constant and traditionally present structures.  Both characters also accept the reality and promises of motherhood.  They are both essentially single mothers who have to deal with the lack of paternal responsibility.  However, they both embrace this accountability and seek to impart in their children a setting that they might not have fully experienced.

Naturally, there are some differences in their predicaments, as well.  Frado endures far worse treatment than Maya does, which is not to minimize the difficulty of the latter but rather highlight the historical condition of the former.  In some respects, Maya can be seen as the evolution of Frado, as the condition of African- Americans changed from the 19th to the 20th century.  Another difference would be that there are more economic opportunities for Maya, indicating the change in time and historical disposition.  This is not to say that fairness and complete equality of opportunity was present, but it certainly stood better in the 20th century than its previous counterpart.

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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