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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou
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What are the two positive things and one serious shortcoming that Mrs. Flowers has heard about Marguerite in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the two positive things that Mrs. Flowers mentions are Marguerite's good schoolwork and love of reading. The one serious shortcoming relates to Marguerite's reluctance to speak.

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In chapter 15, Mrs. Flowers asks Marguerite to come and take a walk with her. Marguerite says that it would have been impossible to refuse her request. Marguerite is fond of Mrs. Flowers. According to Marguerite, Mrs. Flowers acts “just as refined as whitefolk.” She reminds Marguerite of the white...

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In chapter 15, Mrs. Flowers asks Marguerite to come and take a walk with her. Marguerite says that it would have been impossible to refuse her request. Marguerite is fond of Mrs. Flowers. According to Marguerite, Mrs. Flowers acts “just as refined as whitefolk.” She reminds Marguerite of the white women she reads about in English novels. Marguerite imagines Mrs. Flowers ambling across moors or sipping tea in front of a fireplace.

On the walk, Mrs. Flowers mentions Marguerite’s vast appetite for literature and learning. She says, “I hear you’re doing very good schoolwork.” Here's one positive thing that Mrs. Flowers brings up. Doing well in school and studying hard are praiseworthy attributes.

Mrs. Flowers then pivots specifically to reading.

Your grandmother says you read a lot. Every chance you get. That’s good, but not good enough.

This seems to qualify as the second positive thing. As the word good indicates, Mrs. Flowers thinks reading is a worthwhile endeavor.

However, the second positive thing pertains to the one serious shortcoming. After applauding Marguerite’s voracious reading, Mrs. Flowers addresses her apprehension about speaking. Marguerite’s reluctance to use her voice centers on the sexual abuse she suffered in St. Louis. To encourage Marguerite to speak, Mrs. Flowers lectures her on the importance of the human voice. Words on paper are “not good enough.” Mrs. Flowers explains to Marguerite that words mean more when spoken aloud. This walk/chat (along with cookies, lemonade, books, and an assignment to recite poems) gives Marguerite the confidence to talk again.

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