Illustration of the silhouetted profile of a person's face and three birds next to an orange sun

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

Start Free Trial

What would be the plot of this novel?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Angelou's tale is a maturational autobiography. You may have also heard the literary term for this, bildungsroman.

The story begins when Angelou is three years old. Her parents are unable to care for her. She and her four year old brother, Bailey, go to live with Maya's paternal grandmother (whom she called Momma) and uncle in Stamps, Arkansas.

For the next several years, young Maya grows up under her grandmother's loving tutelage. From her, Maya learns tolerance, love, and respect.

But when Maya turns twelve, her birth mother decides she wants the children back. Her father comes to retrieve the children in Stamps, leaving the only home they have ever known.

Life turns sour for Maya. The bustle of Chicago is so different from life in the rural South. She meets her extended, boisterous family. She begins to make adjustments to her new life, but then the most seminal event in her life takes place. Maya is raped.

After the rape, Maya's story focuses on recovery: recovery of body, of spirit, of trust. She goes into the wider world and discovers racism, but also her own remarkable strength.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team