Masterplots II: African American Literature The Heart of a Woman Analysis - Essay

Maya Angelou

Masterplots II: African American Literature The Heart of a Woman Analysis

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

In Angelou’s case, the heart of a woman is her son, Guy who was named Clyde at birth. He chose the name Guy for himself and it is the name he is known by in Angelou’s fourth memoir. It is sometimes difficult to discern Angelou’s motivations. Like many creative people, she is susceptible to whimsy. She seems almost to stumble in and out of careers, in and out of passions, in and out of relationships. Her son is the constant throughout most of his mother’s story.

Angelou resembles Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump, popping up at important times in American history, meeting influential people, and knowing some of the most iconic personalities of the twentieth century. She lived, for instance, in San Francisco during the vanguard days of the Beat generation, when Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady were heading ever westward to the eventual hub of the hippie movement. She moved to Brooklyn during the early 1960’s, and she met Malcolm X and discussed civil rights and civil disobedience with him. She seemed to be on the cusp of the Civil Rights movement and the women’s movement at the same instant. She was there to take the baton from Bayard Rustin, and she became the chief executive and fund-raiser for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Before history could catch up with her, before Malcolm X and King were gunned down, she moved on to Africa. Her work and her experiences there seemed to be early harbingers of the long war against apartheid. All the while, she remained her grandmother’s baby, her mother’s daughter, the South’s pearl of great price, an African American woman simultaneously somehow both at the center and always on the fringe of history, retaining her dignity and identity and finally, inevitably, returning to her role of mother.