I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 1: Summary and Analysis
by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 1: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Bailey Johnson, Jr.: Marguerite’s four-year-old brother

Mrs. Annie Henderson: Marguerite’s grandmother and a resident of Stamps, Arkansas

Chapter 1 tells of the arrival of Marguerite and Bailey at their grandmother’s after their parents’ divorce. Marguerite describes in detail the setting of Stamps, Arkansas, and specifically the Wm. Johnson General Merchandise Store. Through her eyes the reader sees the activities in the Store each day.

Since Marguerite is only three-years-old when the story begins, the reader knows that the narrator is remembering the events of an earlier time. Marguerite is a round character, one which is revealed in entirety to the reader—the reader knows all about Marguerite. Her thoughts, feelings, and reactions are all evident since Marguerite tells everything to her audience.

Angelou uses personification, or giving human characteristics to inanimate objects. For example, she tells us that “the town reacted to us as its inhabitants had reacted to all things new before our coming.” She uses connotation—a reference to something else—when she says that the field was “caterpillar green.” She uses a simile in “it [the town] closed in around us, as a real mother embraces a stranger’s child.”

The dialect is typical of Southerners during the Depression era. For example, one of the customers says, “Lemme have a hunk uh cheese and some sody crackers.” The plot of the novel is progressive, since the reader has to read the whole story to reach the climax—the highest point of interest, and the denouement—the ending.

Imagery is used to describe the Store and the workers. The reader is aware of sights,...

(The entire section is 414 words.)