I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 10: Summary and Analysis

Maya Angelou

Chapter 10: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Grandmother Baxter: Marguerite’s “nearly white” grandmother in St. Louis

Tutti, Tom, and Ira Baxter: Mother Dear’s brothers and Marguerite’s uncles

Pat Patterson: curses Vivian and is attacked by Vivian and her brothers

Mr. Freeman: Mother Dear’s (Vivian’s) live-in boyfriend

Summary
Chapter 10 describes the new people, places, and schoolrooms of St. Louis. The children hear family stories they have never heard before; for instance, they hear the story of how Mother (“Bibbi”) is cursed by Pat Patterson and how the brothers find and hold him while “Bibbi” hits him with a club.

The social structure of St. Louis is a marked contrast to Stamps, Arkansas. Marguerite realizes early in their acquaintance that her grandmother is a precinct captain with power. Marguerite is able to deduce through the stories of the tough brothers that the positions they hold in the town have been bought through their actions.

The children are getting along well in their new school and accept their mother’s live-in boyfriend as their father.

Analysis
Conflict is a way of life in St. Louis. For instance, Bibbi herself brings physical violence against Pat Patterson. Character-against-society conflict is most evident as the children try to adapt to a new way of living; Bailey, in particular, has to learn a way of “infighting, Bailey style” in order to survive.

Maya Angelou helps the reader to visualize the characters. Imagery helps us to picture Mother: “a pretty woman, light-skinned with straight hair.” The simile “like a pretty kite that floated just above my head” gives the reader a feeling of the elusive quality of Mother. Onomatopoeia is illustrated with words like “sizzling” and “siddity.” Humor is used when Bailey tells Marguerite in a fight to “grab for the balls right away.” He does not reply when Marguerite asks him what to do if she is fighting a girl.

Maturation is an important theme in Chapter 10. Marguerite and Bailey are learning to adapt to the new school, the new teacher, and the new classmates in their own ways; this adaptation is a sign of their maturation.