I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 12: Summary and Analysis

Maya Angelou

Chapter 12: Summary and Analysis

One Saturday in late spring while Vivian is at work and Bailey is playing baseball, Mr. Freeman rapes Marguerite. After the rape, he bathes Marguerite and tells her never to tell what happened or he will kill Bailey. He tells the eight-year-old to go to the library. The pain is so intense that Marguerite does not stay long. She returns home and goes immediately to bed.

Vivian and Mr. Freeman quarrel during the night. The next morning Mr. Freeman leaves. Marguerite is unable to leave her bed. A doctor is called, but he does not discover the reason that Marguerite is ill. Through a haze, Marguerite realizes that Mother and Bailey are caring for her. The chapter concludes with Marguerite’s stained panties falling at her mother’s feet.

The rape in Chapter 12 brings conflict and grief to Marguerite along with the end of Marguerite’s innocence. Marguerite states that she could not “sit long on the hard seats in the library (they had been constructed for children).” She hints at the end of her childhood through this reference to the benches.

Marguerite struggles not to scream during the rape since Mr. Freeman has told her he will kill her if she makes any noise; her young, innocent body has to yield to his adult attack. Later Marguerite struggles with herself not to tell anyone that her body has been ravaged by Mr. Freeman’s abuse for fear that Mr. Freeman will kill Bailey.