I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis

Marguerite is hospitalized—a not unpleasant experience for her. She relishes the attention given to her by the adults around her.

When Mr. Freeman goes to trial, Marguerite agrees to testify for two reasons: Bailey says it would prevent another little girl from being hurt and he promises Marguerite that Mr. Freeman will not be able to kill him. Marguerite does not testify about the times that Mr. Freeman held her and masturbated; this causes her guilt.

Mr. Freeman is given one year and one day, but for some reason he is released that afternoon. The police come to the home of Grandmother Baxter and tell her that Mr. Freeman “has been found dead on the lot behind the slaughterhouse.” It is clear to even young Marguerite which St. Louis family was powerful enough to secure Mr. Freeman’s release and which family was capable of murdering him.

Marguerite copes with the rape and all that has happened by refusing to talk. She believes if she talks with “anyone else that person might die too.” At first, “they” understood her silence. Next, the adults try punishment to get her to talk. Finally they banish Marguerite and Bailey to Stamps.

Through characterization, the reader knows and cares for Marguerite and her family. Person-against-person conflict is first evident when Marguerite testifies against Mr. Freeman; it occurs also when the uncles pit themselves against him. Character-against-self conflict is evident when Marguerite struggles on the stand not to tell the whole truth about her relationship with Mr. Freeman. When the uncles take revenge on Mr. Freeman instead of leaving it to the justice system, character-against-society conflict is evident.

It is interesting that in this autobiography so carefully penned there are definite—though minor—inconsistencies. Marguerite says at one point at the beginning of the chapter that Bailey cried at her hospital bedside and that he did not cry again for 15 years; at the end of the chapter, however, she tells of Bailey’s crying his heart out down the aisles of the coach as they return to Stamps. It is unclear whether this is a mistake or an exaggeration; in any case it is confusing to the reader.

Marguerite’s innocence is stolen from her; this is particularly evident in Chapter 13 of this autobiography. For instance, Marguerite states that after the rape, “I was eight, and grown.” It seems to Marguerite that she will never be a carefree child again.