I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 19: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Joe Louis: the boxer, known as the Brown Bomber, who would become the Heavyweight Champion of the World

Chapter 19 describes in detail the congregating of the community around the radio in the Store to listen to boxing matches. Men, women, and children come to listen and to buy soft drinks; in case of a particularly bloody fight, they also buy peanut patties and Baby Ruths. When Joe Louis becomes the Heavyweight Champion of the World, some people do not return home but stay overnight in town; they are afraid to be on a country road at night when Joe Louis has proved “we were the strongest people in the world.”

A maturing Marguerite is becoming more aware of the harshness of racial discrimination and the fear of the Black community toward whites. A Black fighter dares to compete for the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. As Joe Louis represents his people and wins, his triumph is for blacks everywhere.

Dialect plays an important part in Chapter 19. The announcer shouts, “The winnah.” He mentions “jabs,” “a left cross,” and difficulty in keeping “his block up.” A simile is used in the phrase “as a black sky is streaked with lightning.”