I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 2: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Uncle Willie: the son of Mrs. Annie Anderson and the uncle of Marguerite and Bailey.

In Chapter 2 Marguerite describes Uncle Willie in detail and also shares with the reader her “first white love”—William Shakespeare. Marguerite also tells how Uncle Willie listens to the children recite and threatens them against the cherry-red stove if they miss a fact.

Characterization is a prominent feature in Chapter 2, as Marguerite describes Uncle Willie in detail. “Uncle Willie used to sit, like a giant black Z (he had been crippled as a child) . . . ” Despite this, Uncle Willie pretends to himself and to others that he is not in fact lame.

Marguerite reveals much about the caste and class system in Stamps when she describes the way that Uncle Willie is approached by “our society, where two-legged, two-armed strong Black men” treat “Uncle Willie, with his starched shirts, shined shoes and shelves full of food” as “the whipping boy and butt of jokes of the underemployed and underpaid.”

In Chapter 2, the children have already grown and matured from Chapter 1. Bailey is now six and Marguerite is five. The children have not just grown older; they have grown in their skills and abilities and their understanding of society.