I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 20: Summary and Analysis
by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 20: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Louise Kendricks: the “prettiest female in Stamps, next to Miss Flowers,” and Marguerite’s first friend

Tommy Valdon: Marguerite’s suitor

Miss Williams: Marguerite’s seventh-grade teacher

Helen Gray: a recipient of a Valentine and a very minor, flat character

At the annual summer picnic fish fry Marguerite makes her first close, girl friend: Louise Kendricks. Marguerite also has her first interest in a boy; Tommy Valdon not only sends Marguerite a love note, but he also sends her a valentine which the teacher (Miss Williams) reads aloud to the whole class. Although Marguerite determines to say something clever to him, she can never do anything but giggle when he is around.

When the chapter opens, the reader finds Marguerite avoiding others. Marguerite plans to bring a book to read to the picnic, but her grandmother will not allow it. At the picnic Marguerite wanders away by herself. It is at this point that Louise finds her and a friendship ensues with Louise.

The theme of maturation is vital to the chapter; Marguerite says that in her new friendship “after being a woman for three years I was about to become a girl.” The reader realizes that Marguerite is at last able to find joy after her return to Stamps. A new friendship makes all the difference in Marguerite’s life. The pleasure of Louise’s company makes Marguerite—and the reader—eager to continue.

Along with Louise, Marguerite finds that someone else is interested in her. Tommy Valdon sends her a note and a valentine. Marguerite wants “to say something extra nice” to Tommy but finds that “each time I saw Tommy I . . . was unable to form a coherent sentence.”

Imagery helps the reader experience the picnic: “Pans of fried chicken, covered with dishtowels, sat under benches next to a mountain of potato salad crammed...

(The entire section is 464 words.)