I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 25: Summary and Analysis
by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 25: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Mr. Bubba: a Black man

Nameless white man: man who taunts Bailey

Chapter 25 describes in detail how Bailey sees a “colorless” person pulled from the river; Bailey is forced to help carry the body and is threatened with being locked in the calaboose. Bailey is horrified at what he has seen. It is at this time that Mrs. Henderson decides that they are going on a trip to California.

Bailey is maturing and as a young, virile male is a threat to the caste system in the eyes of many white men; in this chapter one white male reminds him of “his place.”

The event profoundly affects Bailey. He tries to tell his family what he has seen and Marguerite notes that he talks so fast that he forgets to stutter. Marguerite tells the reader that Bailey’s “little face was no longer black but a dirty, colorless gray” after he sees the dead man.

Imagery helps the reader visualize what Bailey saw: “he had no color at all. He was bloated like a ball.” A simile gives additional information on the dead body; for example, Bailey says that the dead man was “all rolled up like a mummy” Marguerite uses personification to describe Bailey’s reactions to the sights he saw. For example, “his soul just crawled behind his heart”; this was Bailey’s way of coping.

Bailey is beginning to try to unravel the “enigma that young Southern Black boys start to unravel.” Marguerite also is maturing. She is beginning to understand her grandmother and is able to stand apart and observe what is going on in her life. Mrs. Henderson tells the children “that we were growing up, that we needed to be with our parents, that Uncle Willie was, after all, crippled, that she was getting old.” These are all indications that Marguerite is maturing.

The reader again sees firsthand the horrors of discrimination and racial violence in the 1940s in Stamps as Bailey watches the “colorless” body drawn from the water.