I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 3: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Mr. Steward: the former sheriff

Summary
In Chapter 3 Marguerite reveals her pleasure in working in the Store, always written with a capital S. Marguerite also describes the visit of Mr. Steward, the past sheriff of Stamps, to warn Uncle Willie to “lay low tonight.” Mr. Steward explains that some of the “boys” will be visiting because “a crazy nigger messed with a white lady today.” Marguerite tells how they conceal Uncle Willie in the vegetable bins in the Store and how he moans all through the night.

Analysis
Conflicts are an important part of Chapter 3. Character-against-society conflict is apparent with the visit from Mr. Steward to tell Uncle Willie to hide from the Klan. The tense racial situation in Depression-era Stamps is evident when Marguerite describes how Uncle Willie and “every other Black man . . . would scurry under their houses to hide in chicken droppings” when the Klan rode.

A conflict also occurs between Mr. Steward and Marguerite. Marguerite remarks that she “would be unable to say anything in his behalf.” She again makes the reader aware of the caste and class system in the rural South and the volatile emotions associated with the system.

Another conflict is one that Marguerite imposes upon herself in the Store. She tries to measure the flour, mash, meal, sugar, or corn exactly right the first time she puts it on the scale. If she makes an error with the first try, she “would quietly but persistently punish herself. For every bad judgment, the fine was no silver-wrapped Kisses.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings continues to be a maturational novel. Marguerite no longer merely observes the happenings in the Store; she readily participates in the activities....

(The entire section is 437 words.)