I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 31: Summary and Analysis
by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 31: Summary and Analysis

In this chapter, Angelou describes the quarrel between Dolores and Marguerite’s father which occurs after Bailey, Sr., and Marguerite return home from Mexico. When the angry father leaves the trailer to visit neighbors, Marguerite feels sorry for Dolores and tries to make up with her. Dolores will not make up and calls Vivian a whore; Marguerite slaps Dolores. During the scuffle that follows, Dolores cuts Marguerite.

When Dolores goes after her with a hammer, Marguerite locks herself in the car. The neighbors, including Marguerite’s father, hear the disturbance and take Dolores inside the trailer to quiet her. Marguerite longs to go inside to show her father her wound, but she is reluctant to be seen with blood on her clothes because of her “feminine training.” When Bailey, Sr., sits down in the car with Marguerite, he sees the blood and takes her to a neighbor’s for treatment and for shelter.

The next morning Marguerite considers running away. She prepares some food to take with her. When the neighbor’s door closes and locks behind her, Marguerite realizes she cannot go back.

Bailey, Sr., often leaves Dolores at home and goes to Mexico to drink, “go off with his women,” and have a good time. Dolores is left alone to fume while he is away. Dolores and Marguerite have had problems from the beginning, but in this chapter the two engage in verbal and physical conflict. As a result of the violent physical confrontation, Marguerite is severely cut.

The development and growth of Marguerite are quite evident as a major theme in Chapter 31. Marguerite, who is seen as a rival by her father’s girlfriend, now takes the initiative to make her own decisions, to strike out on her own, and even to say, “At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.”