I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 36: Summary and Analysis
by Maya Angelou

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Chapter 36: Summary and Analysis

In Chapter 36 Marguerite describes her emotions upon realizing she is pregnant. She takes little pleasure in the fact at first and staggers under the weight of it. She writes to Bailey, who advises her not to tell her mother about the pregnancy and to continue school. Marguerite listens. She does not lie about her pregnancy, but she does not tell others. She finds that school takes on new magic for her. Bailey comes home about halfway through her pregnancy.

During Marguerite’s sixth month, Vivian goes to Alaska to open a night club. Two days after her graduation, Marguerite leaves a note for Daddy Clidell in which she tells him about the baby. She spends the next two weeks buying clothes for the baby, visiting the doctor and enjoying the event.

Marguerite delivers a healthy boy, but she describes her fears of holding the child. When he is three weeks old, her mother places the infant in bed with her. Her mother awakes her later and shows her the infant asleep at her side.

The continuing motif of maturation is again evident in this final chapter as Marguerite delivers her baby. She expresses her feelings for this accomplishment in this way: “No one had bought him for me. No one had helped me endure the sickly gray months. I had had help in the child’s conception, but no one could deny that I had had an immaculate pregnancy.”

Part of her difficulty is that Marguerite must hide her pregnancy from those around her. She has a desire to finish school and knows that if her pregnancy is revealed, she will have to leave school. She is successful in managing to hide her condition and indeed receives her diploma.

Marguerite is clearly uneasy with herself after the birth of the baby; she does trust herself to care for her own infant. “Wasn’t I famous for awkwardness? Suppose I let him slip, or put my fingers on that throbbing pulse on the top of his head?”

Through her mother, however, she learns she can care for her baby: “If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.”