I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 6: Summary and Analysis

Maya Angelou

Chapter 6: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Reverend Howard Thomas: the presiding elder

Reverend Taylor: the pastor of the church

Sister Monroe: a church member who often “gets the spirit”

Deacon Jackson: a church member who gets involved in a church scene

Sister Willson: in charge of the ushers and gets involved in the scene

Summary
Chapter 6 describes both the visits of the Reverend Howard Thomas to the home of Mrs. Henderson and the humorous events within a special church service. Marguerite and Bailey dislike the visits of Reverend Thomas because he eats the best parts of the chicken at Sunday dinner. At one of the church services when Reverend Thomas visits Reverend Taylor’s church, Sister Monroe “gets the spirit” and attacks Reverend Taylor; all the while she screams, “Preach it.” Deacon Jackson and Sister Willson join the fray as they try to control Sister Monroe. Reverend Thomas manages to outstep her, but she finally hits him and his teeth fly out. When Marguerite and Bailey become hysterical with laughter, Uncle Willie takes them outside and gives them the whipping of their lives. For weeks after, Bailey would try to get Marguerite to laugh again by whispering, “Preach it!”

Analysis
The children are maturing and assuming more responsibility, but they still often misbehave and are treated like children. For instance, Uncle Willie confronts and punishes the children when they act up in church. The difficulties they still have in controlling themselves is evident when both Bailey and Marguerite lose control and howl with laughter during the preaching service; Marguerite describes how she “cried and hollered, passed gas and urine.”

Angelou helps the reader to visualize the visit of Reverend Thomas and the church service when the children roll with laughter. Personification is used to describe his teeth jumping from his mouth. Imagery helps one see the “Elder Thomas with his lips flapping” and connotation helps the reader visualize the “grinning uppers and lowers” lying by Marguerite’s foot. The writer uses the repetition of “I say, preach it!” to add humor to the sketch. Marguerite’s narration presents a sketch of a preaching service as humorous as that depicted by Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer when he tells of a dog entering the church.