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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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Why does Marguerite admire Mrs. Flowers in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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Marguerite admires Mrs. Flowers for many reasons. Most importantly, Mrs. Flowers is able to throw Marguerite what the author refers to as "my life line." In addition, Marguerite admires the way that Mrs. Flowers looks and speaks. Mrs. Flowers has an aristocratic bearing that enables her to appear cool on the hottest day in Stamps. The author also describes Mrs. Flowers as "one of the few gentlewomen I have ever known" (page 94). Mrs. Flowers' aristocratic and refined bearing reminds Marguerite of characters she has read about in English novels, and Mrs. Flowers makes Marguerite proud to be black. She also teaches Marguerite about the value of the spoken language when Marguerite is mute in the aftermath of being raped. Mrs. Flowers encourages Marguerite to read aloud, and, by introducing Marguerite to the world of literature, Mrs. Flowers helps give Marguerite a sense of rebirth and a connection to a better world after the trauma she has experienced.

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Marguerite describes Mrs. Flowers as an aristocrat, someone to be admired, the "measure of what a human being could be." To Marguerite, the most wonderful quality of Mrs. Flowers is the fact that this beautiful, wonderful human being likes her solely for what she herself is, not because she is Bailey's sister or the child of her grandmother. This singular sentiment is an affirmation of Marguerite's value as an individual, and it makes all the difference in how she feels towards Mrs. Bertha Flowers.

Mrs. Flowers befriends the reticent Marguerite, encouraging her to talk because, she explains, words must be spoken, "It takes the human voice to infuse them with the deeper shades of meaning." Mrs. Flowers demonstrates by reading from the first chapter of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, the worst of times..." and Marguerite is fascinated with the musicality of the language: 

She opened the first page and I heard poetry for the first time.

And so, she practices and gains confidence in reading aloud, thus emerging from  the sensory withdrawal caused by her traumatic experience. This time with Mrs. Flowers is uniquely hers alone, and she is instilled with confidence while also learning some of the social graces.

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