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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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Who are the main characters, conflict, and resolution in the chapter "Grandmother's Victory" from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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The narrator, of course, is a central character in the plot this chapter, which is Angelou speaking as herself. Her grandmother, whom she calls Momma, is also a main character in the story.

Momma runs a store and has a variety of customers; Angelou is always a bit unsettled when "powhitetrash" come into the store because they never show her grandmother due respect and instead order Momma around, which infuriates young Angelou.

The conflict is the tension generated by the social hierarchy of the time. Since Momma is black, the "powhitetrash" children believe that she deserves no respect, and their actions reflect this. Therefore, the young Maya Angelou finds herself directly opposing these white children who enter her grandmother's store.

This conflict culminates when a group of the poor white children come by Momma's store without any adults, clearly showing planned malicious intent. Momma's astute perceptions cause her to send young Angelou inside to spare her from whatever plans they have brought to her store. The group ridicules Momma and eventually one girl does a handstand, exposing herself completely since she is wearing a dress without underwear.

Momma is resolute throughout their antics. She stands proudly humming hymns while the girls continue provoking her.

The resolution is that the girls leave, their goal of provoking Momma to anger unfulfilled. In fact, Momma respectfully calls all of them by their first names and includes a "Miz" (e.g. "Miz Helen") to show them the respect she didn't receive. Although the young Angelou is enraged and confused about how her grandmother could do such a thing, she knows that Momma won a battle that day. Momma proves that she is strong, determined, and resilient and will not fall into the intentional traps of the racist world around her. She knows what is at stake with a retaliation against these children who sought to cause her harm through their provocations, and she is wise enough to rely on Jesus for strength to overcome this adversity, never ceasing to hum those hymns as she is verbally attacked.

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