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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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How would you describe Maya Angelou's "I know why the caged bird sings" through literary criticism?

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The title comes from Paul Dunbar's poem of the same name, which is unambiguously about slavery. Angelou also uses the metaphor of the caged bird to describe the experiences of African-American women like herself. The book is pretty clearly autobiographical, though she takes many of the events from her life's story (most notably her rape) and portrays it as symbolic of the experience of African-Americans as a whole. So while she is relating some events from her youth and others that are fictional, she is attempting to make a larger argument about what it is like to be black, or more specifically, to be a black woman, in America.

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