Illustration of the silhouetted profile of a person's face and three birds next to an orange sun

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

Start Free Trial

Why was Marguerite's Easter dress a white woman's throwaway?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Marguerite's dress is a white woman's throwaway because it is the only clothing available to her grandmother to make Marguerite's Easter dress. Marguerite's family is poor, and they are subjected to racism in Stamps, Arkansas, which prevents them from earning more money. Marguerite's grandmother does the best she can, fashioning the dress out of lavender taffeta, but the dress was cut down from an older white woman's dress that had thrown away. Marguerite had imagined herself appearing like a movie star, but in the harsh light of Easter morning, she realizes that she is wearing an ugly, ill-fitting, castaway dress that doesn't suit her. She also realizes that her skinny legs, covered with the red of Arkansas clay, are showing. Marguerite's visions of being as glamorous as a movie star are dashed when she appears in the throwaway dress at her church's Easter service.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the book, Marguerite's Easter dress was made from a white woman's "faded purple throwaway." Initially, Marguerite remembers being excited about the dress as she watched her mother put careful stitches on it. However, in the light of the sun, Marguerite found herself greatly disappointed in the dress, as it presented her in an unattractive light.

Because of her family's poverty, however, this was the only way Marguerite could have something semi-decent to wear to the Easter celebration in church. Although she was resigned to her fate on that particular Easter morning, Marguerite remembers feeling greatly ashamed that the faded color of the dress shouted out her poverty for all to see.

To comfort herself, Marguerite remembers fantasizing that her hair was really long and blond, her eyes blue, and her skin white. She imagines that it was a "cruel magician" who turned her into a "too big...girl, with kinky black hair, broad feet, and a space between her teeth that would hold a pencil."

 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial