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

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Preface: Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What leads you to believe the events described in the Preface are painful to recall?

2. At what church was the narrator performing?

3. What color was the narrator’s Easter dress?

4. How had the narrator kept her legs soft?

5. What was the line she forgot?

6. How did the children react to the narrator’s forgetting her line?

7. How did Marguerite further humiliate herself?

8. Why did the narrator believe she would be whipped?

9. Who tried to help Marguerite when she forgot her lines?

10. Why was Marguerite laughing even though she knew that she would get a whipping?

Answers
1. The narrator says that she had not so much forgotten as she had not been able to bring herself to remember.

2. The narrator was performing at the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.

3. She had a lavender taffeta dress.

4. She kept her skin soft by greasing it with Blue Seal Vaseline.

5. The line was, “I just come to tell you it’s Easter Day.”

6. The children laughed at her for forgetting.

7. Marguerite humiliated herself by wetting her pants.

8. The narrator believed she would be whipped for leaving church.

9. The preacher’s wife tried to help Marguerite when she forgot her lines.

10. Marguerite was able to laugh because of the joy of leaving the church and from the knowledge that her head would not burst from the build-up of urine.

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Chapter 1: Questions and Answers