Freeing the Caged Bird (W6)

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. The poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, is based on Maya Angelo’s childhood where she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. After the mother’s boyfriend was killed by Maya’s uncle she felt guilty, and as if it was her fault, so she had stopped talking to everyone but her brother. She of course takes a personal perspective since it is a part of her past, but she is able to step outside of the protagonist in the poem being her. Instead of saying it is her; she uses metaphors which represent Maya being the bird that is confined resulting from racism and depression, and struggling to escape its cage. Throughout Maya’s autobiographies and poems, her views about Black-white relationships changed. Her perspective had changed overtime, because she learned to accept different points of view. Maya Angelou’s theme was the injustice of racism and how to treat it.
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”Racism. Like elements within a prison narrative, the caged bird represented Maya’s confinement resulting from racism and oppression. This metaphor also invoked the “supposed contradiction of the bird singing in the midst of its struggle”. Her description of the strong and united black community has demonstrated how African Americans have ruined repressive institutions to withstand racism. Angelou progressed from wishing that she could become white in Caged Bird to later shedding her self-loathing and embracing a strong racial identity. The series of events led, Maya as the protagonist, from “helpless rage and indignation to forms of subtle resistance, and finally to outright and active protest” throughout all seven of her autobiographies. Maya changed her views in the course of her bio’s about Black-white relationships and learned to accept different points of views. It was changes in how she observed race, and her views of white people, that provided her with freedom. According to Hagen, one of Angelou’s themes was that humans tend to be more alike than different. In Angelou’s third autobiography Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, in which she married a white man, she came into intimate contact with whites for the first time — whites very different from the racist people she encountered in her childhood. She discovered that her stereotypes of whites were developed to protect herself from their cruelty and indifference.
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”Because of Maya’s earlier experiences, she distrusted everyone, especially whites. However, she is repeatedly surprised by the kindness and goodwill of many whites she meets, and, thus, her suspicions begin to soften into understanding. Maya had to re-examine her lingering prejudices when faced with the broader world full of whites, but it was a complex process because most of Angelou’s experiences with whites were positive during this time. Singin’ and Swingin’ expanded her understanding of other races as she met people of different nationalities during her travels. In Traveling Shoes, Angelou came to terms with her difficult past. She also came to terms with Africans taken forcibly to America as slaves and as an African America who had experienced racism. Maya Angelou demonstrated the formation of her own identity throughout her narratives, and life stories. Maya Angelou had presented herself as a role model for African-American women by rebuilding and redeveloping the Black woman’s image throughout her personal stories and poems, and has used her many roles, examples, and identities to put together the layers of oppression within her personal history. Angelou’s proposition of the individual’s strength and ability to overcome racism also appears throughout her autobiography’s Angelou, as a woman, demonstrated the formation of her own cultural identity throughout her narratives.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” There were a few speakers in Angelou’s essay, Graduation, and one was named Mr. Edward Donleavy. Mr. Donleavy, represents the character of an ignorant man. His purpose for speaking to the students at the graduation was to talk about the accomplishments and possibilities of the school he represents. He had spoken about the opportunities and possibilities that the graduating class had in the future for their academics. He states that the best achievement that any “negro” student can look forward to is to be an athlete or a service worker. So he is basically trying to convince the audience to accept their fate as “Negros” and take it into account. His speech gave off the message that only students with white skin could be any one they wanted to be. However, he implied that if you were a student with darker skin,then only few will ever make their lives what they want to be. In reality he’s telling everyone of darker skin graduating that none of you will become what you want to be. Henry Reed, however, accomplishes where Mr. Donleavy fails. Henry had used the help given by great figures from the past and added his own touch to his graduation speech. He perceived the situation he was in and used it to his advantage. So he ended up using not only some of his personal views, but also some of the audiences, in order to bring the courage and the determination into the graduates who had listened to his message. “You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot — it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive. With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was proclaimed as a new kind of memoirist. Maya Angelou was one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. She was and still is highly respected as a spokesperson of all Black people and women. Maya’s work has been considered a defense of Black culture, and speaks of what really goes on during our lives. Although numerous attempts were made to ban her books from some libraries, her work was still are widely used in schools and universities around the world. Maya Angelou’s major works were later labeled as autobiographical fiction. However many but many critics have categorized them as autobiographies. Maya had made an intentional attempt to challenge the everyday structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre into something new. Maya Angelou’s books are mostly based on subjects such as racism, identity, family, and traveling around the world and experiencing different things and people, in order to change her own view and everyone else to. So just like Maya Angelou did and said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

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