The Crucial Message in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Still I Rise

'What are you looking at me for? I didn't come to stay...' These lines correspond to two main issues she struggles with throughout her childhood are unhappiness with her appearance and a perpetual feeling of displacement. With this opening scene Maya encapsulates the struggles that Maya will face in the years to come. The opening scene demonstrates the pervasive effects of racism on a black southern girl's consciousness. It does depict a few things about Era seven, 'The Contemporary Period' part of it has to do with movement. The movement initiated a national conversation about racism, labeling it as a moral wrong and identifying those who took action against it as moral agents. Also, in Era seven it is said that African Americans were in the Vanguard of the movement, and their sense of who they were was forever changed. This is exactly what happens to Maya in 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.'

At first, Maya views Big Bailey as a handsome stranger, but in California she sees him as a man who is self-deceived. Big Bailey does not show respect for Maya. Big Bailey became too drunk to see his daughter shining with pride over her accomplishment in the seat next to him on the way home. Moreover, he reacts selfishly to the confrontation between Maya and Dolores. Daddy Clidell exhibits unquestionable respect both for Maya and for himself. She perceives him as a man of strength and tenderness, the ideal combination according to her. Moreover, Daddy Clidell laughs loudly when people think that Maya is his biological daughter. He has no insecurities to hide and no superiority to flaunt. He gives Maya affection and respect, unlike Big Bailey. Maya considers Daddy Clidell the first real father she has ever had. Even though Vivian also abandons her children at different points in the story, she nevertheless contrasts with Big Bailey at the end of the story. Vivian may live a melodramatic life associating in unsavory circles with gamblers and con men, but she represents power and unflinching honesty. She has a good sense of humor and a love for fun, but she complements these with a strong conscience and a deep respect for herself, Maya, and Bailey.

The Characters that served as positive role models for Maya were her mother, Vivian, she was a strong, independent woman and was good to her children. She shows them how to stand up for what is right, confront people when needed, and show compassion always. Maya's grandmother significantly influences her growth and emotional well-being. Daddy Clidell allows Maya to see what strength and social success looks like. Maya's teacher, Miss Kirwin, also demonstrates compassion and teaches the importance of it. Mrs. Flowers gives Maya a different view of African-American women than her family. She is well-educated, and refined.

Maya's sense of displacement did make her susceptible to Mr. Freeman's sexual advances. After Maya told her brother that Mr. Freeman raped her, he went and told the family. Mr. Freeman was then sent to prison for a day. Some people later then went and killed him. Once Maya found out she became mute. Maya said 'A man is dead because of me, because I have spoken, because words that have passed my lips, a human being has gone away from this world. I decided then and there that no words would pass my lips again.' The rape influenced her to become the woman she is and her strength inside of her.

The local board of education did not want the Negro National Anthem song at the annual graduation ceremony because they advise them that the poem it is not an official Anthem and therefore should not be song, along with the Star-Spangled Banner, the Pledge of Allegiance and the benediction. There are two memorable instances in which Angelou resists racism. The first comes when she decides to break her white employer's family China. The other incident that stands out to me was when she became the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

In San Francisco Big Bailey said 'they treat people really good down there black or white not like in Stamps. Big Bailey states, 'I'm doing real good, California is a really beautiful state, people treat you real good there, not like here where you have to run around with your head tucked between your legs' and also he says 'I am making ends meet then some'. Maya's determination and the likely progressive movement in San Francisco at the time eventually got her the position but I can believe that a generational difference really affected her success. Racism does not change; the same ignorance and blind hate suffices in any overt act of racism.

The two poems 'Still I Rise' and 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' both feature a similar message; through history, blacks have been inferior to whites but they are slowly equalizing racial differences. Both are referring to oppressed people. The quotes 'his wings are clipped and his feet are tied' and 'you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air I rise' prove these poems have similar themes as well. Although the themes are very similar, the position of the black person/race differs among the poems. In 'I know Why the Caged Bird Sings' the black race is trapped within the color of their skin, whereas in 'Still I Rise' the black person, which is Maya, seems liberated from her color.      

07 April 2022
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