Identity Formation in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" Analytical Essay

Identity Formation in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"
An analysis of the personal and non-personal influences that shaped the formation of Maya Angelou's identity, as recounted in her autobiographical novel, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings".
# 153980 | 2,365 words | 1 source | 2014 | CA
Published by on Aug 11, 2014 in Literature (American)

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From the Paper:

"In Maya Angelou's autobiographical novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the young Maya struggles against terrible odds to establish her identity as she grows up into a young woman. Her struggle is made more difficult by three unchangeable facts: she is Black; she is female; and she in unattractive. All three of these aspects of her identity work against her, but she manages to overcome the obstacles they place in her way, and gradually develops as sense of who she is. She does this with the help of three important characters in her life: her brother, Bailey; her paternal grandmother, "Momma"; and a kind neighbour, Mrs. Bertha Flowers.Aided by these important figures in her life, Angelou develops her identity against the backdrop of the social, cultural, economic, and political climate in the United States during her growing years. This essay will analyze the personal and non-personal influences that contributed to the shaping of Angelou's identity.
"Of all the people in Maya's life, the one person she loves the most--the one she is closest to, the most important person in her life--is her brother, Bailey. Bailey, who is a year older than she is, is a lot better-looking and smarter than she is--at least in her opinion--and she is extremely proud of him and looks up to him. He loves her too: he treats her kindly, protects her, and encourages her when she is feeling depressed. With his charm and his natural intelligence, he defends her when she is insulted or criticized. He provides her with a sense of stability and belonging at a time when she has no family or place to belong to, as the two children are passed around from their paternal grandmother to their mother to their father, and back again. In Bailey she finds someone with whom she can share her love of books, and especially of poetry--and her love of dancing (258). Later on, when she gets pregnant, she writes to him for advice, and he tells her to keep her pregnancy a secret, saying that their mother will force her to drop out of school if she finds out. Maya follows this advice, and manages to hide her pregnancy until the day of her high-school graduation."

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