I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Book Review
In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou uses characterization to convey that the struggles that you face in life heavily affect how you present yourself in front of others. At the beginning of the novel, we meet Maya as a young girl who has very little individuality and no self-confidence in herself. As we progress to the end of the novel, we see Maya grow-up to be a strong woman that finds her self-worth and determination to live life as who she is meant to be. Learning how Maya’s character develops throughout the novel gives us an idea of how the struggles that you face in life affects how you present yourself in front of other people.
At the beginning of the book, Maya shows no individuality and no self-confidence. Angelou says, “ Where I was big, elbowy and rough, he was small, graceful and smooth.” She also included, “... a too-big Negro girl, with kinky black hair, broad feet, and a space between her teeth that would hold a pencil.” These quotes show how, at the beginning of the book, Maya had no self confidence. Maya keeps to herself and compares herself to others, usually in a negative way about herself. She especially compares herself to her brother, Bailey, because she looks up to him as her best friend and protector. Maya believed that Bailey was very handsome and that everyone liked him, while she was unattractive and no one even wanted to associate with her. She also believed that the only reason people talked to her was because she was with Bailey and that she was only known as Bailey’s sister and not as Maya. This is mainly caused by her parents abandoning her and her brother when they were young and sending them to Stamps to live with their grandmother and uncle. The abandonment from her parents led Maya to think that no one wanted her or even cared about her, so she didn’t see a point in having any confidence in herself.
Throughout the book, Maya begins to acquire some confidence in herself and how she fits in with other people. “I was liked, and what a difference it made. I was respected not as Mrs. Henderson’s grandchild or Bailey’s sister but for just being Marguerite Johnson.” When she moves to San Francisco, she also says, “In San Francisco, for the first time, I saw myself as part of something. I didn’t identify with the newcomers, nor with the Black natives of San Francisco, nor with the whites or even the Asians. I identified with the times and the city.” These quotes indicate that Maya finally recognizes that she has some sort of individuality in her life, both in Stamps and in San Francisco. While in Stamps, Mrs. Flowers allowed Maya to feel like herself and find some comfort in being seen as herself rather than as a relative of one of her family members. That instance was the eruption of Maya’s development of confidence and individuality at the beginning. If it hadn't been for the relationship between Mrs. Flowers and Maya, Maya may have never grown in her confidence later on. This growing confidence is shown later when Maya has to move to San Francisco to live with her mom and other family members. While in San Francisco, Maya feels like she is part of something and that she can identify with something other than the fact that she is a black girl in a mostly white city. This individuality that Maya feels in San Francisco allows her to feel free and have the ability to accomplish things that she didn’t know was possible (in her own mind).
At the end of the book, Maya gains a major amount of self- confidence and gets the courage to do things she couldn't envision she would do in the beginning. Angelou includes, “That evening, in the bosom of the now-dear family home I uncoiled my fearful secret in a brave gesture left a note on Daddy Clidell’s bed. It read: Dear parents, I am sorry to bring this disgrace on the family, but I am pregnant. Marguerite.” This quote presents that Maya developed a major amount of self confidence and courage to be able to finally inform her parents that she is pregnant. She knows that her family may see her as a disappointment or a disgrace, but she does it anyway because she has gained confidence in herself to do it. A different way it shows a major amount of confidence is that she has prepared herself to have to go through the teen pregnancy by herself if her parents decide to kick her out for being a disgrace to their family. She took that risk and was confident in her decision of telling her parents about it. In the end, her parents helped her through the end of the pregnancy and even helped her with the baby. Becoming a mother during your teenage years is very difficult because your mind isn’t prepared for it. But at the end of the book, Maya becomes confident that she can mother her baby boy and love it with all that she has.
In conclusion, In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou uses characterization to convey that the struggles that you face in life heavily affect how you present yourself in front of others. At the beginning of the book, Maya is a young girl that has no self-confidence or individuality. Throughout the book, Maya develops some confidence and individuality as she moves to San Francisco to live with her mom. Finally, at the end of the book, Maya gains the most confidence that she has ever obtained in the book to have her baby boy as a teenager. Maya shows major character development throughout the book as she faces many struggles and challenges in her life. But in the end, she comes out strong, despite what she has faced..