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Maya Angelou Angelou, Maya (Contemporary Literary Criticism) - Essay

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❶She was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, , in St.

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Introduction
Maya Angelou American Literature Analysis

Louis, but the noisy city is filled with bustling people, taverns, gambling, and a lifestyle very different from the one in Stamps. In addition to creating a trenchant account of a girl's coming-of-age, Angelou's autobiography also affords insights into the social and political tensions that pervaded much of America during the s.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings demonstrates many of the dominant conventions of the autobiography genre. The work has a chronological structure, utilizes first-person narration, and is focused on personal development and enrichment. However, the book also embraces characteristics from the fiction genre, including dialogue and vivid, sensory descriptions.

Readers have also viewed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a bildungsroman, the story of a young girl's growth and maturation. The book follows Angelou's search for identity and her struggle with sexual abuse, racism, and self-acceptance. Flowers; and Angelou's resourceful and vivacious mother.

As Angelou is shuttled between homes, rootlessness and transformation emerge as dominant motifs in the narrative. Critics have often focused on the correlation between language, speech, and identity in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, evidenced by Angelou's suppression and eventual recovery of her own voice.

Angelou's recovery from the trauma following her rape signaled her growing sense of self-acceptance and her discovery of her poetic voice. Considered the strongest of Angelou's autobiographical books, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has garnered critical and commercial success, making Angelou a recognized name in contemporary American literature. Reviewers have praised Angelou's dynamic prose style, poignant humor, and illumination of the African-American consciousness through her portrayal of her own personal experiences.

Yet a few educators have asserted that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is inappropriate for children due to Angelou's frank depiction of rape, racism, and teen pregnancy, causing the book to be banned in several school libraries. Washington's Up from Slavery. Moreover, Angelou's autobiographical work has been perceived as a logical progression from the work of prominent nineteenth-century African-American authors such as Frederick Douglass.

Angelou's five subsequent volumes of autobiography have generally been considered inferior, with critics citing their lack of moral complexity and failure to generate empathy or universal appeal. As a songwriter, journalist, playwright, poet, fiction and screen-writer, Maya Angelou is often asked how she escaped her past.

How does one grow up, Black and female, in the rural South of the thirties and forties without being crippled or hardened? The evidence of Angelou's creative accomplishments would indicate that she did escape; but a closer look reveals the human and artistic complexity of her awareness. For the first volume of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is not an exorcism of or escape from the past, but a transmutation of that past.

The almost novelistic clarity of Caged Bird results from the artistic tension between Angelou's recollected self and her authorial consciousness. Implicit in this dual awareness is the knowledge that events are significant not merely in themselves, but also because they have been transcended.

Angelou's caged bird sings also from frustration, but in doing so, discovers that the song transforms the cage from a prison that denies selfhood to a vehicle for self-realization. The cage is a metaphor for roles which, because they have become institutionalized and static, do not facilitate interrelationship, but impose patterns of behavior which deny true identity.

In Caged Bird Angelou describes her efforts to adapt to the role of a young Black girl, the painfully humorous failures, and the gradual realization of how to transcend the restrictions. At a very early age, the child Angelou, Marguerite Johnson, is an intensely self-conscious child; she feels that her true self is obscured.

She mixes elements of fairy tale and Easter story to imagine that a cruel fairy step-mother had changed her from her true self to her present condition. Of course I forgive you.

She is in a cage which conceals and denies her true nature, and she is aware of her displacement. Someone whispers the forgotten lines and she completes the poem, which suggests transcendence:. But for Marguerite there is no transcendence.

After painful confinement in the humiliating situation, the pressure of her true self to escape takes on a physical urgency. She signals request to go to the toilet and starts up the aisle.

But one of the children trips her and her utmost control is then effective only as far as the front porch. The physical violence of the destruction imagined is the child's equivalent for the emotional violence of self-repression.

In Marguerite's world, rigid laws govern every aspect of a child's life: Although she respects her brother Bailey for his ability to evade some laws, Marguerite is an obedient child. Her transgressions come, not of willful disobedience, but from loss of control in confrontations in which she is physically overpowered by a larger force. Much of the story of growing up as Marguerite Johnson is the story of learning to control natural responses. Not to laugh at funny incidents in church, not to express impatience when the guest preacher says too long a blessing and ruins the dinner, not to show felt fear, are part of preparation for life in a repressive society.

Although much of Marguerite's repression is related to her being a child, the caged condition affects almost everyone in her world. The customers in her grandmother's store were trapped in the cotton fields; no amount of hope and work could get them out. Her Uncle Willie's own body is his cage. Even the indomitable grandmother, Anne Henderson, rises each morning with the consciousness of a caged animal.

In , at a time when most blacks and a growing number of liberal whites affirmed the ad-campaign motto that Sexual Violence and Literary History. The Autobiographical Works of Maya Angelou, pp. A race of singers. The two of these combined makes the images even stronger. The poem is more a narrative than anything else because Angelou interacts with her audience as she talks about the highs and lows of her life and history.

The main symbol throughout the poem is that of rising dust. For dust to rise, it must be unsettled from the ground in some way and then forms a dust cloud.

But once the dust has been unsettled from the ground, it can leave and RISE. This poem has a very certain seriousness to it, but Angelou brings in her pride as an African American woman and injects playful images into the poem when questioning her oppressors.

The stanzas that have questions show the direct relationship between the speaker and the audience, Angelou and her oppressors, and allows the reader to put themselves in the heat of the discussion and in the heart of the poem.

The tone is one of sureness, pride, and grace. This analysis says that the poem is a discussion between black and white, where the black, with Maya Angelou speaking, is taking pride in her heritage and what she has come from and intimidating the white race. Home Essays Maya Angelou.


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Maya angelou essays Maya Angelou is one of the great figures in contemporary American literature. Her poetry helps spread the word of equality to African American women and to all those who are oppressed. It is for this reason, she has received so much critical acclaim. In order to fully understan.

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Free Essay: Maya Angelou was born April 4, Her real name is Marguerite Johnson, but she later changed it to Maya. She was born in St. Louis, shortly. Free Essays from Bartleby | the time she was born, Maya Angelou was subjected to racism, rape, grief and dehumanization. She beared enough emotional stress.