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Maya angelous childhood in the story i know why the caged bird sings

If you are considering the book for use in literature or English classes, you might begin by exploring genre.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The work is often identified as autobiography or autobiographical fiction, with many scholars and critics proposing that there is a distinction between the two. Consider if there is a difference between memoir and autobiographical fiction.

Alternatively, you might wish to discuss the critical reception of the book. In order to answer these questions, it will be helpful to break the book into its formal elements—structure, plot, narration and voice, characters, setting, etc.

Discuss the style of the book. Finally, remember that while the book can certainly serve as your primary text, it can also be used profitably in conjunction with other texts. Consider the work as a coming- of-age story or bildungsroman, or examine the book within the context of Southern literature.

Alternatively, you might choose to address the historical and cultural context of the work by studying its role as a social device or impetus for cultural change.

Maya Angelou

If you take this approach, you may wish to look at the book within a tradition of American protest literature. This approach might be adopted in literature classes, but would also be a fitting and dynamic approach for history students, or those studying the American South in particular. Consider how the work addresses racism and identity. Explain the significance of scenes such as the Joe Louis fight and the scene where readers find Uncle Willie hiding in a potato bin.

How do these scenes tie in to larger historical and cultural issues? Those interested in teaching the text from a sociological standpoint might wish to consider how the various groups of people in the story relate to and identify with one another, or how they fail to do so.

How do the different races interact? Does Angelou want us to form judgments about races as single entities? Or is there something else that she is getting at?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Teacher’s Guide

How do the characters of varying generations interact? Finally, what do we learn about social class? In each of these instances, you would do well to focus primarily on character. Do the characters serve a function beyond themselves, symbolizing something greater? The book is also a valuable resource for those studying psychology and human development.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings covers tough issues such as the effects of rape and the trauma resulting from abuse; sexual development and gender issues; identity; and the impact of relationships between family members, friends, teachers, and students.

How does Maya react? Are her actions justified? Where does the title of the book come from and why is it significant? Where do we find this image of the caged bird applied in the story both literally and figuratively? Following her rape, Marguerite becomes silent. What allows her to find her voice again? What impact does literature have on Maya and her brother? Where in the story do we witness its effects?

Analyze the style of the book.

  • Do you feel that she is correct?
  • Consider the perspective of the story;
  • Angelou remained mute for five years, but developed a love for language;
  • How do the characters of varying generations interact?
  • What impact does literature have on Maya and her brother?

Is the style characteristic of other autobiographical works? Why or why not?


How does this affect our response to the story? Why does Angelou devote an entire chapter to the Joe Louis fight?

How do the characters in the book react to the fight?

  • How has your perception or understanding of this event changed or remained the same as you have grown older?
  • What impact does literature have on Maya and her brother?
  • Or is an older, wiser Angelou also present in the book?
  • For More Information Kite, L;
  • See Article History This contribution has not yet been formally edited by Britannica;
  • At the age of eight, Maya goes to stay with her mother in St.

Why is it significant? What do we learn from this scene? Is she a reliable narrator? Consider the perspective of the story. Is it told solely through the eyes of the young Marguerite? Or is an older, wiser Angelou also present in the book? How does the narration affect our reception of the text?

Consider the role of truth in literature. Is it fair to say that the book is an autobiography, or is autobiographical fiction a more accurate categorization?

  • She attended public schools in Arkansas and later California;
  • Martin Luther King , Jr.

What defines a work as autobiography and what distinguishes a work as fiction? How does the Maya at the conclusion of the story compare to the young Marguerite that we meet at the start? How has she changed? To what can these changes be attributed? Why does Angelou include the opening church scene as an introduction to the book? Why would she choose to lead with this, and how does this scene tie in with the story as a whole? Consider the structure of the book.

Why do you think that Angelou chose to divide the book into so many chapters? Are the chapters lengthy or concise? How might the structure of the book tie in with common themes of the text such as memory? Consider her descriptions of them and her reactions to both parents. What do we learn about racism and prejudice? What does it say about the importance of literature? In Chapter 27, what is the relationship between African Americans and the Japanese inhabitants of the city? What does Angelou attribute this to?

In Chapter 29, Daddy Clidell introduces Maya to con men. Do you feel that she is correct? How can we identify them as such?

Maya Angelou Biography

How do these themes unify the text and help to create a cohesive whole? Discuss an event that you consider to have been a critical part of your growth and development. How has your perception or understanding of this event changed or remained the same as you have grown older?

How did this event help to define who you are? Explore your own family history. Create a work a story, a video, a piece of art, etc. Throughout the story Angelou references many works of literature which have inspired her.

Are we able to see their direct influence in her own work? Does the subject matter of the work compare? Or the form and style? Consider the book within the framework of the history of banned books. Why has this book been the subject of censorship? How does it compare to other banned texts? Consult the American Library Association website at www. What does Angelou suggest censors are fearful of? Why would censors be fearful of allowing students to read about these issues?

What other authors and works of literature does Angelou reference in the poem, and what do these works share in common?