Maya Angelou Her life was never easy. From the time she was born, Maya Angelou was subjected to racism, rape, grief and dehumanization. She beared enough emotional stress in a time frame that most people don’t experience in a lifetime. Yet she prevailed. She forced herself to become stronger. And in doing so, she produced writings, which in turn, helped others to become strong.
Her experiences and the lessons learned gave her confidence to be a teacher, a preacher, and an inspiration to millions. Maya Angelou was courageous. Based on Angelous most prestigious autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, along with others, certainly reveals the occurring hardships and misfortunes of her life. In Maya Angelous first published autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, in 1970, she focuses in on the concept of black skin, and the emotions and fears that come along with it. Caged Bird begins, it opens with a symbolic presentation expressing Angelous fears as a little girl being stared at in church by the whites in society who looked down on the people of colored skin.
Further, Jon Zlotnik Schmidt of American Writers separates this introduction as one of the several, in which Maya Angelou feels abused because she is a black child, and sees herself as an outcast in all of society(American Writers IV 2). Throughout Caged Bird, Angelou remains displaced as being a racist in society. She is deserted and rejected by her mother, Vivian Baxter(Black Women Writers 5). In several of her related fantasies, Angelou, as a child imagines her mother lying in a coffin, dead with no face: “Since I couldnt fill in the features I printed M O T H E R across the O, and tears would fall down my cheeks like warm milk(American Writers 3).” As she grew up with no mother in her life, Maya Angelou was forced to become a mature adolescent at a young age(American Writers 5). I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, prevails in moments where metaphors correspond perfectly to the emotions of Maya Angelous relationship with Annie Henderson, her grandmother, whom Angelou referred to as Momma Henderson.
It is distinctly exemplified when three white girls perform a handstand pantyless in front of Momma Henderson revealing their power of white sexuality in front of a superior woman. Momma just hymns a song showing her granddaughter how to react to the ridicules of the “powhitetrash.” Steven Butterfeld of American Writers views Mommas reaction as a victory in self control(American Writers 3). Angelou exhibits a similar spirit when describing her visit with Momma to a white dentist who reveals that he would rather put his hands in a dogs mouth than a niggers(Contemporary Literary Criticism 12 12). The appalling parallel between the “dog” and the “nigger” narrates the account of dehumanization noted by African American writers. The most powerful emotional response in the first autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is Angelous contrary speech after being raped by her mothers lover. On page four of American Writers the author describes the speech in the language used by Angelou describing the tragic episode: Then there was the pain.
A breaking and entering when even the senses are torn apart. The act of rape on a eight-year-old body is the matter of the needle giving because the camel cant. The child gives, because the body can, and the mind of the violator cannot. This phrase suggests that not a single person could fathom the pain that the rape caused her because, not only has she experienced sexual abuse, but she has also received a lifetime of pain prior to this occurrence. Furthermore, Angelou is expressing how she feels about one who performs this abominable assault, clarifying the mental disorders which come along with that person.
Angelou remains insecure about her body for an extreme period of time. She experienced such damage that it drove her to feel negatively about her body, forcing her to see dismorphic images of herself. She believed that her small breasts, large bones and deep voice was indicative of lesbian tendencies. On page ten of Contemporary Literary Criticism, Sidonie Ann Smith states that “Angelous self-critical process is incessant, a driving demon.” She also continues to express that, “In the black girls experience, there are natural bars that are reinforced with the rusted iron of social bars, of racial subordination and importance.” In order to verify this fallacy, that indeed she was not a lesbian, Angelou seduces a beautiful neighborhood boy and becomes pregnant(Modern American Women Writers 5). At the end of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Angelou is a single mother, yet still a child, fearful that she might harm her baby because of her foolishness and irresponsibility of the past.
In Angelous second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name, published in 1974, Maya Angelou is a young mother cynical about her place in society because of the agony that she received as a child growing up. She must face obstacles that follow the Second World War(Magills Survey of American Literature 2256). As Gather Together in My Name opens, Angelou and Clyde, her son, are living in San Francisco, California, with Angelous mother and her new husband. She writes, “I was seventeen, very old, embarrassingly young with a son of two months, and I still lived with my mother and stepfather(Modern American Women Writers 4).” Angelous brother, Bailey, encourages her to go to Los Angeles and try to live with relatives. Unsuccessfully, Angelou resorts to becoming a nightclub waitress, where she meets two lesbians. In a dramatic scene, Angelou and the two women spend the afternoon smoking marijuana, dancing and drinking.
Angelou convinces them to turn their house into a whorehouse(Modern American Women Writers 5). As the partnership becomes successful, Angelou is able to buy herself a used Chrysler convertible. When the two lesbians decide to defy the rules of the house by stealing money from her, the partnership terminated due to a friendship clash(American Writers 5). Bloom notes on page four in Modern American Women Writers that in Gather Together, “Angelous bold headstrong self-assurance and co …