PDF CliffsNotes on Angelous I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Cliffsnotes Literature Guides)

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Piqued by a dare, Angelou wrote this first book as an exercise in autobiography as art—and succeeded. Her novel is a story of the difficulties of black women and the eventual victory of spirit that comes from being a soulful fighter. This concise supplement helps you understand the overall structure of the novel, actions and motivations of the characters, and the social and cultural perspectives of the author. Features that help you study include.

Cliffs Notes on Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Classic literature or modern-day treasure—you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides. Maya Angelou. Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita.


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    Biology Quizzes 6. Mobile Apps Top 10 LitNotes 1. After stopping by her bed to repeat his threat against her brother if she reveals his crimes, Mr. Freeman departs from Vivian's house. His murder, although grisly, seems well deserved. A twentyyear veteran with memorable stature and "battleship-gray hair," she impresses Maya by respecting teenagers enough to refer to them as "ladies and gentlemen.

    Dolores Stockland Bailey Johnson's prim, pretentious small-framed girl friend, who interrupts her meticulous sewing of kitchen curtains to vent her temper and jealousy on Maya by stabbing her in the side. Bootsie A tall boy who serves as spokesman for the rules of the junkyard commune where Maya lives. He maintains group finances by keeping everyone's earnings and doling them out equitably. Lee Arthur The only member of the junkyard commune who lives at home. Lee welcomes the gang to his house on Friday evenings for baths.

    Unable to contain her urine on the church porch, she wets her clothes; then, sure that she will be punished for misbehavior, laughingly embraces her sense of freedom. The opening lines introduce a crucial theme--the Maya character's movie-star dream of being so blondhaired and blue-eyed that she amazes onlookers. The scenario, heavily laced with rhythm, dialect, alliteration, and exacting imagery, reveals two of the author's strengths--her natural gift for language and her insistence on an upbeat, gentle self-deprecation, easily flowing from the humor sparked by incongruity and wit.

    Against the fairy godmother fantasy, she reveals that in reality she is a "too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil. In the last paragraph of her surrealistic exit from church, Angelou utilizes sensory impressions to dramatize her need to urinate, describing the urge as a "green persimmon, or it could have been a lemon, [which] caught me between the legs and squeezed.

    Daily, field workers pass through the store to buy supplies, impressing the Maya character, or the speaker, with the anguish of their ill-paid labors. From the outset, the author demonstrates a humanistic sympathy for the downtrodden Southern black. Her skilled theatrical eye differentiates black misery as seen by soft early morning glow and later, by the harsher afternoon sun, which spotlights the field laborer's hand-to-mouth struggle against low wages, long hours, and soul-wearying drudgery. As a blessing on this near-slave level of subsistence, the author discloses Momma's simple pre-dawn prayer, a stoic litany which thanks God for one more day of life.

    At age five, Maya, later singled out by Momma for her tender heart, is astute enough to realize that Uncle Willie's contorted body lessens his manhood.

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    He appeases psychic pain by concealing his affliction from two strangers from Little Rock. As an adult, Angelou probes a greater denigration by conjuring up the "cement faces and eyes" of Klansmen "covered with graves' dust and age without beauty of learning," which symbolize the hatred of the most rabid of Arkansas racists. Holding the harp between the teeth, the player vibrates the central stem with strums of the finger while changing positions of the mouth, tongue, and jaw to alter the resulting twangy tones.

    Butler; Henley Samuel Butler , author of Erewhon and The Way of All Flesh, and William Ernest Henley , author of the poem "Invictus," which students often memorize for its bold espousal of self-determination and individualism. She loves him for being "small, graceful and smooth," executing petty larcenies from the pickle barrel without getting caught, and, most important, accepting her in spite of her lack of physical beauty.

    With unabashed hyperbole, she dubs him "my Kingdom Come. Intuitively, she eludes the embrace of Reverend Howard Thomas, a persistent mooch at the Henderson table, but revels in Bailey's eavesdropping on the minutiae of local gossip about sexual misconduct that the minister shares with Momma. The duet, an unrehearsed, madcap Laurel-and-Hardy act which leaves churchgoers "hung loose like stockings on a washline," convulses the children, who, riveted to the front-row mourners' bench in sight of Momma and Uncle Willie, explode in uncontrollable laughter. Amid the furor of a worship service gone awry, the young Maya reveals a significant emotional defense, the ability to "not see or hear if [she] chose not to do so," a protective armor which foreshadows her later ego defense mechanism against the terror and guilt of rape.

    In contrast to her self-induced limbo of emotions, by the end of the scene, she breaches the slim divider that separates laughter and tears. She notes, "Laughter so easily turns to hysteria for imaginative children. I felt for weeks after that I had been very, very sick. Gladstone hand luggage composed of cloth or leather sides attached to a rigid frame. Suffer little children to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

    When I was a child I spake as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things. God is not mocked. Mourners sat before others who might see their suffering and join in their prayers. I came to Jesus, as I was, worried, wound, and sad, I found in Him a resting place and He has made me glad. Dykes in to a tune by Horatius Bonar. Luke a crucial chapter in the Christian gospel which defines justice, describes the appropriate way to pray and the contrition required of a suppliant of God, predicts the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and concludes with an act of healing.

    Mount Nebo the elevation from which Moses observed the Promised Land, as described in Deuteronomy Naked I came into the world, and naked I shall go out. George Raft popular character actor of the s and 40s who frequently played smooth, menacing underworld figures in gangster movies.

    Reduced to even harder times, country people are too poor to raise hogs because they have no slops to feed them, but the wily Annie Henderson devises a trade agreement to keep herself in business. Angelou recalls that "my seven-year-old world humptydumptied, never to be put back together again. As Momma quietly sews for Maya's departure, the bond between them remains nonverbal, but Angelou notes that "a deep-brooding love hung over everything [Momma] touched. Returning to her earlier flair for hyperbole from nature, Maya describes Vivian as a "hurricane in its perfect power.

    Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow. God is love. John Pig Latin a child's private jargon of the s created by placing the initial consonant plus ay at the end of the word, as in ooday for do. From the microcosm of Stamps to that of Caroline Street in St. Louis, Maya and Bailey travel light-years away from the simplistic morality and Bible-decreed fundamentalism of Grandmother Annie Henderson to the seamy, potentially violent underworld precinct superintended by Grandmother Baxter.

    Given their firm Southern upbringing and academic promise, Maya and Bailey cope well with school. Freeman, to make a weak attempt at motherhood. Perpetually insecure, Maya, who suffers from nightmares and at times longs to be a boy, perceives herself as a temporary guest among her Baxter relatives. Ironically, retreat to her mother's bed places her in immediate jeopardy--alongside the lustful child ravisher who eventually annihilates her innocence. In recounting the violation, Maya resorts to euphemisms that she learned in Stamps: "thing" for "penis" and "pocketbook" for "vagina.

    Freeman will die from sexual ecstasy--replicate the silent death that later reduces Maya to a near zombie-like state. Unaccustomed to fatherly attentions, the naive Maya, held fast in strong arms, fantasizes that Mr. Freeman is her real parent. In a bitter anticlimax, her abuser rolls over, "leaving [her] in a wet place" and blaming her for urinating on the bed.

    Doleful because she faces yet another rejection, she fears that he will never cuddle her again. From the clarity of adult perspective, Angelou concludes: "It was the same old quandary. I had always lived it. There was an army of adults, whose motives and movements I just couldn't understand and who made no effort to understand mine. German Brot dark, round glazed loaves of rye or wheat bread. Alley Oop the dinosaur-riding cave man and beau of Ooola, both characters in V. Hamlin's popular cartoon strip, which originated in Horatio Alger Graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Alger wrote books in three series-Ragged Dick, Luck and Pluck, and Tattered Tom--about determined boys who work their way up from poverty and obscurity to fame and riches.

    Altogether, the Horatio Alger series sold twenty million copies. A hybrid version of Max and Moritz, a German cartoon, the strip was first printed in The atmosphere, a bizarre mix of menace and fantasies of comic strip rescuers, recedes into white after Maya faints from pain. Harsh, unpleasant physical sensations blend with pretense as she stoically conceals her hurt to save Bailey from certain death at the hands of the tormenter who transgresses her little girl trust.

    In a rapid, surrealistic flow of events, Maya, comforted by her dutiful navy blue coat with brass buttons, takes the stand and conceals from the court her first two sexual encounters with Mr. Consumed by guilt, she screams, "Ole, mean, dirty thing, you. Dirty old thing" and is removed from the stand to Vivian's embrace. Appropriately, Mr. Freeman's ignominious demise behind the slaughterhouse ends with Grandmother Baxter's injunction against "that evil man's name.

    Sloan's Liniment an astringent balm used to treat strains and sprains. Sensitive to scrutiny since her brutal St. Unmoored from past security, she allies herself spiritually and academically with Mrs. Bertha Flowers, a mannerly, gossamer presence "sweet-milk fresh," whose "lessons in living" introduce her to the refined art of recitation.

    The boost in self-esteem is the lifeline that Maya needs to carry her through post-rape trauma. Inexplicably, Momma Henderson, a perpetual enforcer eager to carry out her interpretation of scriptural decree, shatters Maya's upbeat mood by forcing her to her knees and whipping her for unknowingly slighting God. The senseless violence to Maya's spirit, although not on a par with Mr. Freeman's rupture of her tender body, epitomizes the children's complete powerlessness at the whims of adults.

    French seams a method of doubly securing two pieces of cloth by folding over the edges of a seam and sewing a second time. Pride is a sin.


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    8. Flowers, Maya, like a dusky imitation of a white debutante, advances to the kitchen of Mrs. Viola Cullinan, where she learns the mysteries of china and silver. Pointedly, amid the proper and prestigious array of dishes and glassware, the drinking vessels of Miss Glory and Maya sit "on a separate shelf from the others," mute testimony to the racism that lurks as a silent third party between kitchen servant and lady of the house.

      Ironically, Maya wastes tender sympathies on her barren employer, who appears unaware of the handsome offspring of the faceless Mr. Cullinan and his black mistress. The explosive comedy of "Mary's" departure from her white mistress' service is a welcome comic relief from the tension of earlier chapters. The obvious difference in point of view between Maya and Miss Glory presages the coming civil rights struggle, when black workers rebelled against Uncle Tom stereotypes and refused to act the part of the compliant, well-schooled darky.

      In the line of fire when Mrs. Cullinan launches a poorly aimed salvo of jagged crockery pieces, Miss Glory, suitably punished for her old-fashioned subservience, catches a chunk over the ear. In a more pronounced example of poetic justice, as though assaulting her predecessors for their weak-kneed toadying, the speaker describes young Maya as walking out on the melee and leaving the door open to broadcast the plaintive dismay of her employer. Cheshire cat's smile continuing the image from Alice in Wonderland, a reference to the cat which disembodies itself, leaving only its smile behind.

      Then, without warning, the plot yo-yos back to the dark side when Bailey stays late at a movie to see a white actress--Kay Francis, whom Bailey describes as being the image of "Mother Dear. Momma's overreaction to his tardiness stems from the fear of the "hanging noose," the capricious racist violence that traditionally snatches away "sons, grandsons and nephews. Angelou uses the opportunity to skewer movieland's black caricatures and the variations in response from white cinemagoers and their black counterparts, relegated to the colored balcony.

      Ending the episode with an unexpected burst of rebellion from Bailey, she divulges that a year later, Bailey hops a train and exits her life in a brief attempt to locate his "Mother Dear. Bluebeards killers like the protagonist of Charles Perrault's French folktales, written in Rippers slashers of women, like the self-named Jack the Ripper, the unidentified mangler of seven London prostitutes from August 7 to November 10, Puzzled by the willingness of bone-weary field hands to settle for leftover food so that they will have time to attend late night revival meetings, she attributes their choice to masochism and notes, ".

      Angelou, ever watchful for a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, milks the scene for its undercurrent of pubescent coming-of-age rites and small-town snobbery, where the high-toned denizens of Mount Zion Baptist Church contrast with the more cerebral African Methodist Episcopal and their counterparts in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and the proletarian Christian Methodist Episcopal church. On the outskirts of Christian respectability lurk the fervid Holy Rollers, who spare no exertions as they "make a joyful noise.

      To Stamps' poorest, whom Angelou dubs "society's pariahs" and "America's historic bowers and scrapers," the minister's welcome prophecy indicates that uncharitable whites will "get their comeuppance," a sweet revenge for a protracted history of injustice. Smug and self-righteous in their salvation, the elect walk home amid bluesy tunes from a local roadhouse, which provides a cheery alternative to tent revival escapism. In Chapter 19, still probing the theme of deliverance, Angelou shifts the setting from the cool night air to the packed intensity of bodies crouched over the store radio to hear a broadcast of a crucial prize fight.

      Fundamentalism is a twentieth-century religious movement

      Local blacks, identifying so intensely with Joe Louis that they become one with him through ups and downs of the bout, interpret his trials in the same category with lynchings, beatings, and pursuit by hounds. The scene not only depicts the culture of the radio era, but also explains and justifies AfricanAmerican hero worship of black athletes.

      Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, and be exceedingly glad an amalgam of Psalm with Matthew Church Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Matthew: twenty-fifth chapter, thirtieth verse through the forty-sixth one of Jesus' sermons in which he reminds the faithful that he will return from a heavenly throne to question people about their charity toward "the least of these"--that is, the hungry, thirsty, alienated, naked, and imprisoned.

      First Corinthians a loose rendering of I Corinthians , 3, which encourages charity. John Brown American abolitionist who was hanged in for leading a raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. He who can hear, let him hear an altered version of Ezekiel How long, oh God?

      How long? Louis World heavyweight champion from , Joe Louis , nicknamed the "Brown Bomber," racked up a record of sixty-eight victories in seventy-one fights. CHAPTERS In a respite from the more serious themes of the autobiography, Angelou's reminiscences about early adolescence, when forging friendships, receiving love notes, exchanging valentines, sizing up a male admirer, and completing eighth grade take precedence over her concern for equality and selfdetermination for the black race.

      Freed from the devastating emotional turmoil of earlier chapters, Maya, while guarding the gnawing secret of rape by Mr. Freeman, finds time to gaze at clouds and share intimate girl talk with her contemporary, Louise Kendricks. No less evocative of Southern culture of the early s, Maya's eighth-grade graduation from the nofrills Lafayette County Training School, recounted in nostalgic, bittersweet glimpses, highlights a processional through "a few shady tall persimmon trees," gifts of money, handkerchiefs, a book of Edgar Allan Poe's works, a new dress, and a Mickey Mouse watch from friends and relatives, a breakfast worthy of Sunday morning, and, for a few fellow students, ready-made outfits from Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward or makeovers of hand-me-downs for those who cannot afford new clothes.

      The second singing of the black national anthem, a traditional rallying song since its publication in , negates the denigrating oration of the supercilious Mr. Edward Donleavy and revives Maya from a temporary letdown.

      Cliffs Notes on Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

      For the first time, she internalizes the familiar words and realizes that "Black known and unknown poets" including "preachers, musicians and blues singers" have had a significant role in uplifting African-Americans. Eastern Star a fraternal order, founded in , composed of Master Masons and female relatives and dedicated to service, fellowship, and civic responsibilities.

      Masons a men's charitable service organization, founded in Knights of Columbus a fraternal organization, founded in and limited to Catholic males. Daughters of Pythias a women's auxiliary of the Knights of Pythias, founded in as a charitable and fraternal order. Captain Marvel a comic book character created by Carl Burgos and Bill Everett and first appearing in print in November The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

      Blessed be the name of the Lord Job , a stoic verse often cited at funerals and graveside rites. Jordan a river in Palestine where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. In Christian hymnology, "crossing the Jordan" symbolizes the soul's passage into heaven. I hungered a random summary of Matthew Ashes to ashes and dust to dust from the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer. Peace, be still Jesus' command to the sea, Mark Let your light so shine part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Mickey Mouse Walt Disney's star of animated cartoons, who debuted in Fisk a university founded in Nashville, Tennessee, in , and famous for such noteworthy graduates as writer W.

      Du Bois and poet Nikki Giovanni. Owens Jesse Owens, son of an Alabama sharecropper, triumphed in track and field at the Olympic games in Berlin against a background of Nazi racism, which favored the blue-eyed blonds of the Aryan race. Gabriel Prosser leader of a slave revolt in in Richmond, Virginia. Nat Turner leader of a slave revolt on August 21, , which ended with the deaths of sixty white victims and the execution of Turner and sixteen other insurrectionists. Amazon one of a race of female warriors mentioned in Homer's Iliad.

      Against the cruelty and lack of professionalism of a dentist ironically named Dr. Because Dr. Lincoln was one of the recipients of her largesse, she expects a reciprocity that he is unwilling to provide. Not only must she identify herself with the disrespectful use of her first name and endure the haughty white attendant's shutting the door in her face, she must counter her granddaughter's degradation and dehumanization when the dentist sneers, "I'd rather stick my hand in a dog's mouth than in a nigger's.

      Maya concludes, "I was so proud of being her granddaughter and sure that some of her magic must have come down to me.

      I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Summary by Maya Angelou

      Lincoln and his rude white nurse, the prevailing atmosphere of distrust, bigotry, and hatred prevents her from receiving her share of community respect and status. Angelou, a master of language, strengthens the historic significance of her autobiography with strict attention to detail. For example, her narrative features entertainment and trade names from the period.

      The maturity of her grandchildren puts an unfair burden on Annie Henderson. After Bailey's close encounter with the decayed corpse, she knows that he faces the "humorless puzzle of inequality and hate. The order of their going suggests that Momma worries more about the vulnerability of Maya than that of Bailey.

      Reserve Officers' Training Corps, a military body which demands exacting posture and decorum.

      I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Analysis by Maya Angelou

      The imagery of Annie's reunion with Vivian supplies a clear delineation of proper motherhood. On the one hand, Annie is the "large, solid dark hen. Her going, a shattering but irrevocable announcement to her dependent grandchildren, illuminates Momma's role as primary parent, a role which ends with her return to Stamps. Realigning family structure in their San Francisco home around Bailey, Vivian, and Daddy Clidell, thirteen-year-old Maya, like other citizens on the west coast in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, turns her attention to the threat of a Japanese invasion and to the disappearance of Japanese-Americans, who were incarcerated in internment camps, such as Manzanar in north central California, east of Lone Pine.

      She makes no apology for blatant opportunism, which allowed blacks to move into the vacated businesses of Japanese-Americans without qualms.