I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
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In the book Maya Angelou looks very deep into the ways that she is self-aware and her self-deception. In the ways of self-awareness is to know that she didn’t really feel like she belonged anywhere. Then, in Mayas self-deception to believe that she thinks and wants to be something that she can never be and to find happiness in who she is. Maya tells a weaving tale through the book and lets you see her true inner self and essentially her coming of age story through her self-awareness and self-deception.
Maya’s self-awareness starts with her overall appearance. She finds her brother, Bailey, breathtakingly beautiful and so does everyone else. “Where I was big, elbowy and grating, he was small, graceful and smooth. When I was described by our playmates as being shit color, he was lauded for his velvet-black skin (Angelou pg. 22).” The older people in the town make fun of her, and even though Bailey tries to protect her, Maya still feels the sting behind their harsh words. She starts to see herself as something that is not beautiful, and Maya believes that if only people could see how beautiful she really is then maybe they would accept her. So when Easter comes around she is chosen to say a poem, there she will wear a white dress.
Maya imagines that this white dress will transform her into something more beautiful. It shows her lack of love for herself and her so great desire to become beautiful. Maya sees beauty as white beauty and not an inner beauty, so Maya believes that you must be white with long blonde hair and blue eyes to be beautiful. Maya hopes that this white dress will show the people her true beauty. “Wouldn’t they be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blond would take place of the kinky mass that Momma wouldn’t let me straighten? My light-blue eyes were going to hypnotize them (Angelou pg. 2).” Mayas deep hope to be beautiful will only come from her own self-acceptance in the book, and her own self-fulfillment.
In addition to Maya’s appearance, she also finds trouble in fitting in to the black community. “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult (Angelou). ” This is placed at the very beginning believing that Maya is only five or six years old, the statement clearly speaks from an older version of Maya. She appears to be looking back on her life and seeing the prominence of racism, sexism and a violent society alive in her life. Maya uses the knife analogy as an idea that she truly does not fit in. Maya also see’s her social displacement, how she believes that she does not fit into her family because everyone is beautiful, Vivian is stunning and almost white, Bailey is a handsome young child and she considers herself ugly and unattractive. Maya is an outcast to the white society for being black and yet she believes that she does not even fit into the black society because of her appearance. Though the statement is very dramatic, it has a certain truth to it to Maya that she doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
As Maya continues to feel that she does not fit anywhere in the black community, she will find her place. When Maya moves to San Francisco she attends a new unsegregated school. Her education will be very important to her and she finds a pleasure in dancing and drama. Maya finally begins to feel pretty when dancing and thinks that maybe she will be able to find what she is supposed to be or do. Since World War II is in full swing and many men have gone off to war. Discrimination has taken the spotlight off of the black community and onto the Japanese for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So, in a way Maya will feel a little more “at home” with the blacks not being discriminated as much against. Using this new freedom from discrimination Maya looks into getting a job and doing something new. She finds joy in thinking of being a streetcar conductor. In this way Maya is slowly becoming more self-aware of whom she can be, and that the other people will not decide what she can or cannot be or do. Ms. Kirwin her teacher will also greatly encourage her to do what is best for her in life and does not treat her any differently then all the other students, giving her hope that she can be who she wants to be. So, now Maya’s self-awareness is a good thing for her and rather feeling like an outcast, by the end of the book she is comfortable with whom she is and will become.
Throughout the whole book Maya finds herself in good ways and bad. She becomes deeply aware of who she is and what she wants in life. At the end of the book, Maya has found her place and knows that she is who she is and nothing will change that. She is very self-aware of who she is and can be happy with it. The last few words in the book were “See, you don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking (pg. 281).” This quote by her mother tells the reader that Maya has found her happiness and who she is in life. Although the book ends abruptly the reader knows that Maya is happy with who she is.