Racism In I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Essay

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As a child, every little boy or girl has dreams of becoming a doctor, astronaut, or even a firefighter. But for Marguerite Johnson, Maya Angelou’s main character in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her hopes and aspirations are quite different. Marguerite dreams the following “... one day I [will wake] out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which [is] long and blond, [will] take the place of the kinky mass that Momma [won’t] let me straighten. My light-blue eyes [are] going to hypnotize them...” (). Her sense of not belonging makes her feel rejected by her own peers. Marguerite’s only way to escape from the torture she lives with day after day is to imagine her life as a “... sweet little white girl who [is] everybody’s dream of what [is] right in the world” (). Although Maya’s childhood is filled with embarrassment and shame, she learns from her grandmother that a strong woman should never settle for less.

Though Marguerite has difficulties in her childhood, she considers her Momma a role model in her life. Her grandmother is constantly faced with racism and because of that she has learned that dignity is more valuable than anything. For example, when Momma has the courage to confront a white man regarding Marguerite’s horrible toothache and then being rejected right in front of her granddaughter without acting viscously is very hard to do. Although Marguerite is too young to comprehend what is going on, she still knows that Momma can take care of herself because she is such a strong woman.

Growing up in a world full of racism, segregation and displacement, Marguerite makes the best of every situation by using her wild imagination to take her to a world where she is “white,” “beautiful,” and “wanted”. One of the techniques that Angelou uses to portray this feeling is by employing symbolism. Angelou communicates this tool to demonstrate the struggles Marguerite lives with daily. The lavender taffeta dress Marguerite is forced to wear on Easter...

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