Separation in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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In Maya Angelou’s memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her everyday life is plagued by questions, confusion, and the pain of growing up in a world she doesn’t understand. One of the biggest sources of puzzlement in young Maya’s life is the separations occurring around her; both physical and mental. These separations include the rift between blacks and whites, her strange relationship with her parents, and the events that forced her from childhood to womanhood in an entirely ungraceful way, each adding to the image of a confused young girl in a big and relentless world. In the 1930’s, while slavery had been abolished for over sixty years, racism is still a large part of the American culture. One of the earliest examples of the separation of races in the book symbolizes the strict dichotomy of opportunity for black and white children. On the very second page, Maya explains how she wished that she would wake up in a white world, with blond hair, blue eyes, and she would shudder from the nightmare of being black. Later in the book she states, “I remember never believing that whites were really real,” which implies that she reveres whites because of her lack of real knowledge of them. Her only experience with whites so far in the novel is with the “powhitetrash” girls, who come to the store and treat her Momma disrespectfully. “And then if they were dirty, mean, and imprudent, why did Momma have to call them Miz?” she asked herself after seeing her Momma treat the young girls respectfully. All of this helps to exhibit her young ignorance when it comes to the separation between blacks and whites; she knows that it is there and that it affects her negatively but at this time in her life she is unsure as to why. A more obvious separation to Maya is a physical one, the one between herself and her brother Bailey and their parents. Even though she has been with Momma in
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