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 Angelouís 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 Angelouís
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 Angelouís 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 couldnít 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 Angelouís 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 Mommaís 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 dogís 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

Angelouís 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
canít. 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

"Angelouís self-critical process is incessant, a driving demon." She also
continues to express that, "In the black girlís 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,