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Maya Angelou American Literature Analysis

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And I have tried to make the selections graduate so that each episode is a level, whether of narration or drama, well always dramatic, but a level of comprehension like a staircase.

Additionally, the volumes deal with an important theme for Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , for example, narrates the placement and displacement of the author as a southern black girl and demonstrates that her experiences of racial discrimination, rape, and numerous other victimizations did not destroy her; on the contrary, they emboldened and strengthened her, thus committing her to survival at all costs.

In her second volume of autobiography, Gather Together in My Name , the scene shifts, but the message remains the same: Young mother though she is, seventeen-year-old parent though she is, she must survive and triumph over the various discriminations, mostly racial, that she endures. In a book that has a beginning, middle, and end—a structure that Angelou claims exists in all of her autobiographies—the end is an especially poignant reminder of survival.

Learning a lesson from a drug addict, Angelou proclaims: I had given a promise and found my innocence. Seeking survival, physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, in all six volumes of autobiography, Angelou as narrator and playwright tells her stories and sets the stage for her dramatic productions.

Like her autobiographical narratives and dramas, the poems also tell stories and present scenes from human dramas. Taken together, the ten volumes of prose and poetry are narrative dramas, portraits of a woman and her culture, songs of survival at all costs. She is no longer a singing caged bird, but one who swoops and dives in her efforts toward opening the cages for the rest of humanity.

In this self-portrait, Maya Angelou narrates her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas, and her adolescent years in California. Maya Angelou as a child is a displaced person, separated from her mother and father at the age of three and moved around almost as frequently as a chess piece.

Her earliest memories are of Stamps, where she and her brother Bailey are raised by their grandmother, a woman of remarkable strength and limitless love for her grandchildren. This grandmother, known as Momma, provides security for Maya and Bailey and also offers a role model for the young girl, who is beginning to understand the role of victim to which black children—and especially black girls—are subjected.

Momma owns the general store in Stamps and is respected as a businesswoman, a citizen of the community, and an honest and straightforward person. She represents the qualities that will eventually define her granddaughter, and she demonstrates those qualities on a daily basis, most especially when dealing with members of the white community.

In a significant incident, she reveals the ability to survive that her granddaughter will eventually develop herself. Throughout this series of insults, Momma does not react to the girls and, instead, stands on the porch, smiling and humming a hymn.

She was superior, and she had survived. She had also taught her granddaughter a lesson for all time. Most lessons, however, need to be learned and relearned, and so Angelou faces that uphill battle when, at the age of eight, she is displaced again, this time to be returned to her mother in St. Whereas Stamps represents security and orderliness, St. Louis symbolizes its opposites. Confused and terrified by this act and the subsequent murder of Freeman—a murder that the child mistakenly thinks she has caused—Angelou becomes a voluntary mute and lives in a world of silence for nearly five years.

She is healed by Bertha Flowers, a woman in Stamps, to which Maya returns. Flowers extends friendship to the mute Maya, a friendship that beckons the young girl to leave her self-imposed silence and embrace a new world of words, poems, songs, and a journal that chronicles this new stage in her life. Moving to Oakland and then San Francisco in , at the age of thirteen, Maya rejoins her mother and deals with dislocation and displacement still again.

At this point in her life, however, she is maturing and learning that the role of victim, while still a role to which she is assigned, is also a role played by others—blacks and whites. She learns that the human challenge is to deal with, protest against, and rise above the trap of being victimized and exploited.

In the final scene of the novel, Angelou is not merely a young woman coming to this realization for herself; she is a young mother who has just borne a son and who is therefore struggling to see how she can be responsible not only for herself but also for another. The book ends with this sense of mutual responsibility and mutual survival: Mother and child know why the caged bird sings, and they will sing their song together.

In her fifth autobiography, Angelou relates her pilgrimage to Ghana, where she seeks to understand her African roots. The source of security, she comes to learn, is not in a place but within oneself. Angelou chooses to live in Ghana following the end of her marriage. Angelou joins a group of black Americans who have come to Ghana to be part of the great experiment. Angelou hopes that she and her son will find a land freed of the racial bigotry she has faced wherever she has lived or traveled.

Hopeful and idealistic, she sets herself up for disappointment and disillusion. During her three-year stay in Africa, she is not welcomed as she has expected to be; even more painful, she is frequently ignored by the very people with whom she thinks she shares roots, the Africans.

As she tries to understand this new kind of pain and homelessness, she also struggles with the sense of having two selves, an American self and an African self. A stunning example of this struggle occurs when the black American community in Ghana, together with some sympathetic Ghanaians, decides to support the August 27, , March on Washington—the march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Still I Rise is about overcoming oppression with grace and pride, having no sympathy for the oppressors and giving to validity to the reasons for oppression.

There is rhyme every other line for most of the poem that immediately guides the reader through the poem. Imagery is dominant in this poem, especially after Angelou questions her oppressors. Much of her imagery is conveyed through similes and metaphors. This usuage of figurative languages gives us a very clear picture of what Angelou means and usually conveys a strong emotion.

The two of these combined makes the images even stronger. The poem is more a narrative than anything else because Angelou interacts with her audience as she talks about the highs and lows of her life and history. The main symbol throughout the poem is that of rising dust.

For dust to rise, it must be unsettled from the ground in some way and then forms a dust cloud. But once the dust has been unsettled from the ground, it can leave and RISE.


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Maya angelou essays Maya Angelou is one of the great figures in contemporary American literature. Her poetry helps spread the word of equality to African American women and to all those who are oppressed. It is for this reason, she has received so much critical acclaim. In order to fully understan.

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Essays and criticism on Maya Angelou - Critical Essays. Although Maya Angelou is most famous for these, she has one significant accomplishment that many people would not know about. In , she was the first African American woman to compose a screenplay and have it filmed.

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Essay on Maya Angelou: An Example of Perseverance - Maya Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, dropped out of high school, was a teenage mom, and constantly dealt with racism. Who would have thought that someone who had gone through so much would someday be such a confident, inspirational woman. This poem is written with Maya Angelou herself as the speaker. She is speaking to her audience of oppressors about how she has overcome racism, criticism, sexism, and personal obstacles in her life with pride and grace. This poem is historically rooted with the mentions of slavery, a “past of pain,” and “gifts of ancestors,” [ ].