Maya Angelou Research Papers

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Maya Angelou’s 1969 novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the autobiographical coming-of-age story of Marguerite Johnson, a young black girl living in Southern United States in the 1930s, growing older with much more than the typical issues of adolescence and self-identity. Angelou begins the novel with a striking scene, wherein an extremely young Marguerite (often called Ritie, My, or Maya) is mocked and brought to tears in church, and eventually runs out, peeing all the way home, but “laugh[ing] anyway” (Angelou 6). This scene incredibly foreshadows the repeated moments in the book in which she will be humiliated, but also to the joyous liberation she feels when she overcomes the disadvantages of her youth. From there, Angelou’s younger…show more content…
Firstly, Marguerite learns self-acceptance with help from strong black people in her life. Angelou gorgeously envelops the reader’s thoughts as she describes the intense moment where mothers, fathers, students, and teachers sang the “Negro National Anthem.” This is where Maya goes from “never [having] heard the words, despite the thousands of times [she] has sung them” (Angelou 181) and never thinking that they really had any relevance to her, to hearing it “really for the first time” (Angelou 181) after she experiences the injustices of white prejudice at her own graduation. This is the official moment where Maya accepts herself as a “proud member of the wonderful, beautiful Negro race” (Angelou 182). Similarly, in The Crucible, the protagonist, John Proctor, faces the internal conflict (man vs. self) of whether he should stay true to his character or lie to avoid consequences. The answer comes after John Proctor is forced to face injustices of his own. In The Crucible’s final moments, Proctor decides to stop lying and accept what he is and what he is not, going to his death with his wife’s encouragement: “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him” (Miller). Both Maya and Proctor deal with wrongful situations and, with support from…show more content…
Maya, although she is young, is convinced that, “Few, if any, survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity.” (Angelou 267) Her youth is crowded with her “constant battle with the superior forces of maturity.” She is humiliated, raped, and repeatedly detached from her loved ones, yet she still keeps her innocence for most of the novel. Despite this, however, Maya grows up and accepts her role in society with some help from her mother, becoming the first black woman to work on San Francisco street cars and the mother of “a baby…beautiful and [hers]” (Angelou 283). Correspondingly, in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield explores New York City alone, constantly reiterating his disdain for adulthood and its phoniness. Contrary to this, at the end of the novel Holden feels “so damn happy” (Salinger 114) as Phoebe keeps “going around and around” (Salinger 114) the carrousel. This is a symbol for how Phoebe would have to go through the ups and downs of life on her own and Holden’s brief acceptance of that. With the help of some outside perspectives, both characters, though they could not be any more inherently different, face the unavoidable struggles of becoming older and overcome

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