Abandonment In I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

2146 words - 9 pages

AbandonmentMaya Angelou's autobiographical novel opens with three-year-old Maya and her four-year-old bother Bailey traveling alone across the United States wearing wrist tags that read "To Whom It May Concern." The siblings are being sent away from their newly divorced parents to live with their paternal grandmother, and Maya reacts by pretending her parents are dead. "I couldn't believe that our mother would laugh and eat oranges in the sunshine without her children," she explains. When, one year, the siblings suddenly receive Christmas presents from their parents, it is a painful reminder that they have chosen a life without their children, rather than a cause for joy; and in a manner typical of children, Maya feels guilty and wonders what she has done wrong. The initial act of abandonment committed by her parents affects Maya's sense of belonging and results in her not feeling at home anywhere. While living with her grandmother, she does not mind being taken for her uncle Willie's child, since she does not "feel any loyalty" to her father and suspects she would have been better treated as Willie's daughter, anyway. And when it is decided that the siblings are to live with their mother, after residing for a time with their maternal grandparents, Maya's reaction shows how constant relocations give rise to feelings of detachment: "Moving from the house where the family was centered meant absolutely nothing to me. It was simply a small pattern in the grand design of our lives." Never knowing how long she is to stay in one particular house, Maya avoids creating strong bonds with anyone but her brother. Maya's reflection that her mother "was competent in providing for us. Even if that meant getting someone else to furnish the provisions" reveals her desire for parental care; and this need makes her especially vulnerable to the advances of Mr. Freeman, the man living with her mother. After a first incident of physical closeness with him, she is reassured by his embrace and convinced that he is her "real father"; and subsequently, Freeman takes advantage of this closeness and rapes Maya. Discovering what has happened to her daughter, Maya's mother has her boyfriend killed; the traumatic incident and her feelings of guilt cause Maya to withdraw into complete silence. She refuses to speak to anyone but Bailey, and when she feels them growing apart, she retreats into the world of books, reflecting that "the long-lost children mistaken for waifs, became more real to me than our house, our mother, our school or Mr. Freeman." A sense of loneliness, then, prevails in Maya's life, and she is constantly aware of the possibility of abandonment. On a trip to New Mexico with her father, upon losing sight of him, she finds herself in a "fog of panic," which, she says, "nearly suffocated me." She becomes convinced that he has sold her to a man and left her; her anxiety is relieved only upon finding his car parked in the yard. Back at home, she has an argument with...

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