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Maya Angelou Essay

1961 words - 8 pages

The feeling of displacement leaves a painful hole in one's heart. Whether a person is a male or female, white or black, lives in the North or South, or young or old, displacement takes a toll on their character and personality. Maya Angelou creates a theme of displacement in her novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Angelou's novel has been critiqued by many notable scholars for being a classic autobiography. The critics note the importance of the setting to show universal displacement and the use of characterization to display the influences in Angelou's life. The critics also note that Angelou's diction and tone allow her pain and suffering to be evident throughout her novel and into her ...view middle of the document...

Not only is Maya displaced because of her race in Stamps, she is also displaced because of her setting changes. Maya has moved many times in her childhood and adolescent years. When she was three she was shipped off to Stamps with her older brother. Maya then moves to St. Louis to live with her mother. Post rape and mid-muteness, Maya moves back to Stamps. After school Maya moves back to St. Louis, then Los Angeles. Because Angelou moves often, she does not find a place where she is comfortable with the residents (Arensberg). Scholars note her personal displacement based on her moving habits. The scholars note that setting, including the era of segregation and the changing of location, helps the reader depict the theme of displacement.
The setting in Angelou's novel is personally related to the pain of her displacement. Although she grew up with her grandmother, Angelou feels as though she does not have a mother in her life. While growing up, Angelou notices all of the little girls with their mothers. When Angelou finally meets her mother Angelou decides that she is very different from her and is the unwanted child. She explains the difference between her and Bailey when they first met their mother, “They were more alike than she and I, or even he and I. They both had physical beauty and personality, so I figured it figured” (Angelou ………). Angelou believes her displacement is her fault because she isn’t worthy of being her mother’s daughter. She also believes her displacement is caused by the inability to call a place home. Maya feels as though she is living in two different worlds. With Momma in Stamps, Angelou lives a pure lifestyle filled with religion and racism; however, in St. Louis with her mother she is surrounded by a fast paced lifestyle filled with equality and alcohol. Both lifestyles are private and portable, but they do no fulfill her want to call a place home. Angelou’s personal displacement is based on her inability to call a place home and lack of a mother.
The influence of characters in the novel has greatly affected the theme of displacement. Angelou sees momma as the caretaker of the novel; however, scholars have noticed her defeats and struggles in the novel. Throughout the novel, it is evident that the prejudice displayed by society defeats Momma in many ways. Momma is defeated in her power and control to protect Bailey and Maya. Slowly, the abuse and disregard from the white people defeats Momma and she becomes powerless. Her protective influence on the kids is diminished with her age (Neubauer). The refusal of care from the white dentist discourages Momma and her ability to fight for her race. Although she is being physically and verbally abused, Momma stays calm while the white children are present. Momma does not confront them because she respects her important role in society. Momma is characterized by her defeats and struggles; likewise, Angelou is characterized by her struggles. Maya has struggled through many...

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