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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Analysis

Literary Devices in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Setting

Stamps, ArkansasThe main setting for the first part of the novel is Stamps, a tiny (and very real) town on the border of Arkansas and Louisiana. Trains pass by this town without even stopping, and...

Narrator Point of View

Our trusty narrator is Marguerite Johnson, also known as Maya. No one's surprised—this is an autobiography, after all. Most of the narrative is written from the perspective of young Maya. And sin...

Genre

Autobiography and fiction? What's up with that?First, some background. Angelou wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings on a dare from her editor, Robert Loomis. He said it would be impossible to writ...

Tone

Wait, what? Are we still talking about I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Yeppers.For a novel with some pretty depressing themes and plotlines, this really is a funny book. Angelou really has a way w...

Writing Style

Then and NowWe have an announcement. Ahem.Adult Maya is telling us a story about kid Maya. Okay, so maybe that's not news. But we need to keep it in mind when thinking about Angelou's writing...

What's Up With the Title?

When you hear the words "I know why the caged bird sings," there's no doubt you think first of our author, Maya Angelou. But guess what, Shmoopers? It ain't original! The words were actually first...

What's Up With the Ending?

Maybe being sixteen, single, and pregnant isn't everyone's idea of a happy ending, but Maya seems pretty content at the end of the novel, don't you think? Let's take a look at how things have wrapp...

Tough-o-Meter

This book is, as the English say, chock-a-block with literary and historical references. While you can read and enjoy Caged Bird without understanding its wide-ranging allusions, you should probabl...

Plot Analysis

Dumped in StampsThe kids are dropped off in Arkansas and our story begins. Life sucks. They have no parents and racism is fierce in the South. By hey, at least they have Momma.City LightsEverything...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Initial Wretchedness at Home and the "Call"Maya grows up feeling like an unwanted child. She feels ugly and wishes she could turn into a beautiful white girl. The specter of the KKK and racism haun...

Three-Act Plot Analysis

Maya and Bailey Jr. arrive in Stamps. They live with their grandmother and uncle until Daddy Bailey arrives and takes them to St. Louis. Maya is raped while living with her mother and her rapist is...

Trivia

Looking at Angelou's list of achievements makes us feel lazy. In addition to writing, she is a professional dancer, actor, and singer. She also speaks French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Fanti. Wh...

Steaminess Rating

There's no doubt about it—this one requires parental (or teacher) supervision for the wee ones. Between the rape, young adult sex, and graphic descriptions of genitalia, there's not much missing....

Allusions

Shakespeare, "Sonnet 29" (2.22)Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (2.23)Shakespeare, Hamlet (23.14, 28.12, 34.22)Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece (23.44)Rudyard Kipling (2.22), "Invictus" (22...

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