Grade Received on Report : 85
The Cages Of Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou wrote an amazing and entertaining autobiography titled I Know Why The Caged
Bird Sings, about her hard life growing up as a black girl from the South. Among the hardships are things
known as “cages” as stated as a metaphor from Paul Dunbars poem “Sympathy.” “Cages” are things that
keep people from succeeding in life and being everything they want to be. Some of Maya Angelous cages
include being black in the 1940s and her overbearing grandmother. For me a my major “cage” is my
young age, this causes problems with adults.
A major “cage” from Maya Angelous youth was that she was black in a prejudice southern town.
Maya has recounted in her book the times when she was discriminated against. When she was working for
a white woman named Mrs. Viola Cullinan, Mrs. Cullinan started calling her Mary, “Thats Margaret too
long. Shes Mary from now on.”(pp.91) One of the most important aspects of a person is their name. It is
a great insult for someone to change your name, without your consent, just because someone wanted too. If
Maya was white Mrs. Cullinan would not have changed her name and she did it only because of her racist
friends and attitudes. Even some of the white adults who supposedly supported her had hidden their racist
messages in seemingly nice speeches. Maya conveys the words of Mr. Edward Donleavy, one of the
people in the masquerade, “The white kids were going to have a chance to become Galileos and Madame
Curies and Edisons and Gauguins, and our boys (the girls werent ev!
en in on it) would try to be Jesse Owenses and Joe Lousises.”(pp.151) Maya was forced to listen to Mr.
Donleavys stereotypes of how white children could be thinkers and black children can only be athletes.
What was supposed to be an encouraging speech, which Mr. Donleavy probably thought was sincere,
turned out to be just another racist and stereotypical speech. Perhaps it was not so much Mr. Donleavys
fault, because he was trying to be nice, but more of his upbringing. Racism was the most prominent of
Mayas “cages” and it is probably due to the society and ignorant ideas.
The second major cage of Maya Angelou was that she has a very strict, religious, and overbearing
grandmother. It is important that a childs guardian be caring and strict but that guardian should not be too
strict. After coming back from Mrs. Flowers house bringing Bailey some cookies, Maya is disciplined by
momma, “I repeated, I said, Bailey by the way, Mrs. Flowers sent you- Momma responds Thats what I
thought you said. Go on and take off your dress. Im going to get a switch.”(pp.85) Mayas grandmother
was punishing Maya for just using a common day phrase that seems to be a little harsh. Mayas
grandmother was trying to raise her well but what she did could actually do the opposite of what was
intended. Just when she was making progress getting out of her depression and taking a step forward with
Mrs. Flowers, the punishment may have actually made Maya take a step back. Another thing that Momma
does, to try to do help Maya but was actually doing the opposite!
was when, “If they feet werent clean enough for her, she took the switch and woke up the offender with
a few aptly place burning reminders.”(pp.21) A switching for dirty feet seems to be a little extreme. Again
she was trying to do good but in turn may be doing the opposite by being too severe in punishing for a
small offense. It is important to be clean, but a switching because of not being clean is just a little harsh.
The punishment must fit the offense and this punishing could do more harm than good though it may not be
mommas fault but that of her time and heritage. Mayas grandmother being too strict, even though she
meant good, was a factor that keeps Maya from achieving.
Maya Angelou was not the only person who has cages, I also also have them. My “cage” is a
fairly common one; my young age. Age is a barrier that stops me from doing things many adult things.
Many times I suggest things to my parents, but sometimes they do not respect my opinions. I feel that if I
were an adult my suggestions and opinions would be handled with more respect and have more validity.
Many people do not listen to ideas of a young person, thinking that he or she does not understand, even I
sometimes have done this with younger kids. Many people equate youth with immaturity, which is
sometimes true but is not always true. This is somewhat similar, but not as severe, as the experience that
Maya had with Mr. Donleavy, being caught in a stereotype. Another time that I was held back because of
my age is with a certain radio talk show that does not let children call. I had tried to call in but I still could
not get on the air with all of my debating with him. Th!
is talk show host is segregating children because on again a stereotype of children being immature and does
not have knowledge on things of the world. He is just another adult that thinks young people are all the
same. Age is a big problem with its stereotypes and could be a “cage” with either being too old or too