I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Theme of Appearance
It's what's on the inside that counts, right? Well, it takes Maya thirty-six chapters of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—oh, and sixteen years of life—to figure that out. This girl thinks she's just plain ugly. Chalk it up to young girl insecurities, a lack of parental love, or a culture that praises white beauty, but Maya just doesn't see herself as attractive. But once that baby is in her tummy, everything changes.
Questions About Appearance
- What does it mean to be beautiful in Caged Bird? Are there any good characters that are ugly? Are there any bad characters that are beautiful?
- Do you think Maya is exaggerating the beauty of her family? Why or why not?
- Why is Maya so obsessed with her and other people's looks? Why are appearances so important to her?
Chew on This
Beauty is a symbol of goodness in the novel—everyone who ugly is also a bad person. No wonder Maya wishes she were beautiful.
Maya's change in appearance during her pregnancy is a metaphor for her newfound independence and self-acceptance.