I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
When is a baby not a baby? When he's a symbol for everything his mother has ever wanted!
The novel ends with the birth of Maya's son when she is sixteen years old. This would be a big deal under any circumstance, but Maya's experiences seal the deal. After all, motherhood is a tense subject for her. Her mom is mostly not in the picture, and when she does waltz into Maya's life, she's more worried about herself than her daughter. Momma is Maya's stand-in mom for a while, but she won't even say that she loves her granddaughter. Basically, Maya has a huge mommy hang-up.
How does the baby play into this? When Maya has her son, she becomes a mother herself. Okay, so that part is obvious, but get this: she even uses the same language to describe herself that she has used for her mother. Let's take a look:
When we first meets her mom, she says, "I thought she looked just like the Virgin Mary" (10.31). later, after she gives birth to her own son, she writes, "[n]o one could deny that I had had an immaculate pregnancy (36.24)." Hmmm. Who else had an immaculate pregnancy? Oh yeah, the Virgin Mary.
Maya's transition into motherhood gives her the chance to be the mother she never had and give the love she never received. And bonus: her baby is her second chance at receiving all that love that she missed out on as a kid.