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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


by Maya Angelou

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Dumped in Stamps

The 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 Lights

Everything changes with a few Christmas presents. Suddenly, Maya and Bailey find out that they have larger-than-life parents and they move to St. Louis. It's a classic rags-to-riches story, except they don't understand why they were in rags in the first place. It should be great, but the kids still feel insecure.


The Rape

Maya is sexually abused and raped by Mr. Freeman. She goes mute after his death, and the rest of the novel is clouded by the damage that he did to her young psyche.


Everything's Coming up Flowers

The climax is the big turning point, right? Maya's encounter with Mrs. Flowers marks the first day of the rest of her life. It all gets better from here. Well, mostly.


Will She Make It?

From the moment Maya decides to spend the summer with Daddy Bailey, we are in for a roller coaster ride. Everything that can possibly go wrong does. Why does Maya keep making the worst decisions?


Growing Up

After all that excitement, it's time for things to calm down. Maya heads back to San Francisco and gets a job—first black conductorette! Our little Maya has grown up so fast. The issues she had of unworthiness and insecurity are finally starting to resolve themselves. It's almost time to wrap this thing up.


A Mother's Love at Last

Caged Bird doesn't have a home sweet home or triumphant ending—just a quiet one. Maya has a baby boy. With the pregnancy, all of Maya's insecurities are finally put to an end. Her baby loves her, and she becomes the mother that she never had.

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