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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 Prologue Summary

  • "What you looking at me for? I didn't come to stay..." (1.1). The story begins with these lines—over and over again. It seems our narrator has forgotten the rest of the poem.
  • Once we're thoroughly confused, the narrator finally explains to us that she is at church and she has forgotten the lines to the poem she was supposed to recite. Oops.
  • Now we get a quick image of this girl: she is wearing a lavender taffeta dress. Fancy! She also tells us how she watched her grandmother working on it for weeks.
  • She imagined that once the dress was finished and she wore it, everyone would realize that she wasn't black, but instead, a beautiful little white girl. 
  • She imagined her true identity, one that is not cursed by blackness. As a white girl, our narrator seems to be like a mix between Shirley Temple and Snow White. 
  • And by the way, her name is Marguerite.
  • But when the dress is done, it is not pretty, she is still not white, and worse yet, she has forgotten her lines. Not a good day.
  • The minister's wife decides to help her out and tell her the line. Anyway, the church is happy because it's cute when kids forget their lines. (You know it is.)
  • Marguerite excuses herself to go to the bathroom, but as she is running down the aisles of the church, she trips over someone's foot and—to make matters worse—by the time she reaches the door, she can feel pee dripping down her leg.
  • She pees on the church porch and then runs, peeing and crying in her lavender dress, all the way home. 
  • Somehow this scene is both hilarious (oh come on, you know that pee is funny) and sad at the same time, and we get the feeling we are in for a lot more it's-so-sad-that-it's-funny moments.

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