Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Race

Maya is black. Seems simple enough, right? Not so much. Racism is the cage around the caged bird, and it means not getting jobs, not getting medical treatment, and even the risk of lynching. The in...

Change

From the very first page of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya lets us know that she isn't here to stay ("'I didn't come to stay…'" [Prologue.1]), and she sure doesn't break her promise. She m...

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...

Identity

There are no two ways about it: Maya's rape calls her identity into question. Suddenly, she is both a woman and child—but she feels like neither. She spends the rest of I Know Why the Caged Bird...

Love

How many times are the words "I love you" written in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Go count 'em, we'll wait. Back so soon? Yeah, we thought so. Love definitely isn't oozing out of the pages of t...

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

Maya is raped when she is eight years old—that's about as messed up as sex and sexuality can get. And from the moment she's abused, her sexual identity comes into question. She confuses sex with...

Religion

When Maya asks Momma if she loves her, Momma responds, "God is love. Just worry about whether you're being a good girl, then He will love you" (9.6). Hmmm. That doesn't really answer the question....

Literature and Writing

Go check out the list of literary "Shout-Outs" we found in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Pretty impressive, right? We can't say we're surprised—this is a coming-of-age story of an author and a...
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