About Maya Angelou's "I know why the caged bird sings", and it's specific, re-occurring, themes. The themes this essay focuses on are dignity and respect.

Essay by hjunk86High School, 11th gradeA, January 2003

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In the turmoil of life, there are two main things that hold the human species together: dignity and recognition. Recognition and dignity can help a single person overcome a life-size problem. The two powers can help any human holder help others, and pass on recognition. Recognition and dignity are truly the pinnacle of human desires, and can withstand many different tortures and trials. In the novel, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou writes about her childhood struggle to attain both recognition and dignity.

Maya frequently struggled throughout the novel to attain dignity. She was constantly removed from the pleasures of dignity. At one point in the book, the pitiful Mr. Freeman actually raped Maya. This made Maya "grim...and ashamed" of herself, lowering her dignity to a horrifically run down level. This incident asserted in the novel that Maya's dignity was very low. Because of the rape, which was not her fault, Maya was afraid that she would be in trouble for lying to her family.

Fortunately, there are a number of incidents in the book that transcend the lowering of dignity, and portray Maya as a pleasured child with hints of dignity breaking through the cloud of desolate events. One of these events was the class speech made by Maya's fellow student, Henry Reed, during her elementary school graduation. Although the assembly of citizens at the graduation were unhappy, Henry inspired the audience to a state of "being on top again."

Providentially, Maya was able to obtain much more respect then she was dignity. Maya's main source of respect during the novel is revealed through her brother, Bailey. When speaking of Bailey in the beginning of the book, Angelou speaks of her brother with "pride, admiration, and love." Because both Maya and her brother grew...