‘I know why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou is an interesting, one of the most classic African American novel I have ever come across. While reading the novel, in the narration of the female child protagonist, the most distinct feature of the novel was its color imagery. Margaret, the female protagonist, whose point of narration the novel is written in, is a Negro. The time period the novel is set is when racism was still prevailing in the States.
It is in her narration we find she uses the epitaph ‘Black’ and ‘white’ to describe the race of people.
She otherwise uses ‘colored people’ to describe Negroes but in one of the conversations she has with her brother Bailey turns that epitaph ironic. She and Bailey have an argument over the existence of ‘colorlessness’ and Bailey unknowingly uses the term to describe the corpse of a Negro. This means Negroes can’t be termed colored or colorless. Despite the narrator showing discern of the white looking down on the black, she herself shows that she accepts the social hierarchy in numbers of chapters.
She disdains the whole time his friend is making a speech in the graduation ceremony Using the term ‘colored’ itself shows that she puts the color white as the standard thus seeing the color black as colored. Perhaps she became to hate the existence of both colors, black or white. In chapter 23 it says ‘I thought about the colors I hated: ecru, puce, lavender, beige and black’. She says she hates the shades of white but directly hates the color black. It is almost undertaken as a natural response for her to hate her own color; it is hatred of inferior state.
It has the effect of building sympathy in the readers and anger towards the societal hierarchy affecting the thoughts of a child to hate her own skin color. Further on she even feels the need for striving of equality as a hopeless action similar of rebelling ‘Hadn’t he hear the whitefolks? We couldn’t be, so the question was a waste of time’. This shows that the color description is not merely about the skin but had connection to the boundaries of imagination and the foundation of thought. The novel shows physically what the narrator intended through using capital
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