Book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Short Story

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In the book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, there are several women who play very important roles in Marguerite Johnson’s life and development. Marguerite had three women in her life that educated and provided her with useful skills, information, security, religion and love. Momma, Mrs. Flowers, and Ma’ Dear are mother figures in Marguerite’s life who provide her with the necessities and strength to help her through life, Momma taught Marguerite about religion and cleanliness and was a good role model when it came to being strong and powerful, Mrs. Flowers introduced and provided Marguerite with literature and Ma’ Dear who is Marguerite biological mother wasn’t with her as she was growing but she still played a very important role in Marguerite’s life, she provided her with the love that is said only a mother can give their child. These three women were mother figures in Marguerite life that had very positive effects in Marguerite’s life. Momma taught Marguerite the importance of religion, cleanliness and she also taught Marguerite how to be independent and strong. Marguerite’s grandmother (Momma) has cared for her since she was three years old.

Momma’s great faith in God and in her religion gave Marguerite reassurance of knowing that God will always be there for her showing her love when nobody else around her showed it to her (that is as long as she followed the commandments laid out in the bible). Marguerite says, “I asked her [momma] if she loved me and she brushed me off with: God is love. Just worry about whether you’re being a good girl, then He will love you” (57), Momma was telling Marguerite that she didn’t have to depend on other people’s love, that she didn’t need their love as long as she had Gods love.

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Momma taught Marguerite that she could make it in the world without needing other people to validate her or show her that she was somebody important, in a way making her independent. Momma also prayed on a daily basis thanking God for everything. Momma says, “Our father, thank you for letting me see this new Day . . . ” her constant praying in a way strengthen Marguerite belief in God (7). Marguerite would pray whenever she felt lonely or felt that she needed to feel secure and taken care of. Momma also taught Marguerite about the importance of cleanliness, she was ery strict when it came to being clean. Marguerite remembers when momma would say, “Thou shall not be dirty” and “Though shall not be impudent”, Marguerite saw these rules as Momma’s two commandments, which had to be followed in order to live a happy life in Momma’s house.

Marguerite saw these commandments as rules that she must not break because if she did she would feel the wrath of Momma Henderson, which was mainly physical. Marguerite says “Momma was famous for pulling the quilts off . . . examine our feet. If they weren’t clean enough . . . she took the switch . . . ptly placed burning reminders” Momma didn’t play around when it came to having a clean face and body, which probably encouraged or injected fear in Marguerite that kept Marguerite from going to bed dirty. Marguerite also recalls Momma seeing dirtiness as a sign of disrespect and in a way against God because “cleanliness [is] next to Godliness” and if you weren’t clean you weren’t holly (27-28). Momma also showed Marguerite how to be independent and strong. Momma is a very strong and independent woman, she ran a store all by herself, she was financially stable, and had more money than the “powhitetrash” (28).

Marguerite saw the strength and power that Momma Henderson had both physically and mentally; Marguerite says “I saw only her power and strength. She [is] taller than any woman in my personal world, and her hands [are] so large they could span my head from ear to ear” (qtd. in Luptor 262). Although Momma taught Marguerite the importance of religion cleanliness, and was a role model in Marguerite’s life by showing her how to be strong and powerful, Mrs. Flowers was the mother figure in Marguerite’s life that provided her with literature and education.

Mrs. Flower’s is a classy, well educated woman who Marguerite looks up to; Marguerite says “When she [Mrs. Flowers] chose to smile on me, I always wanted to thank her. The action was so graceful and inclusively benign” (94). She admires Mrs. Henderson because she is educated, has class, and beauty. Mrs. Flowers helped Marguerite find her voice (passion for poetry and literature) by encouraging her to speak and read literature out loud. Mrs. Flowers had a big impact on Marguerites education as said by Don Swaim “Her teacher [Mrs. Flower’s] taught her [that] the only way to truly love poetry was to speak it. Reading poetry was how Angelou [Marguerite] found her voice”( Audio 1), Mrs. Flowers helped Marguerite find her love for literature and poetry, therefore strengthening her education. Momma and Mrs. Flowers taught and gave Marguerite valuable skills and information that will help her through out her life but Ma’ Dear being her biological mother gave her motherly love. Ma’ Dear was not always around for Marguerite until she was about eight old.

Marguerite was sexually abused by Ma’ Dears lover (Mr. Freedman) and became very ill. Ma’ dear not knowing what had really happened simply thought she was getting a little sick, and that’s when all her motherly love came in effect. When Marguerite was sick Ma’ Dear made her broth and took care of her until she found out that she had been raped than she immediately took her to the hospital. Marguerite saw for the first time what a mother does for her child when she or he is in need of their mothers love and care.

Although Ma’ Dear was not around Marguerite for a long time she showed her what it feels like to have a mother that shows her tenderness and love. Marguerite benefited from having several mother figures in her life because they each taught her different qualities and skills that helped her grow. Momma taught Marguerite how to be strong; she gave her religion, and taught her the importance of cleanliness. As Marguerite grew up she began putting these skills to use, especially the faith that Mamma helped Marguerite develop which was the belief in God.

Marguerite would pray whenever she felt lonely and scared. Mrs. Flowers also had a very big effect in Marguerite’s life because she helped and taught Maya about literature, which helped Marguerite find her voice and passion. Ma’ Dear gave Marguerite love and tenderness which helped Marguerite in some of the hardest times in her life. These three mother figures in Marguerite’s life helped build a strong and well educated woman. All of these mother figures had very positive effects in Marguerite’s life and were crucial to her development from a child to an adult.

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Book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Short Story. (2017, Mar 22). Retrieved from

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