I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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The Train Symbol Icon

The train is a symbol of displacement. Bailey and Marguerite ride the train by themselves, with their ticket pinned to Bailey’s coat, when they are sent away from their parents. They ride the train again to and from St. Louis, and finally again on the way to California after Bailey is threatened and Momma makes them move away. Angelou reflects on these train rides at length—they fill her with a sense of loss, of possibility, of fear, of longing. In many ways these train rides serve to remind her that, as a young Black girl, she cannot have a home in America the same way that others can.

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The Train Symbol Timeline in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Train appears in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
...Stamps, Arkansas when Marguerite is three and Bailey is four. They’d been sent on the train to live with their grandmother after their parents had decided to divorce. Years later, Maya... (full context)
Chapter 8
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
...gifts make them wonder all over again why their parents sent them away on the train when they were so young. (full context)
Chapter 17
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
...a black woman. On the way home Bailey tries to jump on a passing freight train so he can ride it to St. Louis and be with his mother. (full context)
Chapter 25
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
Momma has to organize the transportation. She will ride with Marguerite on the train about a month ahead of Bailey, so as to spread out the cost of the... (full context)
Chapter 26
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
...Momma to leave, and she hands the children over to their mother and takes the train back to Arkansas. (full context)