I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Marguerite begins sleeping in her mother’s bed because of nightmares. One morning she wakes up after her mother has left, and feels a pressure in her back. She has a dim understanding that Mr. Freeman is pressing his penis into her, but doesn’t know if this is wrong or not. Then Mr. Freeman puts his hands between her legs, and she remembers Momma told her to keep her legs closed, and feels guilty. Mr. Freeman asks Marguerite to touch him and then masturbates while she lies on his chest. Afterwards he holds her gently, and Marguerite is so happy for the affection; she feels that she has found the father she was meant to have.
Marguerite’s first assault is fraught with a complex and confusing power dynamic. Marguerite knows very little about sex; she only knows that as a girl she is obligated to keep her legs closed. Marguerite’s lack of a solid home and family life makes her misinterpret Mr. Freeman’s abuse. Though Mr. Freeman is at fault, his abuse makes Marguerite feel guilty. In an example of tragic irony, she considers his actions to be normal, even fatherly.
Themes
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
Soon she becomes very confused again, however. Mr. Freeman accuses her of wetting the bed. Then he tells her that if she ever tells anyone what just happened, he will kill Bailey. Marguerite is frightened, and struggles to understand but agrees to keep the incident a secret from Bailey.
Marguerite doesn’t understand that Mr. Freeman’s abuse is a vast breach of trust and an abuse of power. Why would he want to keep it a secret, she wonders? But the threat against Bailey is enough to convince her to obey—Mr. Freeman is abusing Marguerite’s dependence on her family.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
After a while Marguerite becomes lonesome, and longs to be held gently again. One evening she sits on Mr. Freeman’s lap. He moves against her for a short while then abruptly stands up to go to the bathroom. After that he doesn’t speak to her or even look at her for a long time.
Marguerite feels lonely and abandoned after the initial abuse—she longs for affection and contact and she seeks it out from the one person she believes has provided it to her. Though her impulse is understandable and innocent, Marguerite will feel guilty about it later.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
Marguerite starts to spend more and more time at the library—books are a refuge for her. She wishes often that she had been born a boy, because only boys get to be heroes in the stories she reads.
Language and literature provide an escape for Marguerite. Yet prejudice and inequality follow her here, too—because she does not see women represented in stories, she wishes she were a boy.
Themes
Sex, Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Get the entire Caged Bird Sings LitChart as a printable PDF.
I know why the caged bird sings.pdf.medium