I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One afternoon when Vivien and Bailey are out for the day, Mr. Freeman calls Marguerite over to him. She resists—she has found happiness in the library and doesn’t feel she needs him to hold her anymore. He insists, and when she goes over to him, he becomes rough. He tells her if she screams he will kill her. He demands that she pull down her underwear and then he rapes her. The pain is excruciating. Marguerite blacks out. She wakes up and Mr. Freeman is washing her in the bathtub and his hands are shaking, and he tells her he didn’t mean to hurt her. He reminds her again it must be a secret.
Marguerite is raped at the age of 8 by a man she considered a father figure. The rape is incestuous, violent, and physically and emotionally traumatic. Note how careful Angelou is to record Mr. Freeman’s response to the rape. Marguerite’s sense of guilt is even coded into the language with which she describes her rape; she cannot ignore Mr. Freeman’s fear and his pathetic apology. She seems to focus on his emotional response to the rape, not her own.
Themes
Sex, Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Marguerite wanders to the library but finds the seats are too hard and painful for her to sit on. She goes home and goes to bed. Mother returns and makes Marguerite soup, believing her to have come down with some virus. Mr. Freeman threatens Marguerite again as she is lying in bed. Later that night Marguerite hears her mother and Mr. Freeman fighting. A few days later, Mother says she needs to change Marguerite’s linens. When they strip the bed, Marguerite’s bloody underwear is exposed. Her mother rushes Marguerite to the hospital.
Marguerite tries to go on living as she usually does by going to the library. But the rape has created another kind of displacement: she can’t find comfort anywhere. The fact that it takes several days for her mother to discover what happened shows how alienated Marguerite is from her family.
Themes
Sex, Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon