I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


Maya Angelou

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

That night, Marguerite feels bad for Dolores when she comes home. Dolores had waited all night for Big Bailey, but he hardly paid her any attention when he finally did return. They fought, and Marguerite overhears Dolores say that Marguerite has come between her and Big Bailey. Marguerite decides to talk to Dolores. She apologizes for coming between Dolores and Big Bailey. Dolores accuses her of eavesdropping. The argument escalates until Dolores ends up calling Vivien a whore, which sends Marguerite into a rage. She slaps her and tackles Dolores. They wrestle for a while, until Marguerite throws Dolores off of her and leaves the house.
It is important to keep in mind all of the times that Marguerite has been forced to stand idly by when her family has been insulted: Momma at the dentist, the incident with the “powhitetrash” children, the threatening of her brother Bailey. Here Marguerite can finally stand up for her family, and it is perhaps not surprising that she does so with so much anger. This scene demonstrates how constant and systemic oppression can foster rage and violence.
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Marguerite is bleeding from her side, and when her father sees her, she explains (with some satisfaction) that Dolores cut her. He takes her to the house of a friend who sews her up. But Marguerite becomes convinced that she might have ruined her father’s life—he would be humiliated if news got out that his lady had cut up his daughter. She recalls Mr. Freeman and feels guilt well up in her. She decides to run away.
Though Marguerite is by no means to blame for her injury (remember, she is only about 15 years old), she feels she is responsible for the incident in the same way she felt responsible for Mr. Freeman’s abuse. Though Marguerite has much more confidence now, her guilt from being abused still weighs heavily on her mind.
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