I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


Maya Angelou

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Caged Bird Sings can help.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Maya hides her pregnancy from everyone, though she avoids lying outright about it. Though her body is changing, her mother asks her no questions, seemingly unaware of Maya’s more feminine figure. Maya suddenly finds school to be a comforting refuge again, and digs back in to her studies. After about six months, Marguerite receives her secondary school diploma in a high school gymnasium, and when she returns home tells her mother and Daddy Clidell that she is pregnant.
Maya’s life begins changing at an even faster pace. Faced with a new struggle (pregnancy) she once again returns to books to help cope. Note how different this graduation ceremony is from Maya’s last one in eighth grade. Since Maya is now an expectant mother, she is looking towards the future and is determined to succeed.
Language Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Vivien and Daddy Clidell respond capably—they assure her everything is going to be okay, and buy her maternity clothes. Three months later, after a rather easy labor, Maya’s son is born. She is terrified to touch him, afraid she will hurt him. After about three weeks, Vivien brings the baby into Maya’s bedroom and says he will sleep with her. Maya begs her not to—she is sure she will crush him or hurt him. But the baby falls asleep peacefully at Maya’s side, and Maya sleeps without injuring him. Vivien wakes her to point out how they are lying together safely. Vivien says “if you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.” Maya pats her son’s small, sleeping body and falls back asleep.
Bailey’s experiences in Stamps taught Maya how dangerous it can be to be a black male in America, especially in the South. Now the mother of a black male, Maya treats her son as if he’s unusually vulnerable and fragile. Maya’s son’s birth and her peaceful nap at his side are signs of progress and hope: Maya has begun to overcome the fear, oppression, and victimization of her past. She joins the other successful maternal figures in this book (Momma, Vivien) in approaching her new life with determination and courage.
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Sex, Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
Related Quotes