I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


Maya Angelou

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

One of the main differences between blacks and whites in Stamps regards how each group elects to spend money. Marguerite perceives whites to live grotesquely lavish lives—blacks do not tend to spend money on readymade (i.e. not homemade) clothes even if they could afford them. Momma is a prime example of this—she is so frugal and diligent that she manages to keep the store open throughout the Great Depression.
From Angelou’s perspective as a black person, the behavior of white people seems errant and irresponsible. Momma’s success even during the Depression is a testament to her enormous dedication and determination. She manages to endure in Stamps not only in spite of racist violence and segregation, but also in spite of the severe economic downturn.
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One Christmas Marguerite and Bailey receive Christmas gifts from their mother and father. The gifts confuse them, because they have not heard from their parents in so long. Both Marguerite and Bailey cry—the gifts make them wonder all over again why their parents sent them away on the train when they were so young.
Typically a gift from one’s parents would be cause for happiness and celebration. But for Maya and Bailey it’s a reminder of their displacement. They are only left wondering why they were sent away as children.
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