I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Themes and Colors
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Sex, Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Family Theme Icon

The memoir explores the complexity of familial bonds and the importance of family to a person’s experiences and identity. Maya and Bailey’s relationship is in many ways at the center of the book. Young Marguerite loves her brother so dearly and trusts him so implicitly that she confides in him first about her attack. The children often have to cope with feelings of abandonment since they were sent away by their parents to live with their grandmother at a young age, and are sent away again after Marguerite’s attack. Marguerite in particular—who bears no physical resemblance to her mother or father—wonders if her parents are in fact related to her. When Mr. Freeman assaults Marguerite for the first time, she is uncomfortable and confused but so desiring of parental affection that she interprets his actions as tenderness, and wonders if Mr. Freeman is her real father. Marguerite also learns to form familial bonds outside of her own biological family. Mrs. Flowers’ mentorship of Marguerite is another huge source of comfort and support.

The picture of family ties described by this memoir is a complicated one: family can be a source of rejection, confusion and pain, but is also an indispensable source of love and support.

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Family Quotes in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Below you will find the important quotes in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings related to the theme of Family.
Chapter 3 Quotes

It seemed that the peace of day’s ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes, and the crippled was still in effect.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker), Uncle Willie
Page Number: 16
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Chapter 4 Quotes

When I was described by our playmates as being shit color, he was lauded for his velvet-black skin…And yet he loved me.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker), Bailey Johnson
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

Momma intended to teach Bailey and me to use the paths of life she and her generation and all the Negroes gone before had found, and found to be safe ones.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker), Bailey Johnson, Momma (Annie Henderson)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

He held me so softly I wished he wouldn’t ever let me go. I felt at home.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker), Mr. Freeman
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 17 Quotes

The Black woman in the south who raises sons, grandsons, and nephews had her heartstrings tied to a hanging noose.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker), Bailey Johnson, Momma (Annie Henderson)
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
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I laughed because, except that she was white, the big movie star looked just like my mother…and it was funny to think of the whitefolks’ not knowing that.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker), Mother (Vivien Baxter)
Page Number: 118-119
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 19 Quotes

It wouldn’t do for a Black man and his family to be caught on a lonely country road on a night when Joe Louis has proved that we were the strongest people in the world.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker)
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 24 Quotes

“Annie, my policy is I’d rather stick my hand in a dog’s mouth than in a nigger’s”

Related Characters: Dr. Lincoln (speaker), Maya Angelou, Momma (Annie Henderson)
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 36 Quotes

I patted my son’s body lightly and went back to sleep.

Related Characters: Maya Angelou (speaker)
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:
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