Free Study Guide for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Book Summary|
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This chapter is beautiful with its detailed descriptions and gracious in its appeal. Angelou’s words are carefully intertwined with "soul food" from the Bible, words that offer hope and justice for the faithful. She succeeds in capturing the spirit of southern black religious fervor with some humor, some skepticism, and a lot of affection. Although her fellow blacks in Stamps are poor and world-weary, they always keep the faith. She finds it ironic that "the meanest life, the poorest existence is attributed to God’s will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate rate."
The faithful black people of Stamps love to gather for tent revivals, where they praise the Lord. As the preachers talk the need to be charitable and about the fairness of heaven, the troubles of the segregated world outside the tent pass away. But once outside the tent, they spy the white folk, and reality quickly comes back to haunt them. As they walk towards home, they all wonder when their Promised Land will come.
This chapter opens on the night of a championship fight. Momma’s store is crowded with people listening to the radio with a personal interest, as if Joe Louis were a brother or a father. Maya thinks that the men act like their entire existence depends on Louis’ victory. In truth, they are counting on the black fighter to help dispel the notion of black inferiority. Fortunately for them, Louis lives up to their expectations by winning. After his victory, the men in Momma’s store rejoice and celebrate the fact that Joe Louis has proven that blacks are not always inferior to whites. They are not, however, eager to travel to their homes, for "it wouldn’t do for a Black man and his family to be caught on a lonely road on a night when Joe Louis had proved that (they) were the strongest people in the world."
This chapter is about identification. The narrator compellingly addresses the need of the blacks, who have been losers for so long, to identify with a winner. If Jo Louis had lost, it would have meant, in the minds of the black men, the fall of their race. It would mean "another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. It was a white woman slapping her maid for being forgetful."
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