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Free Study Guide for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Book Summary

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CHAPTER 35


Summary


Going through puberty, Maya is concerned about her body and her appearance. She worries that her budding breasts are abnormal. She also learns about lesbianism through a book called The Well of Loneliness and fears that she is a lesbian herself. Vivian tries to calm her concerns.

Maya decides to prove her heterosexuality to herself by acquiring a boyfriend. She surprises a neighborhood friend by asking him if he would like to "have a sexual intercourse" with her. He willingly consents; but the lack of romance leaves them both feeling as if nothing special has happened. Disappointed in the performance, Maya still questions her sexuality. Three weeks later she realizes she is pregnant.


Notes


Puberty is a time of confusion for Maya. Physical changes in her body worry her, and upon learning about lesbianism, she fears she is one. Vivianís explanation to Maya that the physical changes in her body are natural does not completely allay her fears; and a chance look at her friendís breasts and an admiration of them make her old fears come back. Maya, therefore, considers it important to prove to herself that she is not a lesbian.

She decides to acquire a boyfriend and chooses a good-looking boy in the neighborhood.

When she asks him to have intercourse with her, he willingly agrees; but the unromantic encounter is not satisfying, and Maya again questions her sexuality.


Mayaís naivete and inexperience are touchingly depicted in this chapter. As the narrator, she comes across as confused, inexperienced, and searching. Her bond with her reader is strengthened as a result of her confusion. She also gains sympathy from the reader when she reveals that she is pregnant.


CHAPTER 36


Summary


Even though Maya is pregnant, life goes on as usual. She tells no one of her condition, except Bailey. When she graduates from high school, she is nearly eight months pregnant, but she hides it so well that no one notices. Maya finally reveals that she is expecting a baby. She writes to Daddy Clidell and tells him that she does not want to marry the father. Everyone supports her decision.

Maya has a short labor. After a little pain, her son is born. For the first time in her life she realizes that she has done something almost single-handedly. She immediately adores the baby, but is almost afraid to touch him for fear of hurting him. Vivian forces Maya to sleep with the baby in order to get over her fears. Maya achieves great satisfaction and happiness when her mother wakes her in the middle of the night to show her that she is cradling her baby very naturally in her arms.


Notes


The birth of her child brings immense joy to Maya even though she confuses possession with motherhood. But for the first time in her life, Maya feels like she truly belongs and that someone belongs with her. She has found her space and happiness as a mother.


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I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: Free BookNotes

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