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

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One Saturday, Maya’s mother has failed to come home from the previous night, which is a common occurrence. Mr. Freeman, obviously upset, asks Maya to go and buy some milk. When she returns, he calls her to him, and Maya sees his "thing" out of his pants. She tries to back away, but he holds her between his knees. He threatens her not to scream as he turns the radio on very loud. Mr. Freeman proceeds to rape her and to repeat his threat to kill Bailey if she tells anyone. Maya faints from the pain.

When Maya awakes, Mr. Freeman seems somewhat afraid of what he has done. He cleans her and tells her to go to the library. She tells him she is tired and needs to rest, but he makes her go. In the library she has trouble sitting on the hard seats because, as she says, "they had been constructed for children."

Back at home, Maya hides her stained underwear under the bed and goes to sleep. Her mother comes home, and she and Mr. Freeman argue. The next day he moves out. Maya spends the day in bed thinking she is going to die. She often calls for Bailey to make certain that he is still all right. When Vivian and Bailey try to change her bed linens, she refuses to be moved. Vivian picks up the struggling Maya, and Bailey begins to change the soiled sheets. In the process, he dislodges Maya’s stained underwear, which fall at Vivian’s feet.


Maya, starved for physical and paternal love, has fantasized that Mr. Freeman is her real father. Unfortunately for her, his affectionate overtures are far from fatherly. When no one else is around, he plans his attack on young Maya. He waits for her to return from buying milk with his privates exposed. When she enters the house, he calls her close. When Maya tries to back away, he grabs her between his knees and threatens to kill her if she screams. Maya, filled with comic book fantasies, imagines that the Green Hornet will come to her rescue.

As he makes his moves, Mr., Freeman reminds Maya that she had liked what they did before. A frightened Maya tells him they had only been playing. Threatening to kill Bailey if she tells what is happening, he then rapes her. Maya faints from the shock and the pain. When she wakes, she finds Freeman slightly afraid of what he has done.

The next morning Vivian informs Maya that Mr. Freeman has moved out; but the threat of her violator still looms large. Thinking that God is angry with her and fearing for the safety of herself and those she loves, Maya does not have the courage to tell her mother what has happened to her. In addition to being in pain, she is so afraid that Freeman will hurt Bailey or her mother that Maya becomes physically sick. She spends the day sweating in bed and calling out to Bailey to make certain that he is all right.

In the end, Maya’s efforts to keep the rape a secret are futile. Her mother and brother both see her stained underwear that she had tried to hide under the bed. The truth is obvious.

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