The narrator begins this chapter with an exposition on the upbringing of young black girls of Maya's generation. They are expected to learn mid-Victorian values, such as setting a proper table and baking, though they have neither the means nor the money to practice these values. Despite her poverty, Maya masters the arts of crocheting and tatting. She makes so many dishtowels, pillowcases, and handkerchiefs that she fills a trunk with her handiwork.

Maya is ten years old when she is sent to the home of Mrs. Cullinan, an unattractive white woman, to learn how to become a domestic. Mrs. Cullinan's maid is Miss Glory, a descendant from a line of slaves who had always worked for the Cullinan family. Hardworking and knowledgeable about how to manage a home and keep it immaculately clean, Miss Glory becomes Maya's patient tutor. She teaches the girl about cleaning, cooking, cutlery, and kitchenware. She also shares with Maya the details of Mrs. Cullinan's life. Glory tells Maya that Mrs. Cullinan cannot have children. Bailey later tells Maya that Mr. Cullinan has two daughters by a black lady. Maya can picture the faces of these unknown daughters but she has trouble picturing Mr. Cullinan even though she sees him everyday.

For a while, Maya has great sympathy for the childless Mrs. Cullinan and works doubly hard to please her. She arrives early for work and leaves late. Then, however, Mrs. Cullinan calls her "Margaret" instead of "Marguerite," which greatly upsets Maya. Mrs. Cullinan's friend then suggests that she shorten her name to Mary. Maya ignores the request, but the next day Mrs. Cullinan calls her "Mary." Maya is so upset by her audacity that she finds it hard to work. Miss Glory tries to calm her down by telling Maya that her own name was changed from "Hallelujah" to the much shorter "Glory."

Maya wants to quit the job at the Cullinans, but has no valid explanation to give Momma. In reaction to her unhappiness, she begins to come late and leave early. She leaves the dishes dirty and does not shine the silver, hoping that Miss Glory will complain to her mistress. Nothing happens. When Maya explains the situation to Bailey, he gives her an idea, which she acts upon. The next time Mrs. Cullinan calls her "Mary," Maya breaks her favorite casserole dish and two of her glass cups. Horrified at losing her mother's chinaware, Mrs. Cullinan falls to the floor and cries, while trying to pick up the shards of broken glass. When her friend asks if "Mary" broke the chinaware, Mrs. Cullinan screams out that her name is "Margaret." In her anger, the friend throws a piece of glass at Maya, but it misses her and hits Miss Glory. Maya walks out of the house and away from the horrifyingly comic scene, leaving the door open wide so the neighbors can see the chaos inside.


In this chapter, the young Maya displays a strong sense of self-worth and pride in herself, in spite of the tragedy that befell her earlier. By the end of the chapter, she reveals that she will not let anyone trample upon her.

As custom demands Maya, like other black girls in small Southern towns, is given extensive and irrelevant preparations for adulthood. She is taught to properly set a table, to bake fancy things, to crochet, and to tat. Then during her tenth year, she is apprenticed to Miss Glory, Mrs. Viola Cullinan's maid. In the Cullinan kitchen, she works hard to learn to cook, clean, and manage a household. She also learns to stand up for her own identity.

Mrs. Cullinan's friend suggests renaming Maya, after deciding "Margaret" (which is the wrong name in the first place) is too long. The friend calls her Mary, which Maya ignores. The next day, however, Mrs. Cullinan also calls her Mary, which greatly upsets Maya. She reacts by wanting to quit her position; however, she is afraid to tell Momma why she has quit. As a result, Maya, with Bailey's help, decides to end her position with Mrs. Cullinan by sabotaging it. When Mrs. Cullinan calls her Mary once again, she intentionally breaks some of her fine dishes. The resulting chaos is comic to the reader and fulfilling to Maya. The reader is also meant to be pleased that Maya has stood up for her rights and is brave enough to leave the door open for others to see the chaos inside when she leaves the house for the last time.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".