I know why the caged bird sings- chapter summaries

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chapter one summary

  • when maya was 3 and bailey was 4 years old, parents divorced & were sent to mommas to live there. 
  • on the train alone from california to stamps, Arkansas
  • half way witha porter and the other half alone with paper signs stuck to them labeling their final destination
  • momma owns & runs only store in the town
  • store is centre of community
  • momma one of most respected residents
  • momma wakes up 4am during to sell sandwiches to black cotton labourers during cotton- harvesting season.
  • in mornings the cotton pickers are full of energy but by the end of the day they can barely get home.
  • they earn less than they should- struggle to pay debts.
  • steroptype of happy cotton pickers inrages maya
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chapter two summary

  • Willie, mommas disabled son becomes **** of jokes in community 
  • maya returns home from schol one day to see willie hiding his disablity from customers in the store- maya symphazises with him and understands his struggles
  • she feels closer to him now knowing how he feels.
  • maya falls in love with reading 
  • she likes william shakespeare- feels guilty as hes a white man.
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chapter three summary

  • one afternoon, Mr.Steward, a white former sheriff, comes to warn momma that the white people are on a rampage as a black man has messed with a white woman.
  • she hides willie is potato bin so they dont start on him as hes black
  • luckiy they dont go into the store.
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chapter four summary

  • maya hears she is ugly constantly.
  • ***** hair,dark skin,large for her age.
  • bailey- small, attractive child
  • bailey always insults the person picking on maya
  • maya sees bailey as the most important person in her life.
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chapter five summary

  • momma believes children should follow rules and respect elders
  • poor white children dont follow this.
  • annoys maya to hear them disrespect momma& willie by calling them by their first names.
  • when mayas 10, children mock mooma and she sends maya inside the store as its angering her.
  • momma stands there and does nothing
  • one girl does a handstand and she shows that she is not wearing underwear this infuriates maya
  • momma fought and won the battle with the children.
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chapter six revision

  • Reverend Howard Thomas, visits momma.
  • disliked by maya and bailey as he is gready and eats all the best bits of sunday dinner.
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chapter seven summary

  • Momma dont think its safe for blacks to talk to whites.
  • she dont speak harshly about whites, just refers to them as they.
  • a black man accussed off assulating a white woman and stayed in mommas store to hide.
  • when he left he was arrested and in court he made it clear he had been staying at mrs Hendersons 
  • people only call them mrs when their white showing momma is highly respected in the community.
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chapter eight summary

  • at christmas their parents send gifts
  • children cry outside, wondering what they did wrong to be sent away
  • momma stopped them from being ungrateful
  • they couldnt stop thinking about how their parents are enjoying christmas somewhere else without their children
  • they later destroy the gifts 
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chapter nine summary

  • big bailey visits stamps
  • has his own car and speaks like a white person
  • height and manly features shock maya
  • stays for 3 weeks 
  • tells maya and bailey he is driving them to st louis to see their mum
  • momma is sad but tells them to behave.
  • maya cant believe he is her dad sees him as a stranger
  • bailey gets on with big bailey and laughs and jokes with him
  • when maya sees her mum, vivian, she is mesmerised by her beauty.
  • bailey falls in love with her
  • big bailey leaves for california for few days
  • maya feels like she has been digt by another stranger
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chapter ten summary

  • arrived in st.louis during heyday of prohibition
  • bailey and maya meet all kinds of crime
  • grandmother baxter entertains the men and has influence with police
  • vivians brothers have city jobs, positions that are rarely given to blacks
  • have a reputation for crime, beating up both races
  • they treat the children well and tell them stories from childhood
  • uncle tommy tells maya not to worry about not being pretty as she is smart.
  • bailey and maya live with grandparents for 6 months before moving in with vivian and her boyfriend Mr freeman.
  • mr freeman feels insecure about his relaytionship with vivian
  • change in location dont affect maya, never feels like she belongs anywhere
  • feels like she and bailey are ment to be different to everyone else.
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chapter eleven summary

  • maya starts reading fairytales and tells her =self she dont intend to stay in st louis
  • vivian works in a gambling parlor at night
  • maya feels sorry for mr freeman as he waits all day for vivian to get home
  • maya sleeps in vivians and mr freemans bed at night as she gets nightmares
  • one morning vivian leaves for work and mr freeman masturbates holding her close to him while he does
  • afterwards he threatens to kill bailey if she tells anyone
  • maya dont know what happened but enjoyed being held by someoneand feeling wanted
  • he ignores her for weeks then molesters her again
  • but then ignores her againn
  • she feels rejected and hurt
  • gets losted in books to forget
  • wishs she was a boy as all the heroes in the books are boys
  • bailey has made new friends
  • her and bailey grow apart
  • she spends saturdays in the libary.
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chapter twelve summary

  • in late spring, vivian stays out all night
  • mr freeman sends maya to get milk when she gets back he rapes her.
  • threatens to kill her if she screams
  • threatens to kill bailey if she tells anyone
  • he sends her to the libary but cannot cope with intense pain between legs
  • she hides bloody underwear under vivians matteress
  • vivian thinks maya is getting measles
  • maya hears vivian and mr freeman arguing, he finds out the next morning he has moved out
  • when bailey trys to change the bed sheets the pants fall out from underneath the matteress.
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chapter thirteen summary

  • vivian takes maya to hospital
  • bailey begs her to give the rapists name, promising the rapistist wont kill him
  • she reveals who it was and mr freeman is arrested
  • maya feels trapped when attorney asked whether there was any sexual incidents prior
  • she fears rejection off family so lies in court
  • mr freeman  sentenced to one year and one day
  • he is temporarliy released after the hearing
  • later that evening the police arrive to inform that mr freeman had been beaten to death
  • the family swiftly change the subject
  • family never speaks of the incident
  • maya convinced he was killed because sje lied in order to condemn him
  • she decides to not speak to anyone apart from bailey to protect them from her lies
  • family accept her silence as part of shock of the **** however after time they become offended and angry and violent towards her
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chapter fourteen summary

  • maya and bailey return to stamps
  • maya unsure if momma sent for them or her mother cant handle her silence anymore
  • maya relieved to be back but bailey misses vivian
  • bailey exaggerates the big city to curious residents, he has a sarcastic tone but no one notices his insults
  • he remains kind to maya
  • she understands his frustration and he understands her silence
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chapter fifteen summary

  • mrs bertha flowers offers to get maya out of her silence 
  • invites maya to her house
  • gives her books and tells her to read them out loud
  • maya happy she made cookies just for her
  • mrs flowers assigns her to remember a poem she will recite on her next visit
  • maya returns full of joy to the store with a bag of cookies
  • using her voice she tells bailey there is cookies for him
  • momma gets angry and whips  maya as she used a phrase she believes is offencive to god.
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chapter sixteen summary

  • maya works in mrs viola cullinans home.
  • miss glory the cook tells maya mrs cullinans couldnt have children and she feels sorry for her
  • mrs cullinans friends anger maya as they suggest she should be called mary as margret is too long
  • maya corrects them and says her name is margariute 
  • mrs cullinans starts calling her mary which makes her furious
  • she knows momma wont let her quit but she wants to.
  • finds anyway to get fired
  • slacks in her work but its not noticed 
  • breaks mrs cullinans heirloom china, she gets angry and becomes racist towards maya
  • mrs cullinans friends hear her sob and scream, they crowd in the kitchen 
  • one asks if mary is responsible and mrs cullinans replies with her name is margaret
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chapter seventeen

  • one night bailey stays out after dark
  • willie and momma dont mention their concern 
  • momma and maya go out looking for him
  • find him strolling home 
  • doesnt give any reason for being late.
  • he recieves a whipping
  • maya sees him have no soul for a few days
  • later bailey tells maya he was out watching a film with a white actress in, kay francis, who looks like vivian and he stayed out late to watch it a second time
  • they waited for another kay francis film to come out
  • maya laughs at irony that a white woman can look like a black woman
  • movie delights maya but saddens bailey
  • on the way home bailey scares maya by runnig acroos a track that has a moving railway car on it 
  • maya fears he will jump on a railway car in the future and leave
  • a year later he boards a boxcar but lands in baton rouge for 2 weeks.
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chapter eighteen summary

  • annual revivial meeting interrupts everyones daily lives in stamps
  • people from black churches attend
  • preacher delievers a speech on admonishing those who practice false charity
  • everyone knows its against white christian hypocrisy
  • they give to poor blakc swith high expectations
  • speech promises revenge and justice
  • after prechers announces the unsaved must come forward and choice the church they want to join
  • after everyone shows their righteousness 
  • but when they make a noise their heads fall and silents happens, sensing another sin in the black world.
  • maya sees it as the people that attend are trying to escape thier harsh lives.
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chapter nineteen summary

  • people cram inside the store to listen to the heavyweight boxing match
  • all hoping joe louis, the blakc hero defends his title
  • maya says if louis looses then everything the whites say about blacks will be true
  • louis wins the fight
  • everyone in the sore celebrates
  • maya says louis proves blacks are the most powerful in the world.
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chapter twenty summary

  • in the annual summer fish fry, women show their baking and men fish in the nearby pond
  • during this time maya wonders off from the music and noise to a clearing and sits in the trees
  • she meets louise kendricks 
  • at first they are both shy
  • but soon they are holding hands and and spinning around
  • they become best friends
  • in 7th grade she recieves a note from 8th grader tommy valdon asking her to be his valentine
  • she shows louise and she says it means love.
  • maya says not ever again- not explaining it
  • they tear note in tiny pieces and throws it in the wind.
  • on valentines day mayas teacher reads out all the valentines cards
  • tommy had sent maya another one saying he seen her rip the other one up and that he doesnt think she meant to hurt him
  • he considers her as his valentine even though she didnt reply
  • she decides to flirt with him but his crush is becoming weak.
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chapter twenty one summary

  • bailey makes a tent in the yard
  • begins playing aexual games with girls
  • he is the father, the girl is the mother and maya is the baby who keeps guard
  • six months later he looses his virgiinity to joyce and older more developed girl
  • he starts stealing things from the store for her
  • after few months she disapears
  • her aunt tells momma she has ran away with a railroad porter she met in the store
  • bailey is heartbroken
  • momma shocked she didnt notice it happening in her store
  • maya didnt like her and hates her for leaving and hurting bailey
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chapter twenty two summary

  • one stormy night george taylor comes to the sroe and stays the night
  • he is morning the loss of his wife
  • momma urges him to be grateful for the years he had with his wife
  • they didnt not have children
  • he tells momma he seen florida, his wife, the previous day and she told him she wanted children
  • momma and willie ask if it was a dream but he claims to be awake
  • maya hates ghost stories but this scares her 
  • maya goes to her funeral
  • momma insists she goes as florida left a yellow brooch for her.
  • her first confrontation with death
  • returning from memory of funeral she hears mr taylor narrating his experience
  • night before he saw a blue eyed, fat blond baby angel laughing at him
  • mrs taylor was there talking to the baby nd making it laugh and in the end she says she wants a baby
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chapter twenty three summary

  • black families in stamps see 8th graduation as a big thing
  • maya takes a seat in the school hall, feeling uneasy
  • the white speaker, mr. edward donleavy gives a speech about the improvements to the local schools
  • he claims many people from mayas school have become good athletes
  • maya feels like her only hope in life is within sport
  • the whole class is in shame
  • maya thinks she has no control over her life
  • Henry reeds validectory speech lightens the mood
  • but maya is stilll in a bad mood
  • he continues to speak with clarity
  • after he turns to the class behind him and gets them to sing "ev'ry voice and sing"- popular ***** national anythem
  • maya listens for the first time and takes pride in her community.
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chapter twenty four summary

  • maya gets toothache
  • nearest denist is 25 miles away for blacks
  • momma takes her to a white denist instead 
  • in great depression momma loaned money to many people including dr lincoln 
  • momma thinks he owes her a favour
  • when they get there he tells them he wont work on her mouth because she is black
  • he would rather work on a dogs mouth than a black persons.
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chapter twenty five summary

  • bailey returns from errand shoke up 
  • he had just seen a rotting dead mans body from the pond
  • a white man ordered bailey to help him put him on a wagon
  • the man pretends he isgoing to lock bailey up with the dead an
  • afterwards momma plans a trip for bailey and maya to california to live with their mother.
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chapter twenty six summary

  • momma lives in la with bailey and maya whilst vivian works out arrangements
  • bsiley and maya start to see vivians insercuirities and fears
  • vivian concerned for their well being
  • she has trained as a nurse but works in gambling parlour
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chapter twenty seven and eight summary

  • comments on changes to usa since start of ww2
  • she says no one talks about japanese displacement
  • says black community pay no attnetion to japanese as blacks focus on advancing themselves
  • constant change of displacement during wartime 
  • san fransico makes maya feel at home for the first time
  • when arrives at schhol she gets put up a year
  • soon sent to a white school and was one of three black children.
  • white students are aggresive and better educated 
  • miss kirwin treated all the studets fairly and didnt look at race.
  • at 14 maya recieved a schoolarship to california labour school where she studied drama and dance.
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chapter twenty nine summary

  • daddy cildell becomes only real father figure to maya.
  • he intruduces maya to his con men friends 
  • maya doesnt see them as criminals as they have always been treated badly from the start due to their race.
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chapter thirty summary

  • big bailey invites maya to mexico for the sumer.
  • she will be meeting his new girlfriend dolores
  • maya and dolores send letters in anticipation of the greeting
  • the appreanances they described in the letters were the opposite to what they look like- shocked
  • big bailey plans to marry dolores but keeps postponning the planning
  • they live in a mobile home
  • dolores likes to keep the place clean and tidy
  • mayas a messy person so they take a dislike from the start
  • big bailey makes many trips into mexico to get groceries
  • one day he invites maya along, making dolores jealous
  • he jokingly asks maya to marry him.
  • he stops at ensenada were everyone warmly welcomes him, he shows his true self.
  • maya starts to enjoy hersel but then looses her dad and gets frightened so sits in the car and waits for him
  • he comes back very drunk and passes out in the car
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chapter thirty summary part 2

  • maya drives 50 miles to the border even she has never driven before
  • she had a small accident at the check point
  • at this point big bailey wakes up and sorts the matter
  • he is not suprised or angry about the accident 
  • he is not suprised she can drive
  • maya annoyed he is appreciative of her achievement
  • ride home is silent
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chapter thirty one summary

  •  maya hears arguement betwwen big bailey and dolores
  • dorlores feels like maya has come between them.
  • big bailey leaves and dolores crys
  • maya tells her she never ment to get in between them- feels good for being nice
  • dolores calls vivian a whore
  • maya warns her that she will slap her then she actually does.
  • dolores then stabs her with a pair of scissors
  • maya runs to her dads car and locks herself in while bleeding
  • big bailey hers the screaming so returns to investigate
  • he takes maya to a friends house who bandages her wound
  • after they go to another friends house where she stays the night
  • next morning big bailey comes and gives her some money and tells her he will be back that evening 
  • maya dont want to face her dads friend so packs her stuff and some food and leaves
  • she knows she cant go to her mums as it will cause arguements between her and big bailey
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chapter thirty two summary

  • after leaving her dads friends house she spends the night in a car in a junkyard
  • when she wakes up there is gangs of black mexicans and white homeless teenagers laughing at her
  • they tell her she can stay there as long as she follows the rules: opposite sex cannot sleep together, stealing is forbidden, everyone works, 
  • she stays for a month
  • everyone enters dance contenst on saturdays
  • maya and her partner come second on her last weekend
  • she learns about diversty 
  • at end of month she rings her mum and asks her to pay for her airfare back to california
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chapter thirty three summary

  • maya says she has changed a lot since the start of the summer
  • she says bailey has changed a lot more though
  • they have different personalities now
  • but both still like dancing
  • bailey seeks vivians approval by wearing fancy chlothes and dating a white prostitue- mimicing life of her male friends
  • vivian unware of what she has caused her son to do
  • she asks him to stop dating the white prositue but he says no and starts disobeying rules
  • he then moves out 
  • they quickly make up and she promises to get him a job in the south pacific
  • maya upset that he has moved out but doesnt show it
  • bailey is certain he is mature enough and that its time to leave
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chapter thirty four summary

  • maya takes a term off from school to work
  • certain she will get a car conductor job even though there is a racist policy against it
  • she succeeds in finding a job in san francisco and becoes first black streetcar conductor
  • when returing to school she feels out of place
  • an american black women says she dont just have to deal with teenagfe problems she has to deal with sexism and racism aswell 
  • blakc women that survive these problems become strong
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chapter thirty five summary

  • the well of lonliness is mayas first intro to lesbianism
  • she doesnt understand
  • fears she may be one
  • confuses with hermaphrodite 
  • she has a deep voice, underdeveloped breast and hips and no under arm hair
  • asks vivian about wierd growth on ******- says its normal
  • she decides to get a boyfriend to settle the lesbian matter
  • this doesnt help her fears
  • a few weeks later she finds out sh is pregnant
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chapter thirty six summary

  • accepts full responsiblilty of pregnancy
  • writes to bailey for advice
  • vivian disikes abortion but basiley thinks it will stop her schooling
  • she throws herself into school
  • after graduation she admits she is 8 months pregnant
  • vivian and daddy cildell accept her pregnancy
  • gives birth to a son
  • fascinated and afraid to touch him
  • vivian makes her sleep with her 3 week old son
  • fears she wil crush him
  • attempts to stay up all night but fails
  • vivian wakes her later on showing her how he sleeps in the crook of her arm
  • she tells maya not worry becuase if her heart is in the right place she will do the right thing regardless
  • she peacefully returns to sleep with her son.
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