Power Poetry: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

The two books, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, both tell great stories to their audience. They are able to do this because of the authors styles. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is a autobiography where the writer, Maya Angelou, shares her experience with abuse and neglect as a child. As where A Lesson Before Dying is historical fiction that tells the story of a black man named Jefferson living in the jim crow south who is wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to death, but has the help of a man named Grant Wiggins and learns that his death will represent something bigger than he can understand.

In I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Angelou tells a well crafted story of her experience with abuse and neglect as a child through her use of many literary devices. One of those literary devices that Angelou uses is simile. Angelou says “Until I was thirteen and left Arkansas for good, the store was my favorite place to be. Alone and empty in the mornings, it looked like an unopened present from a stranger”. This quote is important because Angelou compares the store to a present which is showing just how important it is to her. Angelou also makes use of symbolism. An example of said symbolism would be the Store, it is owned by her mom which is rather impressive for that time period for a women not to mention for a black woman in the south. This is symbolism of not only how rare it was for a women to own a business but is also symbolism of progress against racism in the south.

In A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, Gaines uses different literary devices to create a story that is designed in a way to teach its audience. One of the literary devices that gets used is denotation. Denotation is shown when Jeffersons defense attorney says “What justice would there be to take this life? Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this”. The denotation shown in this is when he calls Jefferson a hog, by calling Jefferson a hog the attorney is implying that Jefferson is to stupid to execute. This inspires Miss Emma to have Grant teach Jefferson that he is not a hog but that he is a man.

A Lesson Before Dying develops its message by telling its story in chronological order and using lots of narration. However, the author creates a certain style by making it so the characters Jefferson and Grant have very different narrating styles. This is because Grant is an educated man as where as Jefferson is not very educated because education opportunities for African Americans were very limited.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings uses a lot of description and imagery to help develop it’s message. A very good example of this would be when Angelou says “Unlike the white high school, Lafayette County Training School distinguished itself by having neither lawn, nor hedges, nor tennis court, nor climbing ivy. Its two buildings (main classrooms, the grade school and home economics) were set on a dirt hill with no fence to limit either its expands to the left of the school which was used alternately as a baseball diamond or a basketball court. Rusty hoops on the swaying poles represented the permanent recreational equipment, although bats and balls could be borrowed from the P.E. teacher if the borrower was qualified and if the diamond wasn’t occupied .” This shows Angelou’s use of imagery and description very well.

These two books haves styles that have many similarities while also having many differences. While each book develops it’s message in a different way, both share multiple literary devices used by the authors. As well as both books are stories that show the hardship of racism on African Americans in the Jim Crow south.

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