From Rejection to Acceptance: the Transformation of Maya

Last Updated: 22 Jun 2020
Essay type: Process
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From Rejection to Acceptance: The Transformation of Maya Through Childhood Experiences In this novel, the main character, Marguerite Johnson or Maya, experiences many events that put her through a variety of psychological states. From the time that she is abandoned as a child and sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, to giving birth as a sixteen year old woman, Maya experiences a wide variety of events and challenges, each having their own outcome and own effect on her state of mind.

Angelou embodies these effects and feelings of displacement and alienation when she says “If growing up is painful for the southern black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult. ” (Angelou 4). Through this reflection, Angelou shows the turmoil that Maya is going through even during her early stages of life, and foreshadows the future struggle that is yet to come. The first event that has a significant effect on Maya is the discovery that she was willfully given up by her parents.

This discovery leads Maya to feel betrayed, and alienated from the rest of her family. This new knowledge leads her to see that not only was she given up by choice, but also the self-doubt that causes her to ask herself what she did wrong to deserve it. “The gifts opened doors to questions that neither of us wanted to ask. Why did they send us away? and What did we do so wrong? So wrong? ” (Angelou 53). This introduction of self-doubt and feelings of alienation are what set up the opportunity for future tragedies and painful events in Maya’s life.

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One of these tragedies that occur is the molestation and rape of Maya by Mr. Freeman. Because of the fact that Maya is in a place of darkness and confusion in her life because of the new environment that she I thrust into, her need for love and attention gives Mr. Freeman the chance to take advantage of her. Though Maya does not feel completely comfortable with the situation she likes being held my Mr. Freeman and does not realize what has happened. This need for attention and stability in her life is shown when she says “Finally he was quiet, and then came the nice part.

He held me so softly that I wished he wouldn’t even let me go. I felt at home. From the way he was holding me I knew he’d never let me go or let anything bad ever happen to me. ” (Angleou 73). Maya’s world is then once again shaken after Mr. Freeman is found dead shortly after the trial that she testified in. Even though he was her molester and rapist, she still feels responsible for his death, thus proving again that she is developing even deeper issues of self-doubt and alienation. After Maya’s return to Stamps, things are different than they were before she left.

Even though she is shortly coaxed out of silence by Mrs. Flowers, she soon begins to feel the same feelings of alienation because of the fact that she is now beginning to personally confront the culture of racism in the south. With her employment under Mrs. Cullinan and the speech of Mr. Dunleavy given during the graduation ceremonies, Maya is shown the true sentiments of racism and prejudice in the south, and finally she is once again uprooted from her home and her life as Momma feels as if best for them to not be exposed to scenes of death and despair that the south will have in store for them.

The move to California represents the last time that Maya will have to be uprooted from her home. The main events that contribute to the molding of Maya as a character and her mindset is her experiences with Big Bailey and the homeless children in the empty junkyard. Because of the experience with Dolores, Maya runs away from Big Bailey and spends a month on her own in this society made up of other homeless children, and because of this, Maya is beginning to realize that adults don’t really have any power over her and her life.

She is finally becoming her own person. This new sense of self-worth then gives her the confidence to become the first black streetcar operator in San Francisco. However, she still has some feelings of insecurity about her own body that become evident when she states that “In front of the mirror I detachedly examined my body. For a sixteen year old my breasts were sadly underdeveloped. They could only be called skin swellings, even by the kindest critic.

The line from my rib cage to my knees fell straight without even a ridge to disturb its direction” (Angelou 274). This self-examination began to bring up thoughts of lesbianism and other possibilities, convincing Maya that she needed to have sex in order to determine the truth, however, in the process she becomes pregnant. Though the pregnancy was unintended it gave Maya the human connection that she had been craving her entire life. Throughout this novel Maya yearns for a sense of belonging but is typically only met with some form of rejection.

She is discriminated against, abused, neglected and abandoned. However despite all of this the development of her character leads from the helpless, alienated child in the beginning of the novel, to the proud African-American mother that we see at the end. Though some things that we see are disturbing and heart wrenching, they make Angelou into the the proud successful woman that she is today. Works Cited Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1970. Print.

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From Rejection to Acceptance: the Transformation of Maya. (2017, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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