I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Archetypal Analysis Essay

Continuing to read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, I can see that the story contains a few specific archetypes. Such as the character “Momma” being the wise old woman, the archetype of the color “Black” and the plot being the archetype of finding home

The first archetype is Maya’s grandmother also referred to as “Momma”, being the wise old women. Maya considers her to be a very stern and religious woman, but very powerful, proud and loving.

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Momma gives Maya advice and acts like her mother. Her advice is not always words and lectures, sometimes it is through actions. Maya is impressed with her grandmother’s determination and says, “Momma walked in that room as if she owned it” (Angelou, 189). The quote represents her grandma’s persistence and “old lady” attitude. The book also talks about others having a specific view of the world and what goes on in it and one of those people is Momma.

The story states “They basked in the righteousness of the poor and the exclusiveness of the downtrodden. Let the white folks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostly – mostly – let them have their whiteness. It was better to be meek and lowly, spat upon and abused for this little time than to spend eternity frying in the fires of hell” (Angelou, 131). You could say that this statement is meaningful and wise. The message is an important lesson that Momma teaches Maya. The lesson being, that it is better to let others be mean and have their fun while you act good, because it will turn in your favour in the end. This archetype is seen in many other places like movies, TV shows and writing.

An important archetype is the color black. A big part of the story is that Maya is a black girl, trying to live in a white dominated society. The color black is often associated with bad things, and filth in the book, as well as in society. When Maya gets a toothache she says, “It seemed terribly unfair to have a toothache and a headache and have to bear at the same time the heavy burden of Blackness” (Angelou, 187). She describes how society imposes their opinions on her and makes her feel awful because of how she looks. On the other hand, Maya states that there is beauty in the color black. The rich darkness and seriousness of the shade shows power and mystery. This archetype is often shown in movies like the “Help” or “Get Out”.

The last archetype is finding home. Maya is staying at her grandmothers, but it is speculated that she might return to St Louis with her mother. She says frequently during this section that she would prefer staying with Momma rather than going to the city. On one hand, if she does go back with her mother, she might see that her true home is in Stamps, with her grandma. She could then return to the place where she feels comfortable and happy. This would then follow the archetype of finding home because she would be in the one place she truly wants to be.

I am very close to finishing the book. I can see that the story has a few important archetypes, like the color black, the old women and finding home. As I continue reading I’ll keep looking for more archetypes, and perhaps find more evidence to back up the current archetypes and their claims.

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