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Donovan Dicks

Mrs. Comberiate

English Period 6



The memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, written by Maya Angelou, is a

retelling of her childhood and early life. She is an African-American woman, born in the early

twentieth century, and lived a troublesome life with many traumatizing and stressful events.

Recently, Angelou was interviewed by Linda Wolf, from In Context magazine, about how she

came to forgive and live with herself after her rough childhood. The advice Angelou gives on

forgiveness in her interview can apply to various situations that occurred in her life.

When Angelou was fairly young, she went through a rather horrifying experience; she

was raped. She had felt terrible and guilty about the incident, and also the following trial in court

in which she openly lied to a lawyer (85). Angelou couldnt get over the event or forgive herself

for what happened, and began to think of irrational solutions. In her memoir she writes In those

moments I decided that although Bailey loved me he couldnt help. I had sold myself to the

Devil and there could be no escape [] I had to stop talking (87). She had decided that she

would cause trouble or danger and hurt others if she talked to them, and that the only solution

was to stop talking. Angelou was blaming herself for what happened and deemed herself a risk to

others. Withdrawing herself from those around her (except Bailey), her silence lasted for a year.

If Angelou could have given herself some of the advice she expresses in her interview,

the silence could have been shortened or nonexistent. She states that she learned to forgive

herself, and says it is very important for every human to forgive herself or himself because if
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you live, you will make mistakes it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then

you forgive yourself [] (Interview). This advice could have saved herself from her silence as

a child, and could have allowed her to move on with her life quickly and easily; to essentially

forgive and forget. She couldnt see her future and her potential; she was stuck on the incident

and could not see herself moving on with her life as a possibility. If we hold on to the mistake,

we cant see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the

mirror, Angelou stated in her interview. The rape had clouded her vision, her hope, and she

couldnt get on with her life because she could not forgive herself, and the mistakes lingered

with her for an entire year until she found the one who could save her.

But the rape was not the only instance of her lack of forgiveness changing her life and her

way of thinking. Angelou constantly blamed herself or sometimes both her and her brother for

being sent back and forth between their parents and grandparents. When they first learn of their

parents being alive and inviting them to live with them, Angelou is confused and writes Why

did they send us away? and What did we do so wrong? So wrong? (54). Automatically, she

assumes it was something bad that Bailey and her did to cause their parents to send them to their

grandmother. Angelou writes of similar questions when she is sent back to her grandmother

during her long silence, and again when they are again sent to their parents because they were

growing up.

Once again Angelous advice from the interview could have changed her life if she had

had the same knowledge then. The real forgiveness is ones own self, she says. I think that

young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves [] The real difficulty is

to overcome how you think about yourself (Interview). After living without the knowledge of

her parents for so long, getting the news they were still alive and wanted to see Bailey and her
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caused Angelou to see herself as a terrible person. She imagined it was her fault they had been

sent away to live with their grandmother, that it was something that she had done. When she is

returned to her grandmother during her silence she once again blames herself and sees herself as

an awful person, but the advice on forgiving oneself and thinking about oneself positively could

have changed her childhood for the better. It could have led to happier times and a happier life

for her in later years.

The lessons she learned throughout her life and expressed in her interview can apply to

and could have drastically changed her early life. Angelou had a rough and hard childhood,

through which she learned many of the lessons she teaches now. She learned to forgive herself

and overcome her troubles and see herself and her potential in a new light, but she learned this

over many years. These things didnt come to her as a child, but later in her life, and have

changed the way she lives.

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