I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou
Quotes

Abandonment

Quotes Abandonment
The gifts opened the door to questions that neither of us wanted to ask. Why did they send us away? And What did we do so wrong? So Wrong?

For years, Maya and Bailey thought their parents were dead. Suddenly at seven and eight years old, they receive Christmas presents from their parents, which brings up painful realities and questions such as these posed by Maya. Like many children, Maya and Bailey blame themselves for their parents’ abandonment. They feel that they must have done something to offend their parents or render themselves unlovable. To compound the injury, they receive no message from either parent, Vivian or Big Bailey. Their father sends his own photograph, indicative of his self-centeredness—a trait that will be borne out when they finally meet him—and Vivian sends toys that fail to convey any deeper meaning.

From the way he was holding me I knew he’d never let me go or let anything bad ever happen to me. This was probably my real father and we had found each other at last.

When Mr. Freeman sexually assaults Maya for the first time, she is only a child and fails to recognize how wrong his actions are, instead equating his embrace with that of a loving parent. Despite being scared, Maya welcomes his touch because she has been so sorely deprived of unconditional affection. Cast aside by both parents at a young age, Maya always relied on other members of her family for her emotional needs. At the time of the assault, however, she is separated from her grandmother, her primary caretaker, and has been growing apart from Bailey. This lack of parental love leaves Maya a wounded target for Mr. Freeman to prey upon.

On one flat street I passed a junkyard, littered with the carcasses of old cars. The dead hulks were somehow so uninviting that I decided to inspect them.

Wandering homeless in southern California, Maya passes a junkyard and feels oddly drawn to the place. The junkyard, a site of once-valued but now-discarded belongings, appeals to Maya because she can relate to the rotting cars. She has suffered her final abandonment at the hands of her father, who has chosen a crazy girlfriend and his reputation over his own daughter. Perhaps by investigating the hulks of the cars, Maya can reclaim her own feelings of abandonment and turn them into something positive.