I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou
Main Ideas

Symbols

Main Ideas Symbols
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Store

Momma’s store is a central gathering place in Stamps and the center of Maya’s childhood. There she witnesses the cycles of nature and labor, tending to workers in the cotton-picking season and canners during the killing season. Maya notes that until she left Arkansas for good at age thirteen, the Store was her favorite place to be. It symbolizes the rewards of hard work and loyalty and the importance of a strong and devout community.

Maya’s Easter Dress

The lavender taffeta dress that Momma alters for Maya on Easter symbolizes Maya’s lack of love for herself and her wish for acceptance through transformation. She believes that beauty means white beauty. Hanging by the sewing machine, the dress looks magical. Maya imagines that the dress will reveal her true self to people who will then be shocked by her beauty. Harsh reality strikes on Easter morning, however, when she realizes that the dress is only a white woman’s throwaway that cannot wake her from her black nightmare. Maya learns that her transformation will have to take place from within.