Elaine Brown vs Maya Angelou

Elaine Brown vs Maya Angelou - Steve Cameron 11/3/08...

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Steve Cameron 11/3/08 English 101 Professor DeProspo The Search for Father Figures: Maya Angelou versus Elaine Brown In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , Maya Angelou’s father is immediately replaced as the male father figure in her life by a combination of her Uncle Willie and her brother Bailey Jr . Though the two play different roles in Maya’s development, they fulfill the need for a substitute father . They play all of the roles that a father is supposed to play in a young black girl’s life. As a result, Maya is able to go through the rest of her life comfortably, without searching for a strong male presence in her life .
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At first glance, Uncle Willie does not provide much as a substitute father . He appears as a stark contrast to Big Bailey . Big Bailey comes to visit Maya unexpectedly when she is about ten years old and leaves a distinct impression on the young girl . Her father approaches the small shack that Maya calls home in a gray luxury vehicle . She describes his shoulders as being so big that she thought that he would “have trouble getting in the door .” Big Bailey was the epitome of masculinity, and yet for all of his grandeur and masculinity, he failed to meet the basic requirements of being a father . Big Bailey abandons Maya not once, but three times throughout the novel . He first sends Maya away to her grandmother and Uncle Willie . He then leaves the children with their real mother in St . Louis. Finally, when Maya comes to California to live with Big Bailey, he abandons her for the final time, leaving a 13 year old girl homeless in San Francisco while he was pursuing women in Mexico . Uncle Willie, in contrast to Big Bailey, is frail and crippled . He doesn’t drive a car, and is a strict disciplinarian of the children . When Maya and Bailey laugh at the woman in church who hollers “preach it,” Uncle Willie provided Bailey and Maya with the “whipping of their lives .” Uncle Willie was so merciless that he provided the beating in the church, and in-between licks, ordered the children to stop crying . Uncle Willie differs from the appearance of Big Bailey in every way . Uncle Willie was dropped as a child, leaving his left side disfigured . “His face pulled down on the left side…and his left hand was only a mite bigger then Bailey’s .” In a world where able-bodied black men were barely able to provide the necessities of life, Uncle Willie managed to provide his niece and nephew with the best life of any black child in Stamps, Arkansas .
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Bailey Junior also played a role as a central father figure in Maya’s life during her father’s prolonged absences . Bailey Junior provided protection and stability in Maya’s early life, especially in social situations . Maya says that “of all the needs a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied…is the need for an unshakable god
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This note was uploaded on 02/23/2009 for the course ENG 101 taught by Professor Deprospo during the Spring '08 term at Wash. College.

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Elaine Brown vs Maya Angelou - Steve Cameron 11/3/08...

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