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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

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Chapter 36

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 36 of Maya Angelou's autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | Chapter 36 | Summary



Maya tells herself that if she can have a baby, then at least that proves she isn't a lesbian. She accepts that she is completely responsible for her situation. Bailey is at sea with the merchant marines, and she writes to tell him about her pregnancy. He writes back and warns her not to tell their mother, who would probably force Maya to quit school. If that happens, then Maya will likely never go back to get a diploma. So she hides her pregnancy and delves into her schoolwork. When Maya is in her sixth month, her mother goes to Alaska, where she plans to stay for a few months to open a nightclub there.

After Maya receives her high school diploma, she tells her family about the pregnancy and says she'll be delivering her baby in about three weeks. Her mother and stepfather are supportive and help her prepare for the event. Maya gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. At first she's terrified that she'll inadvertently harm him through clumsiness. But under her mother's patient guidance, she learns that "you don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking."


Maya's family comes through with support for her as she enters a new phase of her life. Bailey gives her good advice about getting her diploma, and her mother and stepfather philosophically accept the situation without expressing any disapproval. Maya discards the identity of an adolescent and prepares for her new identity as a mother.

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