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In the novel, the first dilemma that black women face in growing up is racial discrimination. Margaret has been living with her grandmother in the Blacks of Staples, Arkansas since she was 3 years old. There was complete segregation, with black and white living areas sharply divided.

Like other black girls, Margaret is in a crisis of identity. On the one hand, she hates white people; on the other hand, she hopes to be a sweet little white girl, in line with every imagination of angels in the world. She had imagined that one day everyone would find out: “I was white and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.” (Angelou, 1991, p. 3) When she was young, Margaret had a strong desire to acquire the identity of the white race. Facing the harsh reality of being black, she could only rely on fantasy to comfort her heart but lost herself in the world of black and white.

Margaret could not live in her fantasy after all. The harsh reality reminded her again and again of the humiliation of being black. Her beloved grandmother always tried to prop up her dignity with optimism, strength, and piety, but this dignity was hard to maintain in the face of white people. Even the dirtiest little white thugs could do whatever they wanted in her shop, but she had to put up with it. Grandma once lent money to a white doctor, but when Margaret urgently needed medical treatment because of dental problems, the doctor not only refused to see Margaret but also humiliated her and said, ‘ My policy is I’d rather stick my hand in a dog’s mouth than in a nigger’s. ‘ (Angelou, 1991, p. 189) Margaret dreamed of her grandmother’s revenge and the punishment of white doctors to get the pleasure of revenge. After growing up, the young Margaret said, ‘ It was awful to be Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense. We should all be dead. I thought I should like to see us all dead, one on top of the other. A pyramid of flesh with the white folks on the bottom, as the broad base ‘ (Angelou, 1991, p. 181) Margaret’s self – cursing resentment against racial discrimination, but also against the trampling of black dignity of the white resentment. Because of the unfair treatment of racial discrimination, a black girl began to deeply question her ethnic identity and went on the way to lose herself.

Another hardship suffered by Margaret came from a patriarchal society. Black men did not learn to understand and respect black women because of their humiliation. Black women live at the bottom of black society, and even more sadly, sometimes they don’t even realize it. 8-year-old Margaret was raped by her mother’s boyfriend Freeman, the woman told Margaret that she is going through as much as they are now, and comfort her without fearing anything, because the worst has passed, and no one seems to be angry about it. Although Margaret defended her rights in court, Freeman was not punished and did not go to jail for one day. When Freeman was killed, Margaret felt full of sin in her body and thought that she had lost the opportunity to ascend to heaven and was abandoned by God like Satan. In this doleful patriarchal culture, the victims become guilty people, and racial discrimination reinforces that guilt.

The men in Margaret’s life brought her alienation, contempt, and hurt. These situations demonstrate the dual oppression of gender discrimination and racial discrimination endured by black women. Margaret’s sexual violence testifies to the problem of gender discrimination written in the black feminist literary tradition. Within the black race, black men gave black women everything they suffered: the racism of white society and their inherent sexism. This severely distorts the balance between black men and women, making black women the ultimate victims. Finally, Margaret’s wonderful childhood fantasy was disillusioned, and she chose to hide from the cruel reality.

Margaret walked her way to redemption in her way. At first, she was immersed in the pain of gender and race and suffered great physical and mental damage. She felt humble like dust in the air. Later, she used silence to fight the suffering of life.

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The black women around Margaret – grandmother, mother, Mrs. Flowers, and Louise have a little bit of influence on Margaret, prompting Margaret to finally establish black values, and understand the self-reliance, tenacious struggle of life, and values in the black race. She was no longer the black girl she had been in the dream of ‘the little white girl turned black by her stepmother,’ and Margaret finally established her racial identity.

From the perspective of gender, gender identity is the only condition for a person to obtain social cognition of gender attribution under certain social norms. Women realize their subjectivity through the construction process of gender identity, therefore, the pursuit of gender identity has become an important part of female bildungsroman.

From the rape of Margaret to the first time she stood in front of the mirror under the guidance of her mother and faced up to her body structure and recognized her femininity after coming out of the shadow, which was the first step to constructing Margaret’s female identity.

At the end of the novel, Margaret gives birth to a baby and decides to bring him up. Margaret finally defined her female identity in her relationship with men, completing the transition from female to maternal.

Unlike other novels that describe black people, this novel does not simply describe black people as a model of sacrifice under racial oppression. Although the article describes the same confusion and struggle of Margaret as other blacks, the novel must describe her efforts to find a job to achieve her ideal. After hard work, Margaret eventually became the first black conductor on the bus in San Francisco, where racial discrimination was most serious. It broke the framework of black job selection at that time, completed the career change of black women, and established confidence for black people to get rid of their unfortunate fates. The novel meticulously describes Margaret’s changes to women, blacks, and social values. Not only writes about her growth but also her transformation in many ways, although Margaret was born black what guided her efforts and transformation was the spirit of freedom and hard work shared by all people. So the novel finally tells us that the truth goes far beyond the significance of black growth.


Angelou, M. (1991). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 

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