There’s a very good reason the most widely published books in history were works of fiction, chronicling the tales of ordinary men locked in an often fatal battle with a fellow man or a supernatural monster. Fiction captures the nuances of those ideas and imbues them in an ageless magic that enables them to last through centuries of change. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Miller’s Death of a Salesman were written hundreds of years apart, but man’s struggle for power over his own life remains constant.
Not all works of literature use para-textual features in the same way – or even at all – but Maya Angelou’s prologue in her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, is a feature of the text which should not be overlooked, for it sets the stage for her to share her immensely difficult but powerful personal story. The piece’s title, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, is an allegory referring to her realization of the beauty and meaning held back by the cage created by her physical, psychological, and interpersonal circumstances. Knowing this to be the central tension in Angelou’s life, and therefore her autobiography, the prologue presents itself to readers with a dual purpose.
I think a lot (often introspectively, like how I'm perceived and what I'm doing and how it's looking and why I'm doing it), and this is one thing I've been thinking about lately. Hope you enjoy and hopefully it helps you a bit too!
The ultimate coming-of-age story that doesn’t shy away from even the more difficult topics, Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is immensely honest and vulnerable. Her experience being sent from mother and father to grandmother several times throughout her life is a situation not all readers can identify with. However, the truths she shares about family, love and self-identity through these experiences are universal. By chapter 33, both Maya and her brother Bailey have become adolescents, and their trials and tribulations are representative of those which many other adolescents face. In fact, Maya’s account of Bailey’s fight with their Mother illustrates several truths all readers can relate to when it comes to conflict between a parent and child. In particular, her use of descriptive language characteristic of a fencing match provides a lens through which to understand her mother’s and brother’s conflict, and thus the plight of our own youthful turbulent relationships with our parents.
The passage from pages 52 to 55 of the book “Mad Shadows” by Marie-Claire Blais presents a turning point within the novel. It is in these four pages that the deterioration of the characters and superficial relationships begins to occur. An aura of sickness and wickedness spreads throughout the family – in their bodies and in their relationships – foreshadowing the falling apart of the household later in the novel.
The circumstances of our births are instrumental in determining who we are to become. However, to what degree do they cement our fates and make up who we are as people? The question of whether our innate human nature or the conditions of our nurturing throughout childhood have a greater role to play in our development is a hotly debated one. And the truth is that we have no way of knowing the scientifically-accurate answer. The question is a matter of hypotheticals - if we perform an experiment in which twins are reared separately to see how they differ in personalities when nature is kept the same but nurture is modified, not only are there too many other variables to account for, but we have no way of comparing the results to those had we kept the twins together. However, as humans we feel responsible for what we willingly choose and control, and when it comes to the course of our life, there is a lot we can control. It may be argued, then, that although nature affects our options, it is nurturing and the choices we and others willingly make that are the essence of what makes us uniquely human and individual.
This was my [IB, HL English, Paper 1, mock-exam] commentary essay on the poem "My Father's Garden" by David Wagoner. In my class, we wrote this as our official midterm exam, and were given two hours. I was proud of the product so I decided to share it here. I enjoyed writing the essay too… Continue reading writing || Flying Purple People Eater: Spiritual Regression in “My Father’s Garden” | IB HL English Paper One Commentary