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Free Study Guide-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou-Summary
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Chapter 4

Summary

The young Maya is fascinated by a man named Mr. McElroy, the only Negro in Stamps to wear a suit, except for the school principal. All of the other blacks in town are too poor to own one.

Maya is also fascinated by her brother Bailey, whom she believes to be the greatest person in her world, in spite of his stealing pickles. Calling him her "kingdom come," Maya is proud of him for being so good, for praying aloud in church, and for doing more chores than she does. She also thinks that Bailey is extremely handsome, in contrast to her own unattractiveness, and very smart.

Stamps is so well segregated that many black children have never seen a white person. The black people think of the whites with fear, which comes from "the hostility of the powerless against the powerful, the poor against the rich, the worker against the worked for and the ragged against the well dressed." Maya talks about "whitefolks-ville," the segregated portion of town where she and Bailey trespass occasionally to buy fresh meat. She thinks of the crossing over into the white area as "walking without weapons into man-eating animals’ territory."


Notes

Bailey, who is a year older than Maya, is a mischievous boy, who never seems to get caught. Maya adores her handsome sibling and considers it her good fortune that he loves her in spite of her unattractive looks. When Maya’s elders say unkind things about her to her face, Bailey always stands up for her. Maya knows that Bailey is the pride of the family and is more well liked than she is, but she is not the least bit jealous of him. Instead, she considers him to be her "unshakable god," whom she loves and trusts more than anyone else in life.

Normally, the black people in town eat canned or dried meat. Maya describes how her family cures meat and stores it in the smokehouse and how at least twice a year Bailey and she are sent out to the white part of Stamps to buy fresh meat. When she crosses into "whitefolks-ville," she is always scared. Like all the black children in town, Maya does not like white people, fearing their power. She also thinks that their feet are too small and their skin is too transparent.

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