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Free Study Guide-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou-Summary
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Chapter 13

Summary

The eight-year-old Maya is taken to the hospital. There Bailey begs Maya to tell him who raped her so that the man does not do it to anybody else. When Maya explains that the man has threatened to kill Bailey if she tells anyone, he assures her that he will not let that happen. Maya then tells him everything. Hearing the story, Bailey breaks down and cries. Then using the "old brain he was born with," he tells Grandmother Baxter what has happened. Mr. Freeman is soon arrested, and Maya is sent home. She would have liked to stay in the hospital forever because of the kind treatment given to her by her mother, Bailey, and the nurses.

During Mr. Freeman’s trial, the court is full of people, who are there only because they crave for excitement. Many of Grandmother Baxter’s clients are present. The gamblers are also there in their pinstriped suits and with their painted women, who tell Maya that now she knows as much as they do. Maya is clearly frightened. When the defense attorney questions her about her past contact with Freeman, she is afraid to tell the truth. She worries about what her mother and Bailey might think of her; therefore, she lies about what has happened previously and screams at Mr. Freeman, hating him for the lies she must tell. When Maya bursts into tears, Vivian takes her into her arms.

Mr. Freeman is given a sentence of a year and a day. Unfortunately, he is released on bail the same afternoon as his sentence. In the evening, a policeman comes to the Baxter household to inform them that Mr. Freeman has been found dead behind the slaughterhouse. He was apparently beaten to death. Maya is shaken by the news and tries not to blame herself. She thinks that "one lie surely wouldn’t be worth a man’s life."

After hearing the news of Freeman’s death, Grandmother Baxter warns the children to never speak that "evil man’s name" or mention the situation again. Maya begins to believe that if she speaks to anyone, the evil within her will cause him or her to die; therefore, she refuses to talk to anyone but Bailey. The family accepts Maya’s "perfect personal silence" as a post-rape, post- hospital affliction; but after the doctor pronounces her cured, she still refuses to speak to anyone but her brother. Everyone begins to say that Maya is impudent and sullen and to claim that "there is nothing more appalling than a constantly morose child."


It is not long before Maya and Bailey are sent back to Stamps. Maya never knows if Momma has called for them or if the St. Louis family has simply tired of Maya’s grim presence. Bailey is heartbroken for having to leave his "Mother Dear." Not caring where she lives, Maya is only concerned about Bailey’s unhappiness.

Notes

In the hospital, Bailey tries to convince Maya to tell him the truth about the rape. She explains that she can say nothing, for the man who has raped her has threatened to kill her brother if she talks. After Bailey assures Maya that he will not let that happen, she tells him the whole story. Bailey is so touched by her tale that he breaks down and cries. He then tells the story to Grandmother Baxter. Before long, Mr. Freeman is arrested.

The rest of this tragic chapter shows how Maya blames herself for a situation in which she bears no blame. The defense attorney for Freeman tries to make it seem as if Maya is culpable for encouraging the sexual contact between her and Freeman. Fearing what her mother and Bailey will think of her, Maya is afraid to tell the truth about Freeman’s previous sexual advances. As a result, she lies and then screams at Freeman calling him a "dirty old thing." Partially due to Maya’s silence, Freeman is given a light sentence and released on bail the same afternoon.

When the police arrive at the Baxter house to report the death of Freeman, it is not surprising. There is no way that Maya’s tough uncles would let this rapist freely walk the streets. Unfortunately, Freeman’s death only makes things worse for Maya. She blames herself for his murder, thinking her lie has caused the killing. As a result, she retreats into self-imposed silence, talking only to Bailey. She believes that if she talks to anyone, her very breath may kill the person. Tragically, the family responds to her self- inflicted neurosis by punishing her for her impudence and unacceptable moroseness. Maya feels more isolated and alone than ever.

When he children are returned to Stamps, Bailey is heartbroken to be leaving his mother. Maya, however, is so emotionally drained that she does not care where she lives. Used to being shuffled around and feeling unwanted, she only worries about Bailey unhappiness.

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