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Free Study Guide-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou-Summary
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Chapter 35

Summary

Going through puberty, Maya is concerned about her body and her appearance. She worries that her budding breasts are abnormal. She also learns about lesbianism through a book called The Well of Loneliness and fears that she is a lesbian herself. Vivian tries to calm her concerns.

Maya decides to prove her heterosexuality to herself by acquiring a boyfriend. She surprises a neighborhood friend by asking him if he would like to "have a sexual intercourse" with her. He willingly consents; but the lack of romance leaves them both feeling as if nothing special has happened. Disappointed in the performance, Maya still questions her sexuality. Three weeks later she realizes she is pregnant.

Notes

Puberty is a time of confusion for Maya. Physical changes in her body worry her, and upon learning about lesbianism, she fears she is one. Vivianís explanation to Maya that the physical changes in her body are natural does not completely allay her fears; and a chance look at her friendís breasts and an admiration of them make her old fears come back. Maya, therefore, considers it important to prove to herself that she is not a lesbian.


She decides to acquire a boyfriend and chooses a good-looking boy in the neighborhood.

When she asks him to have intercourse with her, he willingly agrees; but the unromantic encounter is not satisfying, and Maya again questions her sexuality.

Mayaís naivete and inexperience are touchingly depicted in this chapter. As the narrator, she comes across as confused, inexperienced, and searching. Her bond with her reader is strengthened as a result of her confusion. She also gains sympathy from the reader when she reveals that she is pregnant.

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