Summary and Analysis
Masterfully melding her tone from raucous naughty fun into the grim and everpresent menace of white violence against the imagined threat from black sexuality, the author foreshadows Maya's childhood ambivalence toward men. Intuitively, she eludes the embrace of Reverend Howard Thomas, a persistent mooch at the Henderson table, but revels in Bailey's eavesdropping on the minutiae of local gossip about sexual misconduct that the minister shares with Momma. The high quality of imagery captures the color and flavor of ample Sunday morning breakfasts, particularly the menu: crunchy fried perch, tomato slices drenched in ham drippings, and cathead biscuits which, if allowed to cool during the minister's overlong table blessings, "tended to a gooeyness, not unlike a wad of tired gum."
Angelou's skill at recreating the fervor of Southern black fundamentalism retreats from dogma to the unremitting humor of Sister Monroe's ebullient counterpoint against the elder's sermon. The duet, an unrehearsed, madcap Laurel-and-Hardy act which leaves churchgoers "hung loose like stockings on a washline," convulses the children, who, riveted to the front-row mourners' bench in sight of Momma and Uncle Willie, explode in uncontrollable laughter. Amid the furor of a worship service gone awry, the young Maya reveals a significant emotional defense, the ability to "not see or hear if [she] chose not to do so," a protective armor which foreshadows her later ego defense mechanism against the terror and guilt of rape. In contrast to her self-induced limbo of emotions, by the end of the scene, she breaches the slim divider that separates laughter and tears. She notes, "Laughter so easily turns to hysteria for imaginative children. I felt for weeks after that I had been very, very sick."
elder minister in charge of district church management.
Gladstone hand luggage composed of cloth or leather sides attached to a rigid frame.
Suffer little children to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven. as found in Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, and Luke 18:16, a variation of Jesus' words to his disciples, who rejected children who accompanied their parents to see and hear Jesus.
When I was a child I spake as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things. verse eleven from I Corinthians 13, one of the most quoted chapters in the New Testament Bible, which deals with charity.
God is not mocked. a portion of verse seven from Paul's letter to the Galatians, in which he warns that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
mourners' bench a front row reserved for people troubled about illness or personal problems. Mourners sat before others who might see their suffering and join in their prayers.
I came to Jesus, as I was, worried, wound, and sad, I found in Him a resting place and He has made me glad. an approximation of the third and fourth lines of verse one of "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say," an evangelistic hymn written by John B. Dykes in 1868 to a tune by Horatius Bonar.
the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke a crucial chapter in the Christian gospel which defines justice, describes the appropriate way to pray and the contrition required of a suppliant of God, predicts the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and concludes with an act of healing.
Mount Nebo the elevation from which Moses observed the Promised Land, as described in Deuteronomy 34:1-4.
Naked I came into the world, and naked I shall go out. an approximation of Job 1:21, which is echoed in Ecclesiastes 5:15.
George Raft popular character actor of the 1930s and 40s who frequently played smooth, menacing underworld figures in gangster movies.
sobriquet nickname, or code name.
chifforobe a combination chest of drawers and wardrobe.