Summary and Analysis Chapters 8-9


Opening with Angelou's frequently quoted diatribe, or denunciation, against Southern racism, Chapter 8 maintains the funny/sad tension of earlier scenes by depicting the behind-the-times blacks of Stamps as unaware of the Depression. Reduced to even harder times, country people are too poor to raise hogs because they have no slops to feed them, but the wily Annie Henderson devises a trade agreement to keep herself in business. At this all-time low in the family economy, when Maya and Bailey are reduced to daily portions of powdered milk and eggs, their parents reconnect with their lives, first with Christmas presents, which torture Maya and Bailey with fears that they have precipitated their own banishment, then with a surprise visit from Daddy Bailey. Angelou recalls that "my seven-year-old world humpty-dumptied, never to be put back together again." In her distress over the white doll and tea set, Maya, lost in childhood's illogic, fails to consider that toys designed specifically for black children were not available in the 1930s.

As Momma quietly sews for Maya's departure, the bond between them remains nonverbal, but Angelou notes that "a deep-brooding love hung over everything [Momma] touched." Sunk in self-made emotional packing, Maya shuts out the impending loss of brother Bailey as the center of her life and contemplates reuniting with her mother. Returning to her earlier flair for hyperbole from nature, Maya describes Vivian as a "hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow." The immediate shift of family alliances leaves Maya on the outside after her father departs and her beloved Bailey falls under the spell of "Mother Dear." Angelou sums up her alienation in characteristic vernacular: "They both had physical beauty and personality, so I figured it figured."


cat's face a wrinkled patch which is inadvertently ironed into freshly laundered clothes or linens.

play pretties toys.

God is love. John 4:8.

Pig Latin a child's private jargon of the 1930s created by placing the initial consonant plus ay at the end of the word, as in ooday for do.

indlay ergbay ildrenchay literally, lindberg children — that is, victims of kidnapping, like Charles Lindbergh, Jr., who was later found murdered.