<I>I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Farewell To Manzanar,</I> And <I>Anthem</I> Character Analysis And Compare/Contrast

1715 words - 7 pages

Ben Sweet once said, "The greatest success is successful self-acceptance." The characters in Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's Farewell to Manzanar, Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Ayn Rand's Anthem all learn about and accept themselves for who they are by the end of these novels. The main characters, Jeanne Wakatsuki, Maya Angelou, and Equality 7-2521, respectively, are very different but also similar individuals who go through significant changes in the courses of the novels by overcoming oppression.Internment by one's own country in a camp away from anything that a child has known would unquestionably change that child's viewpoint of themselves and of life. Jeanne Wakats ...view middle of the document...

One of the most significant changes in Jeanne is detachment from her family. In Chapter Five, she describes family dinners before the camps in great detail, presenting their former unity and the stark contrast of camp meals: "Now, in the mess halls, after a few weeks had passed, we stopped eating as a family. Mama tried to hold us together for a while, but it was hopeless." The breakdown of Jeannie's father further expels the idea of "family." This separation from her family, and especially her father, pushes Jeanne to find comfort and later familiarity and friendship with other things besides family. If it had not been for this sever, she would have learned about life outside her family later in life, and would perhaps not have been quite as jaded as a teen. Another change that comes over Jeanne during the course of the book is her exposure to discrimination. Jeanne is vaguely aware of this discrimination against people of Japanese ancestry while in Manzanar, but it is felt far more acutely after moving away from the camp. Signs with anti-Japanese slogans abound, and the first comment made to her by one of her Caucasian peers is, "'Gee, I didn't know you could speak English.'" Jeanne learns this difficult lesson just entering the sixth grade, when most adolescents are not presented with outright prejudice and ignorance until much later in life. Learning all of these things at such a young age allows Jeanne more insight into the human psyche when she is older.Marguerite Johnson grows up in the South during the height of segregation and discrimination against African Americans; Maya changes from an intelligent albeit innocent outcast to a strong, independent woman through her encounters with discrimination, sex, and humanity. Discrimination against blacks is a common theme throughout the book; from the first few chapters, the reader can tell that Maya has never mixed with whites. Maya is astounded by the insolence of white children who tease Momma and call her by her first name: "'Naw Annie...' - to Momma? Who owned the land they lived on? Who forgot more than they would ever learn? If there was any justice in the world, God should strike them dumb at once!" The whites' impertinence and the powerlessness of the blacks is an important theme in the novel. As Maya grows up, she sees more discrimination. The change can be seen when Maya becomes the first African American streetcar conductor in San Francisco. The narration tells the reader, "I lost some of my need for the Black ghetto's shielding-sponge quality." This means that Maya is not quite as insecure about her blackness as she had been in the beginning of the novel. Maya's first experiences with sex and sexuality also contribute to her self-discovery. Unfortunately, her first experiences with male intimacy involve molestation and rape. Maya's mother, Vivian Baxter, lives with her boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. Mr. Freeman first molests Maya, then rapes her and puts her in the hospital. At the tra...


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