The Entrapment of an Irresponsible Father


ENC 1102


2:00 PM class



I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography of Maya Angelou’s childhood. It is the story of one girl’s fight for survival in a cruel world. Her growing process was made more difficult because she is a near orphan, shuttled between people and places. All her life she searches for love and belonging. This love and sense of belonging mainly comes from a child’s parents while he or she is young and developing into adults. There is a certain love that can only come from a father that Maya never experienced while she is growing up. A father has certain responsibilities that he must take on when he has children in order for the children to have a healthy childhood. Maya’s only real father is Daddy Clidel who her mom married when Maya is already fifteen. Before that, she did not have a father because her biological father, Daddy Bailey, is irresponsible. Daddy Bailey’s irresponsibility as a father to Maya inhibited her from having a healthy and developing childhood life.


In the beginning of the book, Maya lives with her grandmother who she calls “Momma” and is the mother in her life. She never has a father and assumes he is dead along with her real mother. In reality her parents got divorced and sent their children to live with their grandmother. Maya and Bailey find out that their parents are alive when then receive gifts from them for Christmas. She thinks to herself “Why did they send us away? And what did we do wrong (Angelou 52-53)?” She now thought that maybe she wasn’t good enough for her parents. Her self-esteem fell as she struggles to answer that question to herself. Daddy Bailey has a great impact on Maya when he shows up into her life suddenly. Maya describes it “And my seven-year-old world humpty-dumptied, never to be put back together again (Angelou, 54).” Daddy Bailey came into their lives and leaves like if his children were emotionless objects. Maya describes how she is actually relieved that he is leaving. She thinks to herself, “I wouldn’t have to wonder whether I loved him or not (Angelou, 56).” He shows his irresponsibility through his neglect of Maya and in the end of chapter 9 he abandons his children again after he leaves them with their mother in St. Louis. When he left, Maya describes herself as being neither glad nor sorry. She thinks to herself, “He was a stranger, and if he chose to leave us with a stranger, it was all of one piece ( Angelou, 59).”


Maya’s irresponsible father and affected her both physically and mentally. His irresponsible actions cage her in from having a normal healthy childhood life because of these effects. Maya’s innocence is shattered when her step father Mr. Freeman molests her. If Daddy Bailey was a strong part of his daughter Maya’s life maybe she would have told him about Mr. Freeman molesting her. She would not have had to go through the trauma of being raped. She is even physically hurt and had to be admitted into the hospital for treatment. During this time Daddy Bailey didn’t even try to contact or visit her. Maya’s mind didn’t know what had happened to her. She is trapped in her own innocence because there is no one that could answer her questions. After learning that Mr. Freeman had been found dead she blamed herself. Maya thinks to her-self, “Obviously I had forfeited my place in heaven forever ” she refuses to speak because she blames herself for his death and did not want to hurt anyone else ( Angelou, 86). “I could feel the evilness flowing through my body and waiting, pent up, to rush off my tongue if I tried to open my mouth (Angelou, 86).” This internal torment that she is going through could have been avoided if Daddy Bailey wasn’t an irresponsible father.


Daddy Bailey’s irresponsibility as a father is very obvious in chapter 30 when he invites Maya to spend the summer with him. He invites Maya to come to southern California to stay with him, but after she arrives, he continually pits her against