I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Character Profiles
Character Profiles Bailey
This is Maya’s much-loved and even idealized older brother. At one point, she calls him her ‘Kingdom Come’ and he is described consistently as better looking. Their close relationship is founded on their early separation from their parents.
Unlike Mother, Daddy Bailey is often criticised by Maya for his mannerisms and vanity. He is also ambitious and concerned with outward appearances and it is evident that Maya has felt overlooked by him.
Dolores is the girlfriend of Daddy Bailey and reacts violently towards Maya after their argument.
Maya is the first-person narrator of this autobiography. She is a self-effacing and yet determined character who remembers the traumatic events of her childhood (including rape) with clarity and even-handedness.
Maya and Bailey come to live with Momma (their father’s mother) in Stamps, Arkansas after their parents separate. She is a formidable, god-fearing woman who owns the Store as well as other land and houses and is an inspirational figure because of her refusal to be beaten by racist assumptions and stereotypes.
She is the biological mother of Bailey and Maya and is loyally depicted as glamorous and protective. The portrayal of her is always in positive terms – even when describing her potential for violence - and this perhaps demonstrates how Angelou the author is still in awe of her.
Maya is raped at the age of eight by this man who was then Mother’s lover. Maya often refers to him later as ‘poor Mr. Freeman’ and this pity is tied up with the misplaced guilt she suffers after his murder.
Mrs. Bertha Flowers
She is described as throwing Maya her first lifeline when she encourages Maya to break out from her silence. She shows her the poetry of words and persuades her to speak again by reading poetry and novels out loud.
Uncle Willie is the crippled son of Momma (and brother to Daddy Bailey). He works in the Store and is clearly loved in Maya’s remembrance of him.