"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, Chapters 25-30

In this classic autobiography, the accomplished poet and writer recounts her childhood and teenage years.

Here are links to our lists for the text: Chapters 1-6, Chapters 7-14, Chapters 15-20, Chapters 21-24, Chapters 25-30, Chapters 31-36

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. imperative
    some duty that is essential and urgent
    If an unaware person is told a part of the truth (it is imperative that the answer embody truth), he is satisfied that his query has been answered.
  2. wile
    the use of tricks to deceive someone
    Would Momma, who knew the ways of the whites and the wiles of the Blacks, try to answer her grandson, whose very life depended on his not truly understanding the enigma?
  3. blithe
    carefree and happy and lighthearted
    Mother was a blithe chick nuzzling around the large, solid dark hen.
  4. belie
    be in contradiction with
    (Said with a laugh that belied the content.)
  5. jollity
    feeling jovial and full of good humor
    With all her jollity, Vivian Baxter had no mercy.
  6. clemency
    leniency and compassion shown toward offenders
    She had the impartiality of nature, with the same lack of indulgence or clemency.
  7. haughty
    having or showing arrogant superiority
    The partner was not shouldering his portion of the responsibility, according to Mother, and when she confronted him he became haughty and domineering, and he unforgivably called her a bitch.
  8. gauche
    lacking social polish
    The air of collective displacement, the impermanence of life in wartime and the gauche personalities of the more recent arrivals tended to dissipate my own sense of not belonging.
  9. dissipate
    cause to separate and go in different directions
    The air of collective displacement, the impermanence of life in wartime and the gauche personalities of the more recent arrivals tended to dissipate my own sense of not belonging.
  10. maraud
    raid and rove in search of booty
    I understood the arrogance of the young sailors who marched the streets in marauding gangs, approaching every girl as if she were at best a prostitute and at worst an Axis agent bent on making the U.S.A. lose the war.
  11. gilt
    a coating of gold or of something that looks like gold
    The naval officers with their well-dressed wives and clean white babies inhabited another time-space dimension than I. The well-kept old women in chauffeured cars and blond girls in buckskin shoes and cashmere sweaters might have been San Franciscans, but they were at most gilt on the frame of my portrait of the city.
  12. rarefied
    of high moral or intellectual value
    For the first semester, I was one of three Black students in the school, and in that rarefied atmosphere I came to love my people more.
  13. bourgeoisie
    the social class between the lower and upper classes
    When I met Dolores she had all the poses of the Black bourgeoisie without the material basis to support the postures.
  14. fidelity
    the quality of being faithful
    Her hairdresser could count on absolute fidelity and punctuality.
  15. cajole
    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    I was asked, cajoled, then ordered to care for my room.
  16. hamper
    prevent the progress or free movement of
    My willingness to do so was hampered by an abounding ignorance of how it should be done and a fumbling awkwardness with small objects.
  17. aloof
    remote in manner
    If Dolores had been a little less aloof, a little more earthy, she could have discovered that those ingredients were rife in her town proper, and Dad had no need to travel to Mexico to buy provisions.
  18. niche
    a position well suited to the person who occupies it
    It seemed hard to believe that he was a lonely person, searching relentlessly in bottles, under women’s skirts, in church work and lofty job titles for his “personal niche,” lost before birth and unrecovered since.
  19. aspiration
    a cherished desire
    How maddening it was to have been born in a cotton field with aspirations of grandeur.
  20. waver
    emit unsteady sounds, alternating in amplitude or frequency
    The music poured out of the record machine as high-tenored voices wavered and held, wavered and held for the passionate rancheros.
  21. affectation
    a deliberate pretense or exaggerated display
    If Dolores knew, she would crawl up in her blanket of affectations and die circumspectly.
  22. mortification
    strong feelings of embarrassment
    The thought of her mortification kept me company for a long time, but the sounds of music and laughter and Cisco Kid screams broke into my pleasant revengeful reveries.
  23. staunch
    stop the flow of a liquid
    I tried to staunch the flood of fear.
  24. approbation
    official approval
    I didn’t expect or even need, now, his approbation.
  25. winsome
    charming in a childlike or naive way
    Dad shook hands with all the men, patted the children and smiled winsomely at the women.

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