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The cotton picking time is from the book I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou. This story covers Maya’s life from the age of 3 to 16 years. The tale tells of a youth who grows upintoa young adult, there are many events that she sees their significance as she grows. In this story, her home, the church and the store which figured prominently in her life are described. Her depiction of the socially and racially divided cities of St, Louis, Stamps and California helps the reader understand the life in America and this is from the point of view of a black young girl. Because of the use of her first hand knowledge and because of her sincerity in her settings and the procedures in her life, she is believed to have used the clay of real life. Angelou has brought out the themes out rightly and has even used many stylistics devices to bring out the meaning of the events (Davis, 1994).
There are many conflicts that can captivate the interest of the readers of this story. The first conflict is the character-against society. This conflict is revealed when Marguerite describes her dissatisfaction with her life. Her dream had been to wear a beautiful dress like one of those worn by the whites and she even has her momma make it for her. She dreams of waking up one morning and finding her hair blonde like that of the white girls. The theme of prejudice has been revealed because the blacks could not be seen wearing such good dresses. It was only the culture of the whites to dress in that manner.
The second conflict is character against nature and this is present when Marguerite tries to control her bladder in church. She says, “a green persimmon or it could have been a lemon caught me between the legs and squeezed…….” (p.8). Here the theme of growth and maturity is revealed. At this stage Marguerite cannot even control the functions of her body but as the story progresses she becomes a youth who assists selling at the store. Angelou uses a hyperbole when Marguerite describes her urge to urinate (Davis, 1994). She says “my poor head would burst like a watermelon and all the brains and spit and tongue and eyes would roll all over the place.”(p.8). This shows how imaginative Marguerite was as young as she was.
Angelou tries to show the audience how appearance determines the way one relates with the people. The story of Uncle Willie is about appearance. Since he was crippled the other men treated him badly and did not want to associate with him. The way people treat him because of his appearance is very unfair but that is the same way that the black people are discriminated because of their color skin.
This story brings out very many themes which include racism, maturation, slavery, prejudice but the dominant theme is the growth and maturity of a young teenager. Angelou uses a connotation when she says, “I watched the fields as they turned caterpillar green.”(p.11). This was to describe how beautiful the morning was and it was hope for the cotton pickers to start a new day. Imagery as a stylistic device has been used to describe the Store and the workers (Davis, 1994). It is clear that the reader is aware of the sounds, sight, smells, noise and feelings as Marguerite describes what she finds in the store when she arises to go work at the store. In the morning the store is filled with “laughing, joking, boasting and bragging” workers. At the end of the day the workers would, “fold down, dirt-disappointed, to the ground.” “The people dragged rather than their empty cotton sacks. No matter how much they had picked, it wasn’t enough.”(p.12) This shows that the cotton pickers would work as slaves for the whites and be mistreated and at the end of the day the outcome was not that fulfilling (Davis, 1994).
The firm caste scheme in the south during the era of the great depression is an important part of pragmatism in this book. The hopelessness of the cotton pickers is described using the times of the day. “….in cotton picking times the late afternoons revealed the harshness of Black southern life….”(p.12).