Growing up, Maya Angelou experienced an inconceivable childhood,
for struggles were constantly present in her life. As a writer, she has shaped many of her poems and other works by the struggles
she faced throughout her youth. Several of the themes in Angelou’s pieces revolve around desired love, African-American
pride, the hope of freedom, oppression, and the independence of women.
Angelou endured a lack of love as a child. After her parents
divorced when she was only three years old, Angelou was frequently shifting homes among her grandmother's home, her mother's
home, and her father's home; for one month, Angelou even lived "in a graveyard of wrecked cars that mainly housed homeless
children"(Twaddle). In her poem, "When You Come to Me," from Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, Angelou
mentions the attic she lived in as a child as well as well as "Gatherings of days too few," "stolen kisses," and "borrowed
loves." The poem is relating Angelou's childhood in a nutshell, describing its unwholesomeness. At the end, she writes, "I
CRY," emphasizing her reaction to recollections of those memories.
When Angelou moved to live with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas,
she saw and experienced racial discrimination. Angelou's observations in the world around her caused her to believe Whites
were superior and Blacks were inferior. When she grew older, Angelou realized her perception was flawed and all people should
be equal. In poems, Angelou expresses African-America pride to highlight the greatness of Blacks. In another sense, she is
also fighting against what she had to face as an adolescent.
Another theme in Angelou's poems is the hope for freedom. One
of her most renowned works that focuses on freedom is the novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The novel is a metaphor
for Angelou's autobiography up until she gives birth to a baby boy at the age of sixteen. Angelou has also written a poem
titled "Caged Bird" that shares the same theme. In the poem, Angelou uses opposing images for the lives of a free bird and
a caged bird to convey the difference between freedom and imprisonment. The caged bird in the poem sings for freedom.
At the age of only eight-years-old, Maya Angelou was raped by
her mother's boyfriend. Following this incident and subsequent threats, Angelou was mute for five years. She was not only
filled with fear during this period, but mostly, Angelou felt oppressed. In her poems, Angelou discusses oppression and gives
hope and strength to those who feel oppressed.
Throughout various instances in her early life, Maya Angelou
felt defeated as a woman. At one point, however, she decided she would shine as an independent woman who would not accept
defeat. Angelou portrays this stance in her poems. The most notable example is "Phenomenal Woman." In "Phenomenal Woman,'
Angelou stresses the confidence she has within her and conveys to her readers that she is better than any other woman.
All of Maya Angelou's works are based on personal experiences,
which is the factor that gives them their inspirational form. Since her writings are thematic of reality, others can relate
to them and gain motivation.