1. What factors affect society’s definition of beauty? Describe the evolution of beauty from Maya’s childhood in Stamps through modern times. What has caused this change? Unfortunately, society has a definition of beauty, which has forced mostly women to change themselves, or want to change themselves, into an “idealistic” character. Society’s definition of beauty consists of looking a certain way: one has to have the perfect, skinny body, but not too skinny. One has to have big breasts, a large butt, big lips, no acne, etc.
Society makes individuals feel like they do not belong. When Maya was a child in Stamps, the definition of beauty was different from what it is now. From the beginning of the book, Maya has made it clear to the audience that she does not like her appearance and does not find her looks appealing. She says, “Wouldn’t they be surprised when one day I woke out of my ugly black dream, and my real hair which was long and blond… My light blue eyes were going to hypnotize them… ” (Angelou 2). In this quote, Maya is describing this “ugly black dream” that she is living in.
This “dream” is an idea Maya put into her head that she is not actually black, but a stunning white girl that an evil fairy stepmother, who was jealous of Maya’s beauty, had trapped inside the body of a pathetic, Black girl (Angelou 3). From an early age, Maya considered herself as not beautiful and that beauty is being white with blond hair and blue eyes. She seemed to be ashamed of being herself and preferred a different look over her own. Nowadays, race is not the case. It does not matter what color someone is, everyone is beautiful. Race means nothing when it comes to good looks because of ace playing a major role in society.
The ongoing fight for racism has helped people understand that every color is dazzling in its own way. However, society’s definition still applies and if one does not have certain features, then they are not beautiful. 3. Members of society frequently create imaginary social relationships. Define imaginary social relationships and describe one such relationship Maya holds. How does this affect her identity? How is it beneficial to her? Imaginary social relationships are one-way, fictional, and emotional bonds that an individual can make with another person in his/her mind.
Throughout the book, Maya has made a couple of imaginary social relationships with people she is and is not familiar with. A bittersweet example of this is Mr. Freeman. Mr. Freeman, despite his eeriness, made Maya feel safe in the beginning of their relationship. Maya was not sure of his intentions or what he did to her before the rape, but she treasured the warm feeling he gave her. In the novel, Angelou says, “I felt at home. From the way he was holding me I knew he’d never let me go or let anything bad ever happen to me. “This was probably my real father and we had found each other at last” (Angelou 73).
This portrays how Maya felt when Mr. Freeman showed her the slightest bit of “affection”. When Mr. Freeman held her, Maya felt like that was what a father should feel like: homely and protective. Little did Maya know that he was using her for pleasure, and such acts were building up to something abhorrent and inhumane. For weeks, Mr. Freeman ignores Maya while she craves the security that resides in his arms. When she attempted to show him affection, he, again, took it negatively and repulsively. Such sickening acts delivered by Mr. Freeman upon Maya resulted in emotional scarring.
Before the calamity but after the first few incidents had occurred, Maya was terribly lonesome. In those several weeks, she depended entirely on books. While reading books nonstop, Maya wished she was born a boy. All the males in the stories she read were heroes who always won and were always good (Angelou 75). Her imaginary social relationship with Mr. Freeman affected her identity by forcing her to want something else of herself. She was indirectly urged to change who she was, which promoted her isolationism. In some weird way, this relationship was, just a little, beneficial for Maya because her isolationism caused her to avert from Mr.
Freeman and the emotions she had yearned for in the past. 5. In class, there was a discussion of Maya’s true home encompassing the idea of what is home. Why were there so many different responses? What effect does not having a single “true” home have on Maya’s identity? Maya’s home was argued to be in different places or with different people. There were so many contrasting responses because everyone has his/her own perspective, especially towards identifying Maya’s home. Some people thought it was with Bailey, others felt like her home was in Stamps. Neither of the answers are incorrect.
Each individual interpreted the answer differently, with evidence behind his/her claims, which caused numerous different responses. It may be true that Maya does not have a single, true home. This negatively affects her identity because it makes her feel like she does not belong anywhere she goes. Maya goes back and forth from Stamps to St. Louis to San Francisco to back in Stamps, so it is very difficult for her to fully call one of those locations her home.
As she states in the novel, “I had decided that St. Louis was a foreign country… As quickly as I understood that I had not reached my home… , (Angelou 70). Maya not having a true home isolates her identity and does not even allow her to have a complete identity. It is upsetting that she does not have a specific place to call her hometown because that is a big part of everyone’s identity. She also says, “I carried the same shield that I had used in Stamps: ‘I didn’t come to stay”, (Angelou 70). This quote proves that Maya did not consider Stamps as her home either. That is even more damaging to her identity because she spent most of her early life in Stamps. 8. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be caused by any traumatic life experience.
Maya faces many tragedies in her life. If Maya was a child today, would she have been diagnosed with PTSD? Why or why not? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a scarring disorder that can take control on an individual’s life. Maya endures hardships, that not even most adults go through, at such a young age. The worst of all incidences was when she was raped by Mr. Freeman. Not only did she suffer from the physical pain, but from the psychological agony as well.
An example of this is when Maya contemplated whether or not she should tell her mother about the incident after Mr. Freeman moved away: “Could I tell [mother] now? The terrible pain assured me that I couldn’t. What he did to me, and what I allowed, must have been very bad if already God let me hurt so much” (Angelou 81). This portrays the guilt Maya had for allowing Mr. Freeman to use her in the way he did. Even after all that happened, she blamed herself for allowing it to occur. If Maya was a child today, she would have been diagnosed with PTSD. She would have been diagnosed because one can probably never recover from something like rape.
Also, up until the near end of the book, Maya still thought about Mr. Freeman; he still haunted her memory, even 9 years later. Near the end of novel, Maya thanks Mr. Freeman for 9 years earlier because she felt no pain during her intercourse with a boy (Angelou 282). Maya says this is in a very dry and humorless tone, which proves that she has not fully recovered from this event and might never. For not being able to recover as well as still feel the effects of a traumatic experience, Maya would definitely have been diagnosed with PTSD if she were a child today.