I know why the caged bird cannot read essay


Francine Prose:

So what are these ties and just how strong are they, after all? Pink trian- gle — Silence equals death.

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But to treat the geniuses of the past as naughty children, amenable to reeducation by the children of the present, evokes the educational theo- ry of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. No wonder students are rarely asked to consider what was actually written by these hopeless racists and so- ciopaths. What is your prognosis for her future? Explain that to avoid being sent to a concentra- tion camp, many people went into hiding.

Often they could take with them only what they could carry Ask your students to choose the items they would take into hiding. These items must fit into the grocery bag.

Those who might have supposed that one purpose of fiction was to deploy the powers of language to connect us, directly and intimately, with the hearts and souls of others, will be disappoint- ed to learn that the whole point is to make us examine ourselves. Why did you feel outside? What finally changed your situation? And what does The Great Gatsby lead us to consider? Would you have gained your end in any other way? Scott Fitzgerald? And is it any wonder that teenagers should complete these exer- cises with little but contempt for the writer who so pointlessly complicated and obfuscated a personal true story that sixteen-year-olds could have told so much more interestingly themselves?

T remember when it dawned on me that I might, someday, grow old. I was in the eleventh grade. Our marvelous and unusual English teacher had assigned us to read King Lear — that is, to read every line of King Lear. As I recall, we were asked to circle every word or metaphor having to do with eyes and vision, a tedious process we grumbled about but that succeed- ed in focusing our attention.

I recall the halluci- natory sense of having left my warm bedroom, of finding myself — old, en- raged, alone, despised — on that heath, in that dangerous storm. And I re- member realizing, after the storm sub- sided, that language, that mere words on the page, had raised that howling tempest. Lear is still the Shakespeare play I like best. What delighted me was the language, the cadences and the rhythms, and the power of the images: the four horsemen, the beast, the woman clothed with the sun.

We no longer believe that books were writ- ten one word at a time, and deserve to be read that way. When my son was assigned Wuthering Heights in tenth-grade En- glish, the complex sentences, ar- chaisms, multiple narrators, and in- terwoven stories seemed, at first, like a foreign language. But soon enough, he caught on and reported being moved almost to tears by the cruelty of Heath- cliffs treatment of Isabella.

But to use such literature might require teachers and school boards to make fresh choices, selec- tions uncontaminated by trends, cliches, and received ideas. If educators continue to assume that teenagers are interested exclusively in books about teenagers, there is engaging, truthful fiction about childhood and adoles- cence, written in ways that remind us why someone might like to read. Great novels can help us master the all-too-rare skill of tolerating — of be- ing able to hold in mind — ambiguity and contradiction.

Huck Finn is a liar, but we come to love him.

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Critique on “Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read” Paper

The narrator of C aged Bird is good, her rapist is bad; Scout and Atticus Finch are good, their bigoted neigh- bors are bad. But why not tell the students that, instead of suggesting that Mark Twain be posthumously reprimanded? What are they? Prose cites many different novels and play. Does she assume her audience is familiar with some of them? All of them? Explain why it matters whether the audience knows the works. According to Prose, "To hold up [I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings] as a paradigm or memior, of thought-of literature- is akin to inviting doctors convicted of malpractice to instruct our medical students" paragraoh Do you agree with this analogy?

Explain your answer. What other examples of figurative language do you find in this essay? Toward the end of the essay paragraphs 35, 39, and 43 , Prose uses a series of rhetorical questions. In all honesty, I think the teachers and what they teach is the right thing. I've always been critical of the English curriculum - I've always thought there was too much literature and not enough grammar.

But this essay makes me appreciate good literature, pieces that leave us confused. That's what we as readers need: to question our values, to think about things differently and from new perspectives, to battle internally. The books we read, Francine Prose says, oversimplify themes referring to the human experience. She's right, there's not always good and bad, right and wrong, cookie-cutter this, cookie-cutter that.

Racism is bad, tolerance is good, stuff like that.

Francine Prose, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read”

But he's a family man, a loving father, a good friend, a seemingly good man that the reader falls in love with. He must traverse these two worlds simultaneously. What's it like to be him? Should I love him? Should I hate him? Should he feel guilty?

Essay about Critique on "I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot | Bartleby

Does he feel guilty? Should I feel guilty for feeling the way I do about him? That's the kind of thinking that would make a student love reading, by challenging them, by making them truly think.

Give us a complex personality within a complex situation. It's very possible that Prose is right about society trying to get us to question less to keep us under control more easily. Scary thought, isn't it? The Nazi personality was just something I made up in my head, but the point still stands. It would be nice to read something that challenges convention, challenges the mind, and challenges the heart.

I'm a sixteen years old, intelligent human being: I already feel the distinction between what's right and what's wrong. Or so I've been taught So challenge that distinction. I do believe to an extent that novels are used to infuse values into high school students.


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It goes without saying that segregation and racism are wrong, but I do agree with Prose in that students should be free to explore and determine their values freely. I love the point that Prose makes when she points out that the novels we read are too straight forward. In this novel it is clear that Ellie and is family are the protagonists, and the Nazis being the antagonists. I think the unique style of Maya Angelou was of great quality and was a respectable example of good quality literature.

As for To Kill a Mocking Bird, its an American classic that gives an interesting perspective on depression struck America.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Summary by Maya Angelou

Despite the different point of view, one can still get the full feel for the setting. Based off my own experiences in high school English classes, I would have to agree with Francine Prose, despite that I feel she embellishes some aspects of her argument. Also, the themes the literature is being used to teach are so repetitive that every book is the same. This essay was very informative.

I tend to agree with Ms.


  • Response to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read” by Francine Prose.
  • KNO: I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read, Francine Prose, page #89.
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The literary works I have been assigned in the past do not "peak my interest" the way that books I chose do. In my opinion, Prose's views on both literary works are understandable but harsh. She openly attacks the works of Harper Lee and Maya Angelou. It is one thing to disagree with why the book is taught, but to deem their work as "stale," "murky," "convoluted," and "inaccurate," is, in my opinion, crossing the line.

She picks apart Angelou's figurative language in great detail but I believe that the values and lessons of a book can not be judged by one bad simile.

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