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Rite Of Passage In Maya Angelou's Graduation

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Maya Angelou’s Graduation deals with the social concept of a rite of passage. A rite of passage refers to an important event in someone’s life, In this short story; childhood to adulthood. Angelou excellently frames this piece through her use of a joyful tone and childlike perspective. Angelou also deals with racial issues of the time through subtle and blatant symbolism.
Angelou’s tone perfectly illustrates the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. She writes joyously, with a hint of sadness and malcontentment reflecting the racial prejudices of the South during the 1940s. She uses phrases like “sunlight itself was young” and describes herself as “the center of the moment” to convey the excitement and joy she felt as a child on the days leading up to her graduation. She also interjects more sobering statements, such as when she speaks of “hanging ropes of parasitic moss and speaks of wishing everybody dead to characterize the struggle of African Americans during the 40s. The tone of these segments is malcontentment, sadness, and anger over the subjugation of blacks
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Edward Donleavy’s appearance is a turning point in the story where Angelou realizes that the racial climate of the south won’t allow her to be anything above a maid or washerwoman. She is doubly disadvantaged as a black female, and feels relegated to a position of servitude. The principal, a highly regarded member of Angelou’s community, is nervous at the arrival of Donleavy, “his voice nearly faded… like a river diminishing - to a trickle”. Donleavy embodies the racial disparity of the south. The principal, a community leader, seems to shrink at the thought of Donleavy’s arrival. Another white man who doesn’t speak to or interact with the graduation attendees forces the Minister to give up his seat and leave the stage. The appearance of Donleavy and his associate flips the day on its head and reveals the hard truth of racism that isn’t directly addressed in the preceding parts of the
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