How a Strong Identity Strengthens Character A case of Maya Angelou

Angelou has very vivid memories of life at Stamps, Arkansas, where she and her brother Bailey were brought up by her intelligent grandmother. Though she led a reasonably good life, at least as compared to the life of other African Americans, she was constantly in pain which emanated from the ill treatment the minority blacks faced from their white counterparts. At the beginning of the book, Angelou discusses the continual labor of African Americans in cotton fields. This toil lasted their entire lives. In the end, however, what they received from these toil was hardly enough to sustain them or their families. Consequently, they were always in debt. The blacks continually complained of foul play in the fields. For instance, the weights used were faulty, and this ensured they never had their fair share. This narration sets the tone for the rest of the book. it explains just the type of suffering that Angelou and her fellow African Americans had to endure in Stamps, Arkansas. However, it is much more for Angelou since she has to constantly bear the thought of rejection. Before Angelou and her brother came to Stamps, they had lived with their parents until she was three years old. After that the parents sent them to live with their grandmother in Stamps. Angelou never understood why they had done it, but she believed that the parents had sought to get rid of them. She was particularly concerned by how they had been sent to their grandmother. Angelou’s search started at age three and seemed to last her entire life. This was until she was aged seventeen where she concludes the book. It is this search that forms the background of this discourse. This paper traces Angelou’s search for her identity as a girl, a daughter, and an African American. It is this search we trace throughout the novel that makes her the strong lady. This discourse also seeks the input of other resources beyond Angelou’s book to examine how a purposeful search for identity and need to rise above adversity strengthens character. Her life is not an ordinary life. She is without parents at age three. Besides, she has to live with a grandmother who contends with the insults and insubordination by whites every day. The other person close to her is Uncle Willie who has a disability and, being an African American, has to continually contend with racism. It is in these difficult circumstances that a young child has to define her identity. In a normal setting, it is the parents who help in building a child’s identity. Without them, this is not an easy task (Arciero and Guido 98). The only option is to constantly search for one’s identity amidst those one lives with which is quite challenging when the situation is as unfair as the one that Angelou finds herself in. One’s moral identity and understanding of morality (justice and care) exist in tandem. The more one identifies with a moral standard, whether as an act of will (such as committing oneself to a religious tradition) or as an act of insight (such as seeing someone suffer a social injustice and being deeply moved by the experience), the more that standard (and the identity, which is the internalization of that standard) will direct one’s attention and flavor and filter one’s perception and interpretation (Flanagan and Ame?lie 78). At the same time, the more able one becomes to understand whether actions are moral or not, the more likely it is that morality will figure in self-evaluations and become tied to self-esteem. Identity, then, contributes to development by its demand of the corresponding focus and practice, and the focus and practice contribute to one’s sense of mastery of morality. According to Aristotle, you are what you repeatedly do