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“When I Lay My Burden Down” by: Maya Angelou. Innocence Unit Non-Fiction ECHS—English I C. Edge. Vocabulary. impudent -- adj. shamelessly disrespectful; rude agitation – n. stirring up; disturbance or excitement

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when i lay my burden down by maya angelou

“When I Lay My Burden Down”by: Maya Angelou

Innocence Unit


ECHS—English I

C. Edge

  • impudent -- adj. shamelessly disrespectful; rude
  • agitation – n. stirring up; disturbance or excitement
  • paranoia – n. mental disorder that often causes people to believe they are being persecuted
  • apparitions – n. strange; ghostlike figures
  • appellations – n. names; titles
  • servile – adj. humbly submissive; like a slave
literary elements
Literary Elements
  • Biography—the story of someone’s life written by someone else
  • Autobiography—the written story the writer’s own life
  • Diary – a daily record, usually private, esp. of the writer's own experiences, observations, feelings, attitudes, etc.
literary elements1
Literary Elements
  • objectivity – judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices 
    • we want a biography to be objective
      • this requires research
    • we do not want the author’s prejudices to distort the selection
  • subjectivity – judgment based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts 
    • we want the writer to get personal and emotional
    • the writer’s prejudice will be evident
    • Is this selection more objective or subjective? Why?
      • Obviously, this selection is more subjective since she is telling about her feelings about the events in her life.
literary elements2
Literary Elements
  • bias – a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice.
    • What bias do you recognize in this selection?
      • The bias is the false viewpoint that blacks are inferior to whites no matter what the situation. This is revealed by the girls and their treatment of “Momma.”
literary elements3
Literary Elements
  • imagery – language that appeals to one or more of our senses—sights, hearing, smell, taste, or touch
    • Explain the idiom “cleanliness is next to godliness.”
      • Being clean is a good thing because the way people perceive you is a large part of your character.
literary elements4
Literary Elements
  • metaphor – figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things, in which one thing becomes another thing without the use of the word like, as, than, or resembles.
    • List three metaphors from the text of the story and explainthem.
      • “I burst. A firecracker July-the-Fourth burst.” p. 360
      • “Her face was a brown moon that shone on me.” p. 361
literary elements5
Literary Elements
  • symbol – person, place, thing, or event that stands for itself and for something beyond itself as well
    • What might the narrator’s final yard design symbolize?
      • It could symbolize the growth of her heart through the infinite nature of love and the pain of life through such experiences.
selection question 1
Selection Question, # 1
  • Explain the importance of rules and order in the narrator’s life as described in the very beginning of the story. (p. 357-358)
  • The importance of rules and order in her life emphasizes the contrast between her family and that of the ‘powhitetrash’.
selection question 2
Selection Question, # 2
  • Who owns the store and why is this significant and/or ironic, given the setting and characters in the story? (p. 358)
  • Maya’s grandmother owns the store and this is ironic because she is a black woman who is mistreated in her own store by small white children, but cannot do anything about it because of the culture of the time.
selection question 3
Selection Question, # 3
  • How do the ‘powhitetrash’ differ?
  • The ‘powhitetrash’ are dirty, rude, and ignorant. They misuse their position of authority over ‘Momma’ since that is the only sense of power they have.
selection question 4
Selection Question, # 4
  • Why do the ‘powhitetrash’ children mock Momma? Discuss the reasons why people would be so cruel to another person. Why are children occasionally cruel to an innocent adult?
  • Possibly, they are bored and want excitement, or they have low status in society and want to feel superior to someone; or they know that society’s unwritten rules forbid Momma to lash back. Children may be cruel to adults when they want to feel powerful or lash out at authority or when they have no fear of consequences.
selection question 5
Selection Question, # 5
  • List three examples of how the ‘powhitetrash’ show disrespect in the store. (p. 358)
  • The ‘powhitetrash’ mess with the products, they call Momma and Maya’s uncle by their first names, and they order them around as if they were grown ups.
selection question 6
Selection Question, # 6
  • List three responses the narrator has toward the events that take place on Momma’s porch. (p. 359-360)
  • She wants to beg Momma to go inside and let her handle them since she won’t get in much trouble for lashing out, she is afraid for Momma that she won’t be able to restrain herself amidst the taunts of the girls, and she wants to get the gun and shoot them.
selection question 7
Selection Question, # 7
  • Why does Momma stand and take the abuse from the children without responding?
  • She takes the abuse because she doesn’t want to stoop to their level. She faces the abuse with integrity and pride and never loses her dignity.
selection question 8
Selection Question, # 8
  • Describe the narrator’s perspective. How does she view Momma?
  • She views Momma as strong and courageous, but feels pity for the abuse she must endure.
selection question 9
Selection Question, # 9
  • How do the ‘powhitetrash’ view Momma?
  • They view Momma as inferior to them, regardless of the fact that they are below her on all levels except society’s unwritten caste system.
selection question 10
Selection Question, # 10
  • What lesson does the narrator learn from this scene?
  • One possible lesson that the narrator learns from this scene is that sometimes fighting back means not fighting at all—that keeping one’s dignity is more important than making someone pay for their own ignorance.
selection question 11
Selection Question, # 11
  • What does Angelou mean when she says “Whatever the contest had been out front, I knew Momma had won”? Do you agree? Why, or why not?
  • Angelou may mean that the girls were trying to get Momma to respond to their taunts in order to get her in trouble, but because she kept her cool and refused to stoop to their level, she kept her dignity and proved that she was the better person. Some people may disagree and say that because the girls got away with their behavior, Momma was not the winner.
selection question 12
Selection Question, # 12
  • During the incident, Momma doesn’t say a word until the girls are leaving. What do you imagine she is thinking? Why do you think she thinks this way?
  • During the incident, Momma might be thinking about disciplining the girls; or she might be praying for self-control or freedom from the girls taunts.
selection question 13
Selection Question, # 13
  • On page 359, Angelou says that when Momma sees the girls approaching, she sags from the waist down but from the top seems to be pulling for the top of an oak tree. Exactly what does this image make you see? What do you think Momma is feeling?
  • The image that some people see is that of a big, strong oak tree standing tall. Momma may feel fear, sadness, anger, or pity.
selection question 14
Selection Question, # 14
  • Angelou takes some time to tell us about what is considered good behavior and courtesy in her family. What was her purpose for doing this? How does she want you to feel about her family’s rules?
  • Angelou describes her family’s rules so that readers can understand her shock and anger at the girls’ behavior. She wants readers to admire her family’s standards of behavior.