In, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Maya Angelou describes in vivid and painful detail, her childhood and adolescent years. Her autobiography focuses on the development of the self. This novel demonstrates how one may sometimes encounter many defeats but one can never be defeated. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings depicts the self-actualization of Maya Angelou through her peak experiences, humor, independence, realism, and concern for others. .
Peak experiences are an example of self-actualization that is evident throughout the book. Angelou constantly finds happiness in the simplest occurrences. In chapter 3, Angelou says, "Weighing the half-pounds of flour, excluding the scoop, and depositing them dust-free into the thin paper sacks held a simple kind of adventure for me." She enjoyed being complimented even if it was just for accurately measuring flour. Another example of a peak experience occurred when Angelou states, "Until I was thirteen and left Arkansas for good, the store was my favorite place to be. Alone and empty in the mornings, it looked like an opened present from a stranger. Opening the front door was pulling the ribbon off the unexpected gift." Being alone in one of the places she felt most comfortable gave her a sense of peace and freedom. From reading her autobiography, it is understood that Maya Angelou has a great appreciation for the simple things in life, and is one of the reasons why she has become a self-actualized person.
Humor is another trait of self-actualization that is evident throughout the book. In chapter 6 Angelou recalls, "There was laughter in me trying to get out. I didn't know there was that much in the whole world each time we looked at each other we howled louder than before" Though Marguerite is eventually upset with Bailey for making her laugh so hard, she has a humor connection to him that enables her to endure even the greatest boredom and insult.