As a rule, the major goal of a message is to convince the audience in the righteousness of the position of the author, though goals may vary consistently, but the author’s representation of his/her ideas and the message still remains of the paramount importance. Speaking about “Graduation”¯ by Maya Angelou, it is necessary to underline that the author raises very important, socially significant issues, among which the problem of segregation and racial discriminations apparently are particularly significant for the author, as well as for the audience. Using a variety of artistic and rhetoric devices, the author manages to affect the audience’s feelings and emotions while the entire message of Maya Angelou cannot fail to remain a reader indifferent to problems raised.
On analyzing her work, it should be pointed out that the author starts with the introduction that captures a reader’s attention from the beginning. In fact, the introduction gives a reader an insight to the large spectrum of problems which the author has witnessed in person and which affected the life of millions of people. The introduction prepares the audience to the major problematic the author is willing to inform readers about, but, above all, the introduction appeals to emotions of the audience and the controversy of the problem of segregation, which is in the focus of the author’s attention, is perfectly conveyed by Maya Angelou.
Obviously, she does not want to develop a highly formal discussion reflecting the essence of the problem of segregation and difficulties people faced in overcoming existing stereotypes and biases which excluded them from the life of the white part of American society. Thus, instead of highly formalized discussion, in which the author could use numerous factual evidences about cases of discrimination and injustice in relation to African Americans, Maya Angelou lays emphasis on her personal experience. Such attention to her personal feelings, emotions, and perception of the dramatic epoch of the struggle of African Americans for their civil rights defines the tone of the entire work. The informal or, to put it more precisely, personal tone the author uses makes the audience more confident in the sincerity of the narration and consciously or not readers readily accept the position of the author and support her indignation provoked by the injustice and racism she experienced in her life.
At the same time, Maya Angelou attempts to show that she was not actually alone, but there were many other African American children that were severely discriminated in the epoch when segregation was a norm. She recounts the story of her graduation in the socio-cultural context of the epoch depicting picturesque details of the life of ordinary African American children and their families. This is why she conveys her personal perception, feelings, and sufferings and depicts other African American children, who were her friends, such as Henry or Louise.
It is important to underline that the author avoids to one-sided representation of that dramatic epoch, when a historically important cultural shift took place. In fact, it was the period when white and black Americans had just started to learn to live together, in one society, where there would be no black or whites but only Americans. In such a context, the title “Graduation”¯ may be quite symbolic since it was not only the graduation of African American children who hoped to get a chance to be included into the new American society, but it was also the graduation of American society itself, a test of American democracy. This is probably why Maya Angelou depicts the embarrassment of white children as well as teachers when she heard the message of the official that hurt her dignity and personal pride.
In fact, the author repeatedly attempts to affect feelings and emotions of readers that indicates to the fact that she it is the main tool with the help of which she could involve the audience in her narration and make readers feel the same way she did in the past. Taking into consideration such a trend in the author’s style, numerous references to and depictions of naĆÆve expectations, feelings, hopes of children, which were nourished by the declared changes, such the elimination of segregation, naturally intertwine in her narration.
On the other hand, it would be a mistake to estimate that Maya Angelou is entirely focused on emotional and highly pathetic representation of her personal experience and her vision of segregation. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that she constructs her narration logically and her personal feelings, which are extremely negative in relation to segregation and racial discrimination, are supported by objective facts that help readers to construct the real picture of the life of American society in that epoch. To put it more precisely, the author refers to the poor socio-economic position of African American families, who lived in poverty stricken neighborhood. Nevertheless, it did not prevent these children from successful learning and she as well as her friends worked hard to succeed in their studies.
At the same time, she emphasizes the injustice and the extent, to which biases prevented African American children from being equally treated compared to white children. To achieve academic successes, African American children were forced to overcome poverty, cultural differences, but all these obstacles seem to be insignificant compared to stereotypes and biases which annihilated all the efforts of African American children. As the author recognizes, their position in society was limited by law-qualified work or, at the utmost, by successful career in sports.
Such a combination of a highly emotional narration, which apparently dominates, and logical arguments amply supported by factual evidences from socio-economic reality of the life of African Americans of that epoch Maya Angelou manages to convince the audience that the elimination of segregation was a very complicated process and that biases and stereotypes were deep-rooted in consciousness of people. As a result, the formal elimination of the inequality and discrimination has failed to eliminate informal discrimination on the level of cultural identity of white and black Americans.