Why Maya Angelou picks the title "Finishing School."

Essay by klarationCollege, UndergraduateA, October 2005

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During the Victorian reign, Finishing school was a famous and prestige private school for wealthy young girls. It emphasized cultural studies for social activities, introduced good manners and etiquette, and taught skills such as dancing, singing and much more. In other words, Finishing school prepared young ladies for "future life". The title Finishing School by Maya Angelou, has a different meaning, I would say the title is ironic. Angelou's main character Margaret went through her own "Finishing School" that happened to be inside a white woman's kitchen. It taught her about race differences and how to defend her dignity, both that reflect the author's purpose in choosing this title.

Margaret is a ten-year-old black girl who lives in the south in 1930's at the time when slavery has long passed gone, but racial segregation and discrimination are still very strong. She comes to work as a servant in a home of a white wealthy woman, Mrs.

Cullinan, where she begins to help out around the house, run errands, clean dishes and polish silverware. Margaret is overwhelmed with the inhumanness and the discipline of the house. All meals have to be at a certain time, all drinks have to be from a certain glass. Nevertheless, Margaret is willing to accept the new rules and work as hard as possible for the white rich and ugly lady, because Margaret feels sorry for her. She starts to come to work early, leaves home late, puts in extra work, somehow by doing so, Margaret thinks that she can compensate for the fact that Mrs. Cullinan can never have children. Margaret develops human feelings toward her mistress and her situation, not acknowledging the race issue.

Sadly, she soon realizes that no one is interested in her feelings and her pity. To her employer she...