I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Chapter 2
Marguerite and Bailey, at ages five and six, recite multiplication tables for their Uncle Willie, who pretends he will burn them if they make a mistake. Once, Marguerite nearly does get burned, because, "like most children, I thought if I could face the worst danger voluntarily, and triumph, I would forever have power over it." Chapter 2, pg. 10 She jumps toward the stove. Uncle Willie is crippled, and Marguerite and Bailey feel awed by this-they know the random tragedy could have easily happened to them--and criticize him because of it. Over and over, Momma tells the story of how Willie was dropped when he was a baby. He is rejected by his peers because he can't work, and he is proud and sensitive, so that he can't pretend he isn't crippled or that people don't resent him for it. Marguerite only saw him pretend once: she came into the Store and he was alone with a couple who were clearly tourists. He was standing up, pretending he didn't have to lean against anything. His cane was hidden. He told her firmly to leave the room, and she did so, but she watched him from outside and she understood that, just this once, he was presenting the illusion that he was normal.
Marguerite falls in love with Shakespeare. He is the first white writer she has ever loved-she respects others, like Kipling, but she usually saves her passion for Langston Hughes and other black writers. She convinces herself it's okay to love Shakespeare because he's been dead for so long that it doesn't matter what race he was. Still, she and Bailey keep their reading of him a secret, because they know that if Momma found out about it she would demand to know if he was white, and they would have to tell the truth.