Caged Bird Poem by Maya Angelou
[Q. How is the theme of self-awareness shown in the poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou?
Or, Q. What is the main idea of the poem? Is it stated or implied? Discuss with reference to the major themes.][Caged Bird Poem by Maya Angelou]
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of seven autobiographical works by American writer Maya Angelou, published in 1969. The book chronicles her life from age 3 through age 16, recounting an unsettled and sometimes traumatic childhood that included rape and racism. It became one of the most widely read and taught books written by an African American woman.
Published in 1983, “I know why the caged bird sings” is a poem written by Maya Angelou. Through this poem, she holds for us to see the sufferings of the African Americans. The “free bird” reigns the skies and then swoops down to wallow in the
pool of sunlight – it owns the great blue. However, the caged bird is trapped by the “bars of rage” – it has no other way to express itself but to sing “with a fearful trill”. It “sings of freedom” which can be heard “on the distant hill”. The “free bird” glides through “another breeze” while “fat worms” wait for him. However, wings clipped and feet tied, the “caged bird” keeps singing of freedom.
One of the themes of “I know why the caged bird sings” is the plain racial discrimination between the Whites and the Blacks. Angelou has used the symbols of the “free bird” to represent the dominating Whites and a “caged bird” for the oppressed Black races. Throughout the six stanzas, the speaker uses a reflective tone and alternates between the secured, unshackled life of the “free bird” and the enslaved, crushed life of the “caged bird”.
The “free bird”, to enjoy the sun, “floats downstream” – it is as if everything is paved to ease up the life of the free; the worms that it fetches, are not just any worm, they are “fat” worms – the life of the privileged is further facilitated. However, the “caged bird” is not only enslaved in “his narrow cage” but his “wings are clipped” and “feet are tied”. It alludes to the fact that, how the colored races are treated in comparison to the whites. They are stripped of their fundamental rights to act their will or go any places they want to. When “the caged bird sings with a fearful trill”, it is actually the only way left for him to validate his existence.
Oppression and the African-American Experience
The poem describes a “caged bird”-a bird that is trapped in a “narrow cage” with limited mobility, only able to sing about the freedom it has never had and cannot attain. This caged bird is an extended metaphor for the African American community’s past and on-going experience of race-based oppression in the United States in particular, and can also be read as portraying the experience of any oppressed group. The metaphor captures the overwhelming agony and cruelty of the oppression of marginalized communities by relating it to the emotional suffering of the caged bird.
The poem uses the metaphor of the bird to capture not just the way that oppression imposes overt physical limitations on the oppressed, but also the way that those limitations emotionally and psychologically impact the oppressed. For instance, in lines 10-11 the poem states that the caged bird “can seldom see through his bars,” which seems at first as if the poem is going to explain how being in the cage limits the bird’s line of sight. But instead, the poem further describes the bars as being “bars of rage”-the bird is imprisoned and certainly the physical bars of the cage limit its line of sight, but the bird can “seldom see” because these conditions make the bird blind with rage. By fusing the limits imposed by the cage with the emotional impact those limits inspire, the poem makes clear that the environment and the anger can’t be separated from one another. The oppression of the cage doesn’t just keep the bird captive; the captivity changes the bird, and in so doing robs the bird of its very self.
As an extended metaphor used to convey the pain of the oppression experienced by the African American community throughout (and before) the history of the United States, aspects of the poem can be read as directly related to that particular African American experience. For instance, the caged bird’s song can be seen as an allusion to African American spirituals. As abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said, “Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy.” Additionally, Angelou’s image of the “caged bird” is one borrowed from a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Sympathy,” which states, “I know why the caged bird sings, ah me […] / it is not a carol of joy or glee […]” What both Dunbar and Douglass are saying is that the oppressed sing not because they are happy, but because they are unhappy. The cause of the caged bird’s song explicitly mirrors Douglass and Dunbar’s insights: though the song is full of the hope of freedom, the fact that the caged bird can only hope for freedom makes clear that it lacks that freedom. The song may be full of hope, but it is born from a place of deep pain, and the hope can be seen as primarily an attempt to cope with an intolerable situation.
The poem’s point about the bird’s song springing from sadness is critically important, because, historically, many defenders of slavery and other forms oppression of African Americans argued that the song and dance that was a part of African American culture indicated that black people were in fact joyful and content with their situation. The idea that such music might be an expression of cultural or emotional pain was ignored (in large part because ignoring it meant that those who benefitted from such oppression could also justify the oppression as not being oppressive at all).
“Caged Bird” actively and explicitly disputes the notion that the musical expression of an oppressed group is a sign of contentment. It is instead an assertion that the opposite is true. And in making such an assertion, the poem refuses to bend to the convenient and racist interpretation of African-American song by white oppressors, and instead asserts that the anguish forced on black communities by white oppression must be acknowledged.
Freedom vs. Captivity
The poem “Caged Bird” compares and contrasts the experience of a free bird with that of a bird held in captivity. While part of this contrast is meant to convey the injustice forced upon the captive bird, the comparison also allows the poem to explore how a free being thinks and acts, and to argue that freedom is a natural state for living beings. As an extended metaphor for the historical oppression of African Americans in the United States, the idea that freedom is a human’s natural state of existence further demonstrates the cruelty and injustice of race-based oppression in the United States. The caged bird’s longing for freedom also demonstrates the black community’s resilience against this oppression.
The poem’s first key insight about freedom pertains to what a free being is allowed to think about. Putting that more concretely: because the free bird is, well,
free, it never has to think about its own freedom. Instead, the free bird spends its time living, and doing what it wants. When the free bird thinks, it is only of “another breeze” or “fat worms.” Thus, for the free bird, freedom is natural, subconscious. The free bird never has to think about freedom. It simply is free. It is also worth noting the ways in which freedom gives the free bird a sense of entitlement: the speaker notes in line 7 that the free bird “dares to claim the sky,” as its own, and repeats this sentiment later in line 26. Despite all the freedom the bird already has, it continues to seek more from the world-it sees its freedom as naturally implying that it should “own” the world. It is difficult not to see this insight as referring more broadly to the way that free people, such as slaveholders in the American pre-Civil War South, saw their own freedom-and the lack of freedom of the blacks they owned-as indicating that their ownership of their slaves was how things should be. They saw their freedom, rather than a privilege or a natural right, as a signal that they should own everything else.
The caged bird, on the other hand, because it lacks freedom, spends all of its time thinking and singing about freedom. Much like breathing, freedom is experienced as something that is only thought of when it is no longer there. When one can breathe freely, there is no need to think about it-however, when one can’t breathe, of course, it becomes the only thing one can think of. In this way, the poem makes clear the emotional and even intellectual exhaustion that comes from a lack of freedom, the way it creates a prison not just for a physical body but also for the mind.
The caged bird, unlike the free bird, is completely immobilized-not only is the bird held captive in a cage, but its wings are clipped and its feet tied; thus, even if the bird were to escape his cage, he would still be unable to move or fly. The total immobilization of the caged bird is likely representative of the layers of discrimination a marginalized person can face, from overt and official policies of slavery and discrimination, to racially-motivated violence, to being written out of history or culture. The caged bird, being tied and clipped, seems to represent the ways oppression not only imprisons individuals and communities, but also how it seeks to limit them in ways that can then be used to justify their imprisonment: for instance, a bird with clipped wings and bound feet couldn’t possibly survive outside a cage, so the person who put it there can then justify keeping the bird in the cage to keep it safe. The imprisonment of the bird becomes self-perpetuating, and conveniently (for the one keeping the bird caged) self-justifying.
In a similar vein, the immobilization of the bird could also be read as demonstrating just how overwhelming and cruel oppression can be. A bird that is already caged does not need to also have its wings clipped or its feet tied-in this poem, the bird is subjected to all three. The poem, then, serves as a nuanced and damning portrait of all forms of racism and discrimination, and in particular of the racism and oppression perpetrated by the United States against African Americans.
Freedom as a Universal and Natural Right
Even as “Caged Bird” explores the behavior of the free and the captive, it also makes clear that the desire for freedom is an organic, universal impulse that cannot be bound or destroyed. The poem states that the caged bird sings “of things unknown / but longed for still.” The speaker then clarifies: “the caged bird / sings of freedom.” Because freedom is a thing “unknown” to the caged bird, the implication is that the caged bird was not taken from his natural environment, but rather was likely born in his cage and has never known anything else. The caged bird has never known freedom, but still understands what freedom is, and yearns for it. That the understanding of freedom seems to be universal suggests that freedom is the natural, biological state of living things.
Given that the caged bird in the poem is an extended metaphor for the historic struggle of the African American community under historical and ongoing racist oppression, the idea that freedom is a biological impulse argues against the inhumane cruelty of oppression. The metaphor also demonstrates the resilience of the black community. Because of the omnipresence of racism throughout United States history, African Americans-like the caged bird-have never experienced true freedom-not in the same way that those who are not forced to endure systemic oppression do. That African Americans nonetheless continue longing for this “thing unknown” illustrates that, despite the hopelessness that the metaphor of the caged bird conveys, the black community’s desire for freedom, and determination to achieve it, remains.
The repetition of the entire third stanza-which also appears, word for word, as the poem’s sixth stanza-further demonstrates the resilience of the black community. In the third stanza, the speaker tells the reader that the caged bird “sings with a fearful trill / of things unknown / but longed for still/ and his tune is heard / on the distant hill” which demonstrates that, despite the hopelessness of the situation, the bird continues to sing loudly enough that he is heard from far away, inspiring others. The repetition of the stanza as the sixth and final stanza of the poem conveys that the caged bird does not simply give up, but rather will continue to sing for freedomthus, this repetition seems to suggest that even as the African American community endures its intolerable circumstances, it will continue to yearn and work for freedom.
2. The Significance of the Title
[Q. What is the meaning of the title ‘I know why the caged bird sings’? Discuss briefly.
Or, Q. Justify the title of Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Caged Bird’.]
When selecting a title, Angelou turned to Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African American poet whose works she had admired for years. Jazz vocalist and civil rights activist Abbey Lincoln suggested the title.
According to Lyman B. Hagen, the title, pulls Angelou’s readers into the book
while reminding them that it is possible to both lose control of one’s life and to have one’s freedom taken from them. Angelou has credited Dunbar, along with Shakespeare, with forming her “writing ambition”. The title of the book comes from the third stanza of Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy”: “I know why the caged bird sings, ah me, / When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore, / When he beats his bars and would be free; / It is not a carol of joy or glee, / But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core, / But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings- / I know why the caged bird sings.”
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was actually the title of her first autobiography. The title of the poem itself is a bold statement and an assertion of one’s identity. The “I” in the title not only stands for Angelou the poet but also the Afro-American woman who has been through societal and institutional discrimination against people of color. This deep association with the caged bird on Maya’s part is due to the fact that the problems of the caged bird are Maya’s problems too. An artist can never be completely divorced from the socio-economic conditions surrounding her and s/he is, to a great extent, a product of the latter. And Maya is no exception. She recognizes this and attempts to change the status-quo through her art.
The second most striking aspect of the title are the words Know Why. Now, I know Why is an affirmation of one’s knowledge and understanding. Its negation would be you don’t know why which is a language of negation of the other’s ability and individuality. Therefore, the title I know Why the Caged Bird Sings is reflective not only of the empathy with which she identifies with the caged bird but also of the claiming of agency which has been long denied the latter.
The title and inspiration for this poem came from a line in Paul Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy”. Caged Bird, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as the poem is sometimes referred to, by Maya Angelou, is arguably one of the most moving and eye-opening poems ever written. Angelou also wrote an autobiography with a similar title, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It is clear that this title had great significance to Angelou, as it was the title to her entire life story.
In her autobiography, she talked about the struggle of being a black author and poet. She often felt that her words were not heard because of the color of her skin. She felt that in some ways, she was still experiencing slavery. Although African American people were free people in Angelou’s time, there were still many restrictions on them in society, making it so that many black Americans did not feel free at all. This poem, which can be read in full here, reveals the depth of those feelings.
3. The Structure
[Q. What are the poetic devices used in Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird”?
Or, Q. Discuss the structure and poetic devices used in the poem ‘Caged Bird’.]
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is a free verse written by the American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou is widely regarded as the “Black Woman’s Poet Laureate.” Her reflections on the society and the times she lived in are vividly expressed in her poetry.
Outwardly the poem “I know why the caged bird sings” or “Caged Bird” as it is often interchangeably known, can be seen as a reflection on social disparity, and the ideals of freedom and justice. Angelou, with the metaphor of birds, represents the inequality of justice seen in the society of her time which differentiates between the African-American community and its White American counterpart. Through her poem, she also illustrates the nature of both freedom and captivity by creating a stark contrast between the two using birds as the metaphor.
The poem is divided into six stanzas, describing the state of two birds, where one is free and ‘floats’ and ‘dares to claim the sky’, while the other is caged in his ‘bar of rage. The first and the third stanza shows the delight of the free bird experiencing freedom, whereas the rest of the stanzas concentrate on the plight of the caged bird. Angelou puts greater emphasis on the lamentable state of the caged bird, and contrasts this with that of the free bird.
Maya Angelou has used various literary devices to enhance the intended impacts of her poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.
Alliteration: This poem is rich with alliterations and its examples can be seen in the repetition of /s/ sound in “seldom see through” and then /w/ sound in “worms waiting” and then again /sh/ sound in “shadows shouts.”
Assonance: The poem has a couple of assonances, for example, /i/ sounds in ‘distant hills’ and ‘sings with fearful hills’.
Consonance: In the lines “But a bird that stalks down” /b/ sounds have been repeated and in the same way, /d/ sound is repeated in “trade winds.”
Imagery: As imagery pertains to five senses, this poem is full of different images. “free bird” and “back of wind” images for sight and feelings. Similarly, there are some images such as “orange sun rays” is for sight, and “throat to sing” is for hearing.
Metaphors: There are two major metaphors. The first metaphor is of the free bird that is for the white Americans or free people, while the caged bird is the metaphor of African Americans and their captivity in the social norms.
Personification: Maya Angelou has used personification such as “sighing trees” as if trees are feeling sorrow. Also, she has personified the bird by changing its pronoun from ‘its’ to ‘his’.
Symbol: Maya Angelou has used different symbols to show racial discrimination and social construction against her community. The caged bird is a symbol of imprisonment, while his song is a symbol of freedom.
Although most of the poetic devices are part of literary devices, yet some devices are only used in poems. The analysis of some of the major poetic devices used in this poem is given here.
End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make a stanza melodious such as in the first and second line the third stanza the rhyming words are “trill”, “still” and “shrill”.
Internal Rhyme: The internal rhyme is rhymed within a line such as in the line “waiting on a dawn bright lawn” two words “dawn” and “lawn” rhyme with each other.
Repetition: The poetic, as well as the rhetorical device of repetition, emphasizes a point through repetition such as “A free bird thinks” and “The caged bird sings” which have been repeated in the poem several times.
Stanza: The poet has used stanzas with a different number of lines with no regular rhyme scheme.
Although the poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has no definitive rhyme scheme, it creates the illusion of rhyme with the clever use of consonance. The enjambment in the poem draws the reader’s eye to things of importance in a blunt manner.
In Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, she uses literary elements, imagery, alliteration, and rhyme to give this poem a ballad tone. In the first stanza the speaker describes the life of a “free” bird, and how it is able to roam the skies without concern of being trapped, it has the freedom of variety. This stanza may represent what the speaker desires, but cannot attain. The second and third stanzas go on to talk about how the bird that is caught in a cage is held against its will, and is contemptuous because of it.
However, the bird still has hope of knowing the unknown, but is fearful of it. His singing is not hindered by the fact that he is fenced in. The fourth stanza goes back to the free bird, and how he does not have to concern himself with the problems that being held captive brings. He simply lives his life without thinking anything of it. By this point in the poem, an undertone of jealousy is apparent. The last two stanzas go back to talking about the caged bird, and the bird continues to sing, even though it has a lot of other things to be negative about. I think this poem is almost therapeutic, and goes through the stages of grief. In the first stanza the free bird is introduced and is happy. When the caged bird is introduced, he seems angry, “But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage”. This may mean that he is new to this cage and is not used to the new environment, and therefore “stalks” through the cage. He sees the cage bars as being the only thing holding him back from freedom, so he is resentful towards them.
The third stanza could be seen as bargaining. The speaker talks about how the bird is unable to fly, and his feet are tied, so maybe if he sings of freedom, then he will be set free. In the fifth stanza the speaker sounds depressed about the caged
bird’s situation when he/she says, “But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream” in lines 26 and 27.
Finally, in the last stanza the caged bird seems to accept his life in the cage, but still yearns to be let free again. Imagery is seen throughout the poem, especially in the first stanza when the speaker describes the free bird flying. In line 27, the speaker uses alliteration to give this stanza a very sing-song appeal, even though it is gloomy as it describes the caged bird, “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream”.
The rhyme scheme is scattered throughout the poem, like in stanzas one, two, three, and four there is not a pattern with rhyming. In stanzas four and five the pattern is “aabc”, then in stanza six it is “abcbdbef”. I think that this poem symbolizes a person that wants to do something different in life. However, they feel stuck in their current situation and are trying to work through it to someday be free. Maya Angelou is known for being a very strong and independent woman that fought to have her voice heard after being raped, so this poem may describe her fight to be noticed.
4. The Free Bird and the Caged Bird
[Q. Who is referred to as a free bird in the poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou? Why?
Or, Q. How does the poet describe the world of nature? Or, Q. How does Angelou describe the bird and its flight? Or, Q. What were the two scenes seen by the caged bird?]
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a very famous poem by 20th century poet Maya Angelou, which discusses the differences in behavior and mentality between a free bird and a bird that is confined in a cage. The poem uses several different literary devices including personification, rhyme, and meter, but by far the most important device in the poem is symbolism. Every object in the poem is a symbol for something, and the symbols are what give the poem its meaning and its message.
The most common interpretation of the poem is a social commentary on the distinct differences between socioeconomic classes in our culture, which is inspired by the civil unrest, injustice, and uprisings that Angelou experienced during her lifetime. This paper aims to explain how the literary devices used in the poem assist Angelou in delivering her message in effective ways. The first devices to look at are the structural ones: rhyme, meter, stanzas, length, etc.
The rhyming and the stanzas synergize quite well to draw the reader’s attention back to the main focus of the poem, and they do this because there is only one stanza that repeats, and that stanza has more rhymes than any of the other stanzas. There are five rhyming lines in this stanza, “with fearful trill/ but longed for still/ on the distant hill/ and his tune is heard/ for the caged bird,” versus only two or zero rhyming lines in any of the other stanzas, “cage/rage, breeze/trees, dreams/scream.” This rhyme scheme, combined with the fact that it is the only repeating stanza, very
effectively causes the stanza to stand out and reinforce its ideas.
The meter in the poem produces an almost musical effect when reading the poem aloud, which further increases its ability to penetrate the reader’s mind. Overall, the structure of the poem does not contribute very much to the actual message, but it does help attract the reader’s attention and divert it to where it is most important. The actual meaning of the poem is contained in the symbols within, the two birds and their actions.
The free bird symbolizes a free human with a high quality lifestyle. When the free bird “leaps on the back of the wind,” it indicates the tendency of people with good lives to often take huge risks eagerly, because leaping on the back of the wind will probably cause you to fall, but there is always the chance that it will make you fly. Next, the free bird “floats downstream till the current ends,” showing that people will take advantage of nature, letting it carry them, until nature’s power is all used up and they are stuck in the middle of the stream. When the free bird “dares to claim the sky,” and “names the sky his own,” it is an indicator of people thinking they own everything and that the whole world must bend to their will.
The free bird thinking of another breeze,” represents that people who have things always want more, and are never fully satisfied. This goes hand in hand with the free bird thinking of “trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn,” to show that even though wealthy people are often unsatisfied, they have choices and therefore have more freedom to be picky.
The overall theme of the free bird is dissatisfaction and arrogance. The caged bird represents a human who is oppressed and suffering, without the ability to do anything about it. That the caged bird “can seldom see through his bars of rage,” indicates the oppressor’s ability to shut in the oppressed from what is outside the oppression. When the caged bird “stands on the grave of dreams,” it is implied that any hopes and dreams the oppressed might have had have been lost, buried under the hopelessness of their situation.
However, when the caged bird “opens his throat to sing,” because “his wings are clipped and his feet are tied,” it shows that despite all of the things that have happened to someone, even if their dreams are crushed and they are physically unable to do anything, they will always have their inner voice, their own personality and own self. When “the caged bird sings with fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still,” it really shows how much the oppressed are suffering, because even though they don’t know what they are singing about, it must be better than the current situation that they are in, because nothing could be as bad as that. “His tune is heard on the distant hill,” shows that people who live in nowhere near alike conditions or places can hear the plight of those suffering if they “sing of freedom,” because freedom is one of the most powerful motivators in all of human history.
The caged bird’s theme is pain and helplessness, but still with a little spark of
hope that there will someday be a chance of freedom. Although it is clear that the two birds symbolize two people in vastly different situations, it is not clear what groups they specifically belong to; the free and caged birds could represent anything from abusive relationships (romantic or familial) to two sides of a single person.
Angelou, having been a black woman during the 1960’s civil rights movements, most likely wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a description of institutionalized racism in the United States, but there are still other interpretations. Any form of legal segregation or persecution, regardless of on what grounds, as well as someone having a mental illness such as bipolar disorder having distinct different states of interaction with the world, could be represented by the two birds.
In the end, though, the message of relative status affecting our behaviors and minds still holds through all of the possible interpretations. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a poem with a very powerful, very important message that can be applied to a vast array of different situations. It was inspired by times of hardship, and it explains some of the human interactions that come about as a result of social hierarchies.
The poem has an effectively captivating structure, the symbols are complex enough to carry a lot of meaning but still simple enough for anyone to understand, and there are multiple possible interpretations of it. All of these factors come together to make a great poem that will continue to be one of the most well-known poems out there for years come.
5. The Speaker and the Subject of ‘Caged Bird’ [Q. Who is the speaker and what is the subject of the poem “Caged Bird”?
Or, Q. Who is the singer? What song is he singing? Why?]
“Caged Bird” is a narrative poem written in the third person by an unnamed narrator. It has thirty-eight lines that are divided into six stanzas. There is no structured meter or rhyme scheme. Meter is the rhythm of the poem, which is created with stressed and unstressed syllables. Angelou does implement poetic devices such as rhyme and repetition to draw the readers’ attention.
The poem tells the story of two different birds, juxtaposing them and thus encouraging readers to compare the experiences of each one against the other. Lines 1 through 7 make up the first stanza. There is no punctuation until the period in line 7. This use of enjambment, which occurs when a sentence or idea continues from one line to the next without any pause or break from punctuation, shows that the stanza is a single thought. The stanza describes the actions of a wild bird, without any restrictions.
This bird is symbolic of people with few limitations placed on them by society, such as white Americans compared with minorities. In lines 1-4, the bird freely rides
the air currents. Lines 5 and 6 reveal that he is in the light of day, and line 7 states that he makes the skies his domain. Line 3 and line 5 have slant rhyme or assonance rhyme in which the vowel sound in the last syllable of line 3 rhymes with the vowel sound at the end of line 5. The slant rhyme connects the bird’s flight with the sunlight.
Stanza 2 also consists of seven lines. Again, Angelou uses enjambment and ends the stanza with a period. The second stanza shifts to the description of a trapped bird, which is a symbol for those who are constrained and limited by society, such as members of minorities. In line 8 and line 9, the bird paces in a small birdcage. Lines 10 and 11 explain that he is not able to see clearly outside a prison that is both physical and emotional. He is trapped by anger as well as his circumstances.
The last words of line 9 and line 11 rhyme, to link the bird’s captivity with its emotion. The alliteration in line 10 gives a hissing sound that echoes the feelings of wrath. Lines 12 and 13 show the other ways in which he is chained. The first words of lines 11 through 13 are a form of anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. The third-person pronoun is possessive, but what the bird has are limitations on freedom and choices. Line 14 tells the reader the bird’s response to his circumstances, which is a song.
The narrator describes the song in stanza 3. Line 14 and line 15 end with variations of the same word, which connects them even though they are part of different stanzas. The third stanza also uses enjambment, waiting to place a period at the end of the stanza, at line 22. In line 16, the bird’s song is sung in fear, indicating that the tune may not be welcome. Line 17 and line 18 explain that the song is filled with longing and desire for something that the singer has never experienced. People hear the song far away in lines 19 and 20, and it resonates in nature, where the wild birds live. Lines 21 and 22 explain that people listen to the song the unhappy bird sings because he sings about liberty. Lines 16, 18, and 20 rhyme, and line 19 and 21 also rhyme. The repeated rhyme imparts a songlike quality to the stanza, giving the readers a hint of a singing bird.
Stanza 4, consisting of just four lines, returns to the wild bird. Again the poet implements enjambment by waiting until the end of the stanza to place the punctuation. In line 23, the bird considers riding on another gust of wind. Line 24 uses personification to describe the sound of the breeze through the tree branches. These lines rhyme, drawing them together. Line 25 continues the thoughts of the bird. He contemplates what he will eat, which he will easily be able to access.
The description of the food is a metaphor for wealth and privilege. He eats in the open on the grass and under the morning sky. Line 25 has an internal rhyme in the final two words as well as alliteration in the repeated aw sound. Line 26 ends the stanza by repeating that the bird has claimed the skies, which refers back to line
7 of the first stanza. The first words of lines 24 through 26 are another example of anaphora, connecting the different expectations that the bird has for his future.
Stanza 5, also made up of four lines, returns to the song of the trapped bird. Enjambment occurs again, and a period closes the stanza in line 30. The wild bird is free on the grass, but the trapped bird remains in a place of buried dreams, specifically the loss of his hope for freedom. In line 28, the darkness and despair become greater, as the bird’s own silhouette begins to shout like something from a terrible dream. There is alliteration in the sh sound of the second and third words in the line. Lines 29 and 30 repeat lines 12 through 14 in the second stanza, portraying the circumstances beyond the bird’s control and introducing the song that he shares. Anaphora appears in line 28 and line 29, which once more shows the readers the horror that belongs to the bird.
Stanza 6 is a repetition of stanza 3. The narrator ends the poem with the bird’s song. The readers are left with a reminder of the feelings of the oppressed bird as well as his desires. The poem ends on a hopeful note as the bird sings about liberty.
[Q. What are examples of imagery in the poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou?
Or, Q. Who and what does the free bird symbolize? Or, Q. Explain what is meant by the metaphor “a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.”
Or, Q. How does Maya Angelou portray the image of nature in the poem “Caged Bird”?]
“I know why the caged bird sings”, inspired by Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy”, is an autobiography by Marguerite Annie Johnson, popularly known as Maya Angelou. In this poem, the poet presents a series of contrast between the free bird and the caged bird which is metaphorically used to heighten the differences between the Whites and the African-American during the apartheid. This poem highlights the grievances of the poet against a cruel racist society. Being a victim of discrimination and social and gender marginalization herself, Maya could aptly bring into limelight the pathetic condition of those who live an enslaved life under constant control and restriction, through the image of the caged bird.
The theme of freedom and oppression is predominant in the poem. The I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings poem is divided into six stanzas out of which the sixth stanza is the repetition of the third stanza. Perhaps, the poet allowed unrestricted flow in the sentences to intensify the need for freedom in life. The freedom and joy experienced by a bird in its natural and unconfined habitat is best expressed in the first stanza as the poet beautifully describes how- “The free bird leaps / on the back of the wind / and floats downstream / till the current ends / and dips his wings /
in the orange sun rays / and dares to claim the sky.”
The free bird happily flies from place to another in the sky that seems to belong to it. The free bird owns the entire sky and freely moves with the wind. The joyful condition of the free bird is immediately contrasted to the confined state in which the caged bird lives. His freedom is forcibly taken away from him as his “wings are dipped and feet are tied”. He is denied the freedom of movement. The only source of freedom he finds is in his voice which he uses to sing songs for freedom.
The caged bird lives a sad and miserable life just like the African-Americans who were subjected to inhuman cruelty and tyranny. The rage and helplessness of those people who had to face racial discrimination are well expressed through the pathetic condition of the caged bird whose voice is full of fear and distress. Just like the African-Americans desperately longed for freedom from the shackled existence, the caged bird too longs for freedom in his songs, hoping that someday his wishes will be heard.
The free bird already has so much freedom but still selfishly desires for more. Whereas, the caged bird lives a life of agony and sorrow knowing perfectly that the cage has become “the grave of dreams” for him. The physical pain of living in a limited space and the mental agony of being denied the right to freedom draws our attention to the deplorable system of racial segregation back in the civil rights era.
The bird’s struggle for freedom is equated with the African-American struggles for justice and equality. The sluggish struggle and the upsetting condition of the caged bird are associated with words like “narrow cage”, “fearful trills”, “bars of a cage”, “grave of dreams” and so on. The poem, however, ends on a positive note affirming that no matter what the caged bird shall continue to sing for freedom and hope for a better tomorrow.
Apart from the reference to the wretched situation of the African-Americans in general, this poem can be seen as an autobiography of Maya Angelou herself. She is, metaphorically, the caged bird subjected to oppression and injustice. She had to face quite a lot of discrimination and assault at a very early age. At the age of seven, she was subjected to such a terrifying assault that she could not speak for five years.
Her condition was similar to the caged bird that was confined but refused to give up. The image of the caged bird opening his throat to sing can be seen as a reference to Maya’s determination to free her from the fetters of injustice by writing for freedom. Just like the caged bird sang for freedom, Maya wrote poems and autobiographies asking for freedom and equal treatment.
7. Racism and Classicism in ‘Caged Bird Sings’
[Q. What elements of racism and classism can you find in the poem ‘Caged Bird’ by Maya Angelou? Discuss. Or, Q. Evaluate Maya Angelou’s ‘Caged Bird’ as a poem of racism.]
Racism. Sexism. Classism – all of these traits are what seem to cage Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography of Angelou’s young life. When thinking of a caged bird, what might one see? I imagine a beautiful creature stuck and deprived of freedom. Maya relates to the bird, feeling pinned to society’s standards. She is no ordinary girl, though, Maya faces many adversities which lead her to learn acceptance, forgiveness, love, and, most importantly, find her identity.
As an African-American female in the deep south, feeling oppressed and facing persecution at every turn is inescapable. Maya wishes she was of the white race so greatly she convinces herself that she was meant to be white, but was cursed as a young child for her beauty. “I was really white and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space in between her teeth that would hold a pencil.”
Maya cannot simply love herself for who she was meant to be. Is Maya really to blame for wanting to be a different race during her time? Maybe what she was longing for was equality but could not express it at such a young age without using her imagination to justify her feelings. As a child it is difficult to understand why events appear the way they do. Childhood is like trying to look through a cloudy pond, so many things catch our attention it is difficult to find and focus on the full picture underneath. Growing up and hearing stories how neighbors are hung and lynched for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or being the wrong color greatly affected Maya. As a gullible child she believes that the black race is inferior and dirty. She idolizes the “white folk” with their fancy cars and new clothes.
Eventually Maya is able to break through her self loathing and see her beauty. It takes Maya time to grow older and understand that the world isn’t fair. She learns that even though she is a female and black she is a good person and can succeed just as much as the opposing race. Even though she is jealous of her older brother for his gender, “When I was described by our playmates as being shit color, he was lauded for his velvet-black skin. His hair fell down in black curls, and my head was covered with black steel wool. And yet he loved me.”
Maya leans on Bailey for guidance and protection. He is familiar with the unfamiliar world, but how long can Maya rely on him for safety and comfort? She eventually is forced to leave him for a month when Maya and her Grandmother leave for California. Due to previous trauma in California, Maya fears her return to the big city. Even though Maya is surrounded by family, she remains distant and isolated from those around her emotionally. Once again, we see Maya without confidence and living with her heart on her sleeve.
Books are Maya’s outlet, she understands her studies and wants to learn new things. Throwing herself into education where Maya succeeds, she notices her
confidence rising with every accomplishment. In trying so hard to do well in education, Maya becomes smarter without doubt, but she also is becoming more independent and understands how to cope with the feelings of being companionless. “After a month my thinking processes had so changed that I was hardly recognizable to myself. The unquestioning acceptance by my peers had dislodged the familiar insecurity.”
Tribulations are the main root in aiding to metamorphose Maya Angelou into the strong woman she later becomes. She transforms into her beauty even with fear of abnormality is engraved in the mind but is manipulated with grace to ease her trepidation. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, accurately represents the feelings of Maya Angelou throughout her life where the traumatic experiences lead a journey to an insightful and accepting after life. “The caged bird sings with a fearful trill, and his tune is heard on the distant hill, for the caged bird sings of freedom.” Maybe the caged bird sings a song of a secret kept inside from the oppressing reality. Perhaps the bird is joyful because it knows something others do not. “There is no greater good than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya confronts the insidious effects of racism and segregation in America at a very young age. She internalizes the idea that blond hair is beautiful and that she is a fat black girl trapped in a nightmare. Stamps, Arkansas, is so thoroughly segregated that as a child Maya does not quite believe that white people exist. As Maya gets older, she is confronted by more overt and personal incidents of racism, such as a white speaker’s condescending address at her eighth-grade graduation, her white boss’s insistence on calling her Mary, and a white dentist’s refusal to treat her.
The importance of Joe Louis’s world championship boxing match to the black community reveals the dearth of publicly recognized African American heroes. It also demonstrates the desperate nature of the black community’s hope for vindication through the athletic triumph of one man. These unjust social realities confine and demean Maya and her relatives. She comes to learn how the pressures of living in a thoroughly racist society have profoundly shaped the character of her family members, and she strives to surmount them.
Maya is shuttled around to seven different homes between the ages of three and sixteen: from California to Stamps to St. Louis to Stamps to Los Angeles to Oakland to San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Francisco. As expressed in the poem she tries to recite on Easter, the statement “I didn’t come to stay” becomes her shield against the cold reality of her rootlessness. Besieged by the “tripartite crossfire” of racism, sexism, and power, young Maya is belittled and degraded at every turn, making her unable to put down her shield and feel comfortable staying in one place. When she is thirteen and moves to San Francisco with her mother, Bailey, and Daddy Clidell, she feels that she belongs somewhere for the first time.
Maya identifies with the city as a town full of displaced people. Maya’s personal
displacement echoes the larger societal forces that displaced blacks all across the country. She realizes that thousands of other terrified black children made the same journey as she and Bailey, traveling on their own to newly affluent parents in northern cities, or back to southern towns when the North failed to supply the economic prosperity it had promised. African Americans descended from slaves who were displaced from their homes and homelands in Africa, and following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, blacks continued to struggle to find their place in a country still hostile to their heritage.
Black peoples’ resistance to racism takes many forms in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Momma maintains her dignity by seeing things realistically and keeping to herself. Big Bailey buys flashy clothes and drives a fancy car to proclaim his worth and runs around with women to assert his masculinity in the face of dehumanizing and emasculating racism. Daddy Clidell’s friends learn to use white peoples’ prejudice against them in elaborate and lucrative cons. Vivian’s family cultivates toughness and establishes connections to underground forces that deter any harassment.
Maya first experiments with resistance when she breaks her white employer’s heirloom china. Her bravest act of defiance happens when she becomes the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Blacks also used the church as a venue of subversive resistance. At the revival, the preacher gives a thinly veiled sermon criticizing whites’ charity, and the community revels in the idea of white people burning in hell for their actions.
8.Q. What is the poem “Caged Bird” based on? Or, Q. Give a critical analysis of the poem ‘Caged Bird’ of Maya Angelou.]
Maya Angelou was a Black American poet and Civil rights activist born in the late 1920s. She was respected as a spokesperson for black people in general and women in particular, and her works have been considered as a defence of America’s black culture. The Birds are a popular symbol in poetry, which were used as an expression of freedom by the Romantics and sometimes symbolized poetry itself. Maya Angelou deviates from the norm by not only speaking about the bird’s freedom but also conveying its sorrow and rage.
The caged bird is a symbol of the plight of Black American people. Its song is a reference to how slaves in the 19th century came together at Congo Square to sing as a way of remembering their heritage. The bars of rage on the caged bird’s cage is supposed to represent the bird’s blinding anger at being locked up.
The free bird is the polar opposite of its caged counterpart and serves to highlight everything the caged bird lacks. The free bird has the freedom to do what a person would believe birds enjoy. The free bird is able to do whatever it pleases, which is in sharp contrast to the caged bird which can only ever hope for freedom.
In the first stanza, Maya Angelou presents the free bird. The strong verbs used are supposed to convey how static the free bird is, and how it never seems to stay in one place. The free bird claims the sky as its own for it never had anything else to share it with. Maya Angelou uses the two narratives to create a jarring contrast. The condition of the cage bird seems even more distressing next to the joy and happiness of the free bird’s life.
The second stanza changes the atmosphere completely. Its main focus is on the caged bird and its pain as being confined. The cage’s narrow form shows how limiting its confines are as opposed to the openness of the free bird’s sky. The bars of rage refers to how due to its anger and pain, the caged bird can barely see past its sorrow. The clipped wings and bound feet are supposed to show how it’s freedom was taken away from it. The line where the bird opens his mouth to sing is a turning point in the stanza as it is the only thing that the bird can do willingly. The change to the dark mood of the cage bird’s narrative is made all the move jarring by the considerably lighter mood of the first stanza.
The third stanza goes deeper into the caged bird’s song. The bird sings with fear and apprehension for it doesn’t wish to live the rest of its life in such a confined manner. The next two lines of things unknown and longed for still is a paradox, for someone cannot long for something they do not know. Here, Angelou is referring to the way someone who was captive all his life would yearn for freedom. It states that it is an innate emotion to have control over one’s self even if the person in question has never had the chance to feel that way. The caged bird’s song reaching far enough to the distant hill is a metaphor for how calls of justice are always heard, but not always reciprocated.
In the fourth stanza, the free bird thinks of things that the caged bird has never experienced and has had the privilege to enjoy them. The fat worms mentioned could be seen as a kind of privilege along with the dawn bright lawn because they seem there just to serve the free bird’s desires. By naming the sky his own, the free bird states that there is no other being that is obliged to share it with. This aligns with the preconceived notion that some groups of people are born with rights over others.
In the fifth stanza, the tone shifts yet again from the free bird’s bright imagery to the chilling narrative of the caged bird. The grave of dreams refers to all the hopes the caged bird might have had at an earlier age than now seems irrelevant or impossible at its current stage. The caged bird’s shadow is a personification of his powerlessness. The nightmare problem refers to a small part of the caged bird that fears it will never be released. The caged bird continues to sing despite its wavering resilience, showing that it’s beliefs that life will get better and will continue to persist.
The final stanza is a repeat of the third, which delves into the bird’s song. The bird cries out about freedom, but it’s never stated if its cries are ever heard by its free-flying twin.
In many ways the poem ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ can be considered as the poet’s personal expression. Maya Angelou can be regarded as the caged bird in the poem. A stanza in the poem is repeated to catch the attention to the idea of the caged bird singing for freedom. The poem uses a metaphor to compare caged birds to African Americans fighting for equality during the civil rights movement.
Angelou employs repetition throughout “Caged Bird.” According to William Harmon’s A Handbook to Literature, repetition is the “reiteration of a word, sound, phrase, or idea.” Stanza 3 and stanza 6 are the perfect example of repetition, because they are identical and reiterate the main idea of the trapped bird’s song. The last lines of stanza 2 and stanza 5 are also repetitive. They show that the bird responds to its circumstances by singing, and they introduce the description of the song in stanza 3 and stanza 6.
According to M. H. Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms, “The term ‘symbol’ is applied only to a word or phrase that signifies an object or event.” The two birds are symbols. The confined bird symbolizes those who are oppressed; birds that cannot fly are the people prohibited from meeting their potential. The wild bird symbolizes those who are free to determine their future without any limitations. Without constraints, the bird fails to appreciate life and takes ownership of the world for granted in lines 7 and 26. Like the bird, people who never experience social oppression do not understand how liberated they truly are.
“Juxtaposition is a literary technique in which two or more ideas, places, characters and their actions are placed side by side in a narrative or a poem for the purpose of developing comparisons and contrasts,” according to Literary Devices. The lives of the two birds are portrayed in separate stanzas so that the readers can understand the different life experiences that shape their views of the world. The wild bird is oblivious to the sufferings of his trapped peer, focusing on his gains and plans for the future. The trapped bird experiences the unhappiness of oppression.
1. How does Maya Angelou portray white supremacy in the poem Caged Bird?
The poem is written by a powerful and daring feminist writer of Afro-American community. She was a well known poet and Civil Rights Activist who voiced the grievances of the black people suffering racial discrimination in the U.S.A. She was just 17 years of age when she wrote the poem. This piece of writing gained popularity and she soon became a leading, prominent female figure for the black ones. The poem is beautifully presented using the metaphor of birds. The free bird is the
symbol of the white people while, on the other hand, the caged bird depicts the black ones. This poem is successful in bringing out the sufferings of the black who suffer (suffering) without any cause. “His wings are clipped and his feet are tied” portrays the deep suffering of the tribals. She says that the birds were in a narrow cage and then too, their feet were tied and wings were clipped. This means that the tribals were just deprived of their rights. They were not treated as humans. Focusing on the white people, the poet says, “(They) dares to claim the sky. It means that they had limitless freedom. Thus the poet is completely successful in portraying the White supremacy.
2. What are the major themes in the poem?
There are two major themes in the poem. The first major theme is given in the first stanza which is freedom. It is given through the image of a free bird that goes wherever it wants, ranging from enjoyment on stream to soaring in the wind. The second theme is captivity that cripples the bird in the cage. This theme goes on in the third stanza and tries to state that the caged bird is forced to sing a song of freedom. Then the free bird again comes into view in the fourth stanza and enjoys life on trade winds, trees and in the width and breadth of the sky. Next stanzas describe the caged bird’s fear while it is trying to sing a tune for its freedom during its bondage.
3. Explain :
The free bird leaps on the back of the wind
in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky.
Maya Angelou refers to nature. She describes the way “a free bird leaps on the back of the wind”. She describes the bird’s flight against the orange sky. The free bird has the right “to claim the sky”. The way she describes the “orange sun rays” gives the reader an appreciation for the natural beauty of the sky, and her description of the way the bird “dips his wing” helps the reader to appreciate the bird in his natural habitat, enjoying his freedom.
The opening lines show a bird leaping ‘on the back of the wind’ demonstrating the freedom it experience to move about and glide freely through the air. It hovers over a stream of wind and floats downwards to where the current of the stream ends and the wind is calm. It dips its wing in the sea of orange sunlight. The bird is shown in a state of great tranquility. It has the freedom to move about wherever it desires. It is so utterly free and without restraints that it ‘dares to claim the sky’. The whole firmament is his one big home.
4. What is the difference between a free bird and a caged bird? Maya Angelou’s poem ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ describes the state
of two birds, where one is free and ‘floats’ and ‘dares to claim the sky’, while the other is caged in his ‘bars of rage. The first and the fourth stanzas show the delight of the free bird experiencing freedom, whereas the rest of the stanzas concentrate on the plight of the caged bird. Angelou puts greater emphasis on the lamentable state of the caged bird, and contrasts this with that of the free bird. As the poet depicts in the poem, the free bird floats on the back of the wind, dips his wings in the orange sun rays and claims the sky as his own. He thinks of another breeze through the trees and dreams of good eatables like fat worms waiting on a bright lawn. He lives in a colourful, bright and dreamy world. On the other hand, the caged bird walks sadly inside his narrow cage and tries hard to see through the bars of his cage. His wings are clipped and feet are tied. He lets out his ‘nightmare scream’ to express his agony, anger and fear. Sometimes, the caged bird opens his throat to sing. He sings of freedom and hope.
5. What type of racial discrimination is portrayed in the poem?
Maya Angelou has presented two birds. One is caged, and the other is free. The caged bird represents African Americans and their sorrowful plight compared to the white Americans. She says that the free bird has the freedom to move anywhere in the world, while the caged bird is in captivity, full of pain and rage. African Americans did not have the freedom to move and enjoy life as white people before the Civil Rights Movement. The freedom of the free bird and the alienation and captivity of the caged bird have been compared and contrasted about both the communities, and the positive points of freedom have been highlighted.
6. Explain :
But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
for the caged bird sings of freedom
Here, poet Maya Angelou contrasts the situation by presenting the image of a caged bird. The caged bird tries to go after his cage in vain. The cage is narrow and its metaphorical bars are of rage. The caged bird is seen to be angry with its situation. It desires with all its heart to escape its plight. But the caged bird cannot see beyond his cage. Its wings are clipped, that is, its freedom is taken away. Wings are associated with flight, which in turn is associated with freedom. The words ‘his wings are clipped’ mean that its freedom is forcibly taken away. It cannot fly even if it desires to. Its feet are tied.
A bird tied to the ground represents an image completely opposite to its true nature of flight. This represents the fact of alienation of the bird. But the most important thing is that despite being in this utterly despondent predicament, the caged bird ‘opens his throat to sing.’ That seems to be his only joy and achievement
in life. The caged bird has a wavering voice. He is singing of freedom, something he does not have. The idea of freedom is his dream, one he cannot achieve. So, he sings about it. There is fear in his voice. He had never known what freedom tastes like, but hopes to have it for his own. His voice can be heard from distant places, on hills where it inspires others to dream of freedom. The caged bird doesn’t sing of sadness, but of hope, inspiration and of freedom.
This stanza Caged Bird is in stark contrast with the first. By using the word “but” to begin this stanza, the speaker prepares the reader for this contrast. Then she describes the “bird that stalks his narrow cage”. The tone is immediately and drastically changed from peaceful, satisfied, and joyful to one that is dark, unnerving, and even frustrating. She describes that this caged first “can seldom see through his bars of rage”. While the free bird gets to enjoy the full sky, the caged bird rarely even gets a glimpse of the sky. She claims that “his wings are clipped and his feet are tied”. Text from her autobiography reveals that Angelou often felt this way in life. She felt restricted from enjoying the freedom that should have been her right as a human being. The speaker then reveals that these are the very reasons that the bird “opens his throat to sing”.
The author felt this way in her own life. She wrote and sang and danced because it was her way of expressing her longing for freedom. The third stanza reverts back to the free bird, further cementing the difference between the free bird and the caged bird in the minds of the readers. She writes that a “free bird thinks of another breeze” that he can enjoy the “sighing trees” and be free to find his own food. The tone with which she writes the first and third stanzas so sharply contrasts with the second stanza, that readers can feel the difference. The first and third stanzas give the reader a sense of ecstasy and thrill, which serve to make the second stanza seem all the more droll and even oppressive.
7. How does the caged bird behave in the poem? What does the narrator tell about it?
The poem ‘Caged Bird’ is from her collection ‘Shaker, why don’t you sing’ published in 1983. The ’80s is the most productive decade in Maya Angelou’s life when alongside her role as a civil rights activist, she also wrote profusely. This poem, just like her many other poems, operates on different levels but in an easy manner of a popular song. Angelou wrote many times for Roberta Flack and other Blues musicians. Writing for music gave her a way to express deep pains in a melodious tune. In this poem, one can see how it is supposed to be loudly recited more than being read simply.
Maya Angelou was a singer and a dancer in her own way. ‘Caged Bird’ refers to her autobiography through metaphors. The title of this poem uses the traditional image of a bird but here it is caged. Throughout the poem, the stanzas alternate
between the life of a free bird and a caged bird to give us a poignant understanding of life without freedom. The poem begins with the description of a free bird who can do whatever he uses to in the air because her wings are not clipped and his feet are not tied. A caged bird, on the other hand, is imbued in the anger and humiliation of his narrow cage and can never see through it. This position is given to him by someone else, the one who oppresses him to the lowest level.
The caged bird in the poem sings fearfully but sings nevertheless. A Black person is assaulted in his tender years by all those common forces of nature which are subverted by the Whites and their illogical hate. A caged bird has never tasted freedom so most of the things are unknown to him but what he has is his own inner self. In her autobiography, Angelou writes that “if growing up is painful for a caged bird then being aware of her displacement is the rust of the razor that threatens the throat.” So, he finally sings.
The poem ‘Caged Bird’ emphasizes again and again upon the fact that the song of the caged bird is heard in distant hills too. Even if a person is standing upon the grave of his own dreams, the melodies must be sung and heard across the world, it gives us the strength to overcome every trial of life and one rises victorious. ‘Caged Bird’ is one of many reminders by Maya Angelou of the resilience of the human spirit. 8. The caged bird reflects the status of women in the society. Do you agree?
The usual association that the story of the caged bird brings to the mind is that of the status of the women in our patriarchal society where women are not allowed to do certain things and are always told that they should remain within the household. From childhood, a girl is often made to learn that she should keep herself at check, should be obedient, learn to do household work, to see the world only from within the house and never dare to tread outside the house etc.. Aren’t their situations similar to that of a caged bird? The poet through the analogy of the caged bird is making us realise the pain of being not able to do what one wishes to do. It is not that women are the only ones who have the plight of being caged. Any marginal community shares the same plight as that of women. Maya Angelou through her depiction of the sad state of the caged bird is evoking the lives of people like them whether that of women in patriarchal society, whether that of blacks during the days of slavery, or that of untouchables in a caste-ridden society or that of colonized in a colonial set up.
9. Explain : The free bird thinks of another breeze and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
This wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.
The free bird on the other hand revels in his freedom. He enjoys flying through the trade wind that blows through the trees. ‘Sighing trees’ probably refers to the sighing sound made by the breeze while passing through the leafy branches. It gives an indication to their lack of freedom, as the trees are also ‘tied’ to the ground like the caged bird. The free bird thinks of the fat worm that will be his food. With the wind in his feathers, water and earth beneath him, and the whole sky with him, he feels majestic in his freedom and calls the entire sky his own domain. By `names the sky his own’ the poet’s wishes to express that the bird knows himself to be the proprietor of this whole universe. Here the sky stands for the universe.
The caged, inversely, knows that he is not flying in the sky, that he is not free, but a captive, a prisoner. He thus ‘stands on the grave of dreams’ He knows his dreams of flying in a free firmament, to experience freedom is futile. He had lost all hope of freedom. His shadow ‘shouts on a nightmare scream’. It is more pitiable, more adverse than a nightmare. His wings are clipped and feet are tied; there is only a little hope of freedom, and so the bird opens his throat to sing. The bird wishes to travel against all adversities. There is a faint but kindling voice of hope in his song. The fourth stanza of Caged Bird continues the parallel between the free bird and the caged bird. The first line serves to starkly contrast the last line in the third stanza. It is dark and daunting. The reality of the life of the caged bird is revealed in this line.
Mentioning of ‘fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn brings around a predatory/ prey juxtaposition too. It would be the worms that would be scared for their life, losing freedom as the birds feed upon such prey. However, with a bird entrapped by a cage, the worms are the ones that have the freedom, compared to the caged bird. That bird, “stands on the grave of dreams”. This reveals the author’s feelings about her own dreams. She has so many dreams that have died because she was never given the freedom to achieve all that her white counterparts were able to achieve. Discrimination and Racism made up her cage, and although she sang, she felt her voice was not heard in the wide world, but only by those nearest her cage. The second line of this stanza is not only dark but even frightening.
The speaker describes the bird’s cries as “shouts on a nightmare scream”. At this point, the caged bird is so despondent in his life of captivity that his screams are like that of someone having a nightmare. The author then repeats these lines: His wings are clipped and his feet are tied / So he opens his throat to sing. Reaffirming the idea that the bird opens his mouth to sing because his desire for freedom and his desire to express himself cannot be contained.
10. Discuss the theme of oppression in the poem.
The bird in the cage in Angelou’s poem is clearly symbolic of those who are oppressed. The narrator portrays the limitations of the bird’s subjugation in stanzas 2 and 3. The space provided is limited, and the bird prowls like an animal in a zoo in lines 8 and 9. Like the bird, society places limitations on the oppressed, making
it difficult for them to reach the same levels of success as easily as other people. The ability to overcome one barrier does not bring freedom, because there are often others blocking the way. The confinement alone is not sufficient for the bird’s oppressors. His ability to fly like a wild bird is taken away in line 12. The bird is barred from reaching the same heights as the bird in stanza 1 because his feathers are cut.
Additionally, he is tied to his cage in line 13, which keeps him under control should the feathers grow back without being detected. There are multiple layers of security ensuring that he will not be able to join the birds in the sky. The experiences of the bird without restraints show the life that the caged bird could have, but the chances of gaining freedom are slim in light of the limitations that exist. The bird without restrictions does not consider the plight of the trapped bird, because he is too caught up in his own life and plans. The song of the unhappy bird, however, can be heard beyond his cage, which indicates that the other birds simply do not pay attention. In the same way, it is easy to ignore the socially oppressed who are separated from others because of societal differences.
11.Give the meaning and significance of the lines “his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing”.
The above-quoted lines taken from Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird” speaks of the lack of liberty suffered by a caged bird. It indicates the distressed life of the African Americans in contrast to their White counterparts. The bird’s wings are clipped and feet are tied. It refers to the limitations put on him. But he doesn’t give up hope. He opens up his throat to sing. This song is actually a medium of protest as well as an expression of hope. This is the only way open to the caged bird and he utilizes it to communicate to others who are in similar condition. Angelou, thus, depicts the miserable life of the African American people when there was nothing left except the voice to sing of hope or to raise a voice against the ill-treatment they received.
12. Explain : The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.
This refrain recurring as a stanza justifies the bird’s stout determination to keep going after his dream of freedom. Moreover, the caged bird chooses to sing as this is the only freedom available to him, that he can enjoy without any restriction. His wings are clipped, feet are tied, but his throat is not checked yet. This is something the poet has felt at heart and that’s why she uses the title ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. This might be seen as the poet’s message to raise our voice, to express ourselves even though the stronger wants to suppress the weaker and to never ever
give up, no matter what situation we are in.
This last stanza focuses on the caged bird yet again. The author implies that even though the caged bird may have never experienced true freedom, deep down that bird still knows that it was created to be free. Although freedom, to the caged bird, is “fearful” because it is “unknown”, he still sings “a fearful trill” because he still longed for freedom. Here, the speaker reveals that his cry for freedom is “heard on the distant hill”. This parallels the author and her cry for freedom in the form of equality. She feels that her cries are heard, but only as soft background noise. She still feels that she is caged and that although she sings, her cries are heard only as a distant noise.
The last line states, “For the caged bird sings of freedom”. With this, the speaker implies that although the caged bird may never have experienced freedom, he still sings of it because he was created for freedom. This is paralleled to the African American struggle in Maya Angelou’s time. She feels that black Americans wrote and sang and danced and cried out for the freedom they deserved, but they were only heard as a distant voice. Yet, this would not stop them from crying out for freedom and equality because they knew they were made for freedom, and they would not relent until they were given their rights as human beings to enjoy the freedom they were created to enjoy.
13. What is the message of Maya Angelou’s poem, “Caged Bird?”
The caged bird represents the speaker’s sense of being trapped as the result of racism and oppression. The poem draws the comparison between the free bird and the caged bird to show what the kind of life the caged bird is meant to live. Though the caged bird is trapped, the poem shares a message of resilience, as the bird has not yet given up. The singing of the bird is the only act of agency he has left. There is a repetition of the lines “his feet are clipped and his wings are tied/ so he opens his throat to sing.” The connection of the singing to the physical restraint is linked by the word “so” to show cause and effect. Because of the physical condition of the bird, his only recourse is to sing. This singing is not the cheerful song we imagine when we think of birds chirping in springtime. The caged bird’s song comes from a place of fear and rage, as well as a longing to be free.
14. Explain: “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream”.
The caged bird’s ‘shadow’ gives a sense as if it is powerless or even dead (figuratively). The scream or cry is coming from its shadow instead of the bird itself. This is probably to mean that no one pays any heed to the desperate cry of the bird confined in the cage. ‘Nightmare scream’ is the shout of the caged bird who is having a frightening dream (nightmare) of never getting his freedom from his confinement. He has probably given up on his dreams of liberty. That is why the poet says that the bird ‘stands on the grave of dreams (His dreams are now dead!) / his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream. This is to create a contrast of the caged bird’s life
to that of the free bird who ‘names the sky his own’.
15. What is the tone and mood of the poem?
Maya Angelou’s simple yet serious tone in this poem is a reflection of the earnest struggle of the African-Americans in the 1950s. In the poem “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” Angelou focuses on making the tone a very important part of her poem. The atmosphere of this poem is very motivational; she wants people to realize the harm slaves had to face and how much they have suffered because of racism. By the atmosphere, the poem also reflects on how Angelou is willing to take action for her people who have no justice and no voice. Another very important factor is the tone and attitude that Maya Angelou uses in her poem. Her tone is calm and direct, the reader can clearly see that this poet has a very important message she wishes to portray, an example for this could be: “But a bird that stalks, down his narrow cage, can seldom see through, his bars of rage.” In this excerpt from the poem the language is simple, it also tells the reader how a caged bird sings for freedom and sees hope through it’s cage bars. Angelou is referring to the AfricanAmericans and how they felt when they were captured and treated horribly, but somehow those people saw hope in their future.
As the poem progresses, the tone doesn’t really change because in the last stanza she states: “The caged bird sings, with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still, and his tune is heard on the distant hill, for the caged bird sings of freedom.” Which is the same thing Angelou was staring at the beginning, that the bird still has hope to someday fly far, far away. Throughout the poem, Maya Angelou’s diction is very concrete, but she uses these words to express abstract meanings. Although Angelou’s words are very concrete, they are also vivid. The words used in this poem are used in everyday language, which is simple to understand, but when you analyze the poem you realize the deep meanings she is portraying. For example, in the fifth stanza Angelou writes:”But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams, his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream, his wings are clipped and his feet are tied, so he opens his throat to sing.” As you can see, Angelou uses concrete words that makes you as a reader think the poet is just talking about a bird that is trapped, but when you closely, notice how she is talking about how African-American slaves are trapped and living in a nightmare. When writing this poem, Angelou made an intelligent choice, repeating twice throughout the poem the stanzas that represent the real meaning behind this inspirational piece of writing.
Angelous tone in this poem seems to me, depressing, yet positive. She talks about how the caged bird sings of freedom, and I feel she is trying to express that maybe, the caged bird will be set free one day. The mood this poem sets is confusion. Angelou writes about a free bird and a caged bird, one is a daring bird (or person) and one is a bird that is kept captive, that cannot be free, yet still the caged bird sings of freedom.
16. Why are freedom and anger so important for the bird?
The desire for freedom is central to the poem “Caged Bird.” The wild bird already has his freedom, but he does not appreciate his circumstances. Still, the description of his life shows the joy of limitless travel in stanza 1. Additionally, he can enjoy the beauty of the world while taking advantage of the resources available in his surroundings. The description of the wild bird might be true, or it could be the fantasy of the trapped bird. The song of the unhappy bird appears in stanza 3 and stanza 6. Although he is restrained, he wants to be free. His longing to be free like the other birds is one that he is driven to express; it is an innate desire that overcomes the fear in line 16 and drives the song. The bird who has never experienced freedom understands what is stolen from him. He sees the world he cannot have from inside his cage and expresses his desire. The cry for freedom is one that carries far past his enclosure, “on the distant hill,” because all people want to be free. The repetition of this explanation in the last stanza reminds the readers that the desire for freedom is universal.
Anger is a natural reaction to the trapped bird’s miserable situation. He clearly suffers from his oppression in stanza 2 and stanza 5. He has been denied his liberty, and he is also forced to see the other bird fail to appreciate his freedom. His anger, however, does not help the bird find his heart’s desire. Rather, it ensnares him emotionally as well as physically. By embracing his anger, the bird allows his oppressors to control his emotions. Line 10 and line 11 explain that the bird’s worldview is limited because his small enclosure ensures that he sees only a limited portion of the earth. Line 11, however, points out that the cage is also made up of his own anger. Even if the bird were to escape the different methods of confinement listed in the remaining lines of the stanza, he would still need to find a way to remove the feelings of wrath blocking his way to the freedom that inspires his song.
17. How would you relate the caged bird in real life?
Maya Angelou’s poem ‘The Caged Bird’ has been an autobiographical portrayal of her extremely traumatic childhood. Written in 1969, it tells of her life up to the age of 17. The bird in the cage is a symbol of all African-Americans and their fight for freedom. It symbolizes the struggle of being a black author whose words are not heard, and of one who longs for freedom. In today’s world too, there are still many people who are the victims of political and social injustice. Still, in most societies, women are not allowed full freedom to pursue their dreams and wishes. People are still ill-treated based on their social class, colour, caste, religion or ethnicity. Those people who feel suppressed are hoping to get liberty someday like that caged bird. The bird in the poem represents their agony and pain of living under such circumstances.
18. What do you know about the historical context of the poem ‘Caged Bird?
The American economy in the 1980s saw many ups and downs. “In January
1980 the U.S. economy entered a recession that, at the time, was the most significant since the Great Depression,” according to Slaying the Dragon of Debt. Another decline occurred in 1982. President Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 with the promise of fixing the economy. The Economic Recovery and Tax Act of 1981 cut taxes as a way to stimulate growth. In many ways, the economy did see improvement. The recovery, however, was not even throughout the nation. Many companies laid off employees, particularly in the manufacturing and farming sectors. The Midwest was particularly stricken and “experienced a loss of high-paying industrial jobs,” according to Michael Schaller, writing in Reckoning with Reagan. Schaller goes on to explain that “regional recessions were common” even as the national numbers improved. The 1980s saw a sharp rise in income inequality. “Poverty rates rose markedly during the 1980s,” Doug Rossinow writes in his entry for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. Additionally, homelessness grew owing to an increase in interest rates, which were necessary to address inflation. As poverty, homelessness, and joblessness rose in some areas, government programs that were created to aid in these issues were cut dramatically to help balance the budget. The effects of the economic policies were polarizing. Many supported cutting funding to welfare programs, which they saw as rewarding laziness. Others, however, found the cuts to be punishing tools that placed even more barriers in front of people who were trying to improve their lives. It was during this economic debate and upheaval that Angelou published ‘Caged Bird.”
“Caged Bird” echoes the experiences that Angelou and others suffered under segregation and their protests during the civil rights movement. The symbol of the caged bird, however, was still relevant in the 1980s. As Rossinow explains, “A minority of African Americans were doing better in the 1980s than ever before, entering the professional class in unprecedented numbers. Yet for many other African Americans, the 1980s were a harrowing time.” The numerous layoffs of factory workers during the recession affected many African Americans. When their jobs failed to return, they suffered from the deep cuts in government programs. Stereotypes about people on welfare being lazy were often racially charged, which did nothing to help race relations during the decade. In addition to economic burdens, new drug legislation helped turn the United States into a nation with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 established penalties for drug use and distribution. The law included a harsher sentence for crack cocaine than for powder cocaine despite the fact that crack cocaine is made from powder cocaine. As Cheryl Chambers points out, “Possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine carried a 5 year sentence whereas 500 grams of cocaine were required for a 5 year sentence.” Cocaine, which is a more expensive drug, was more likely to be abused by wealthy, white Americans than crack, which was typically sold in poorer, minority neighborhoods.
The mandated sentences led to higher and longer incarceration rates for minorities, particularly males. This great disparity in sentencing remained the same until 2010 with the Fair Sentencing Act. In fact, Chambers notes that in 1995 “Congress
rejected the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s recommendation to reduce the penalties for crack; this marked the first time that Congress had rejected a Sentencing Commission recommendation.” With felony sentences, people who had been incarcerated for nonviolent drug-related crimes faced added barriers to finding stable work and moving on with their lives.
SHORT TYPE QUESTIONS MARKS 2
Why? The caged bird is singing a song of unknown things which he longs for. Freedom is the subject matter of his song.
1. What song is the caged bird singing?
He is singing this song to express his feelings and emotions, to stay motivated and also to inspire others.
2. Name some poetic devices used in the poem.
Poetic devices used in Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird” include allegory, anthropomorphism, rhyme, metaphor, personification, mood, imagery, alliteration, and repetition.
3. How does the poet describe the world of nature ?
The poet describes the natural beauty of the sunset. The free bird (suggestive of a white American) leaps on the back of the wind, that is, he flies and sways with the wind in the evening against the orange sky. He has the right to claim the sky. As he flies, he dips his wings downstream.
4. What is the symbolic significance of the sun, sky and wind?
The sun, the sky and the wind symbolically represent freedom, free space and power respectively.
5. What does the caged bird’s singing reveal about him?
It reveals that he is unhappy and wants to be free.
6. Describe the image of the bird as presented in the first stanza.
The poet describes the free bird which leaps on the back of the wind, that is, he flies and sways with the wind in the evening against the orange sky. As he flies, he dips his wings downstream. The description creates the image of the free bird.
7. What is meant by ‘sighing trees’ in The Caged Bird?
‘Sighing trees’ refers to the sighing sound made by the breeze while passing through the leafy branches. This is an example of personification.
8. What is the free bird metaphor for ?
The free bird is a metaphor for the white American. The white American, like
the free bird, enjoys all the freedom, privileges, luxuries and leisure. 9. Which words are used to describe the state of the free bird? Words like ‘leaps’, ‘floats’, ‘dares’ and ‘claims’ are used to describe the state of the free bird.
10. How does the caged bird behave and why?
The caged bird can hardly move in his narrow cage and see through his ‘bars of rage’. He is in anger but is helpless. He only opens his mouth to sing, as no one can stop him from doing so. Thus the caged bird cannot have a glimpse of the sky. He behaves in this way because his wings are clipped and his feet are tied.
11. What does the free bird ‘claim’, and why?
The free bird that leaps on the back of the wind, flies and sways with the wind in the evening against the orange sky. He claims the sky as he flies and dips his wings downstream.
12. What does “fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn” signify?
Fat worms denotes the quality and quantity of the resources available for the whites or the free bird. Bright lawn shows us his freedom to go anywhere and have anything to do.
13. Why does the caged bird sing?
The caged bird sings because it is the only way it knows to express itself.
14. How does the caged bird behave?
The caged bird feels miserable in the cage. He can hardly move in his narrow cage and see through his ‘bars of rage’. He is very angry but is helpless. He only opens his mouth to sing as no one can stop him from doing so. Thus the caged bird cannot have a glimpse of the sky.
15. Is his state of captivity natural? Why / Why not?
No. The caged bird is a metaphor of African-American who does not have the same liberty and equality as the white American has. The African-American faces racial discrimination in America. He is denied basic rights. There are several restrictions on him in the society. Thus his state of captivity is not natural. He is forced to live in captivity.
16. How can the free bird be best described according to the poem?
The free bird is free to do what he pleases and so he is happy and content.
17. Whom does the poet indirectly refer to while mentioning the caged bird and the free bird?
The White Americans are referred to as a free bird in the poem. They are called so as they have the right, power and justice to achieve every freedom successfully as compared to the Black Africans. They claim the biggest right and freedom also to themselves so except them nobody can attain that.
18. What do ‘bars of rage’ stand for?
The caged bird is kept in a cage which is made of metal or wooden bars. These bars prevent his free movement. When he is denied free movement, he gets angry. (Here it stands for restrictions and discriminations). The caged bird can hardly move in his narrow cage and see through the ‘bars of rage’. So he is angry but helpless.
19. What does the caged bird sing about ?
The caged bird sings about freedom. His voice is heard far and wide as he sings of freedom. His song contains his longing for freedom and equality. The poet means to say that the black Americans long for freedom and equality. They oppose restrictions imposed on them. They hate suppression.
20. What is meant by “free bird thinks of another breeze”?
The poet wants to show the freedom which the free bird has. It can soar in the skies to various places, wherever it wants to go to find its food and enjoy the breeze.
21. How does the poet reveal the plight of the caged bird ?
The encaged bird is afraid of many unknown things. His condition is miserable. His wings are clipped and his feet are tied. He can hardly move in his cage and see through the bars of rage. He is angry but helpless. Though he is afraid, he gives expression to his dream of freedom. His voice is heard far and wide as he sings of freedom.
22. What is the grave of dreams? Why does a caged bird stand on the grave of dreams?
The caged bird stands on the grave of dreams because that cage is like a graveyard to the bird’s dreams and aspirations. He is restricted to a great extent and his condition is nightmarish.
23. What is the encaged bird fearful of ?
The encaged bird is fearful of many unknown things. But this fear does not prevent him from giving expression to his dream of freedom.
24. What is the main conflict in this poem?
The main conflict in the poem is that the caged bird wants the life of the free bird. The caged bird also wants the freedom to do whatever he wants.
25. His tune is heard on the distant hill’. Explain.
Though the caged bird is afraid of many unknown fears, he does not stop from giving expression to his dream of freedom. His voice is heard far and wide as he sings of freedom. Here the poet wants to convey that the voice of the oppressed people, their longings and aspirations cannot be suppressed. No fear can stifle his voice; rather his voice is now heard in distant countries.
26. Why do you think the cage is “narrow”? What is meant by “his bars of rage”?
The cage of the bird is narrow to deny him any space for liberty. He is forced to live a life full of distress and hardship. This state of the caged bird is symbolic indicating the life of the African-Americans in Angelou’s time.
“Bars of rage” signifies the bird’s anger, having been forced to live within the limits set by the bars of the cage.
27. What do you mean by ‘fearful trill of things unknown’ ?
The encaged bird is fearful of many unknown things, but still he gives expression to his dream of freedom. The poet means to say that the African-American (the encaged bird) leads a fearful life because he is a victim of oppression, exploitation, racism, inequality and discrimination. Though fearful, he continues to give expression to his dream of freedom.
28. Why is the caged bird’s singing heard on a distant hill?
A caged bird longs for freedom which is a mystery for them. Song is the only weapon a caged has to express themselves and claim for freedom. As they have a strong affinity for freedom he sings himself loudly with a shrill voice which is strong enough to represent their sorrows and hopelessness even on distant hills.
29. What does the line “and his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream” mean?
The poem compares the plight of a caged bird to the flight of a free bird. It can be interpreted as an extended metaphor with reference to the caged bird.
30. What idea do you get about the African-American from this stanza?
We find that the voice of the oppressed people, their longings and aspirations cannot be suppressed. No fear can stifle this voice; rather this voice is now heard in distant countries. Though he is fearful of many unknown fears, he continues to give expression to his dream of freedom and equality.
31. How is the free bird described earlier in the context ?
The free bird is shown to be freely floating on the back of the wind and enjoying everything. He feels as if he were the owner of the whole sky.
33. What is meant by ‘fearful trill’? Why is it said to be fearful?
‘Fearful trill’ refers to the song of the caged bird. ‘Trill’ means a quavering or vibratory sound, especially a rapid alternation of sung or played notes.
It was fearful because of all the uncertainty of his life, whether he would be free someday, whether he will get the unknown things that he longs for like a smooth and
free ride on the back of winds that the free bird enjoys.
34. In what way is the encaged bird different from the free bird ?
Unlike the free bird who has freedom to dream and be happy, the caged bird lives on the grave of his dreams, that is, his dreams are dead.
35. Explain : ‘But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.’
The caged bird cannot have any freedom. His wings are clipped and his feet are tied. He is different from the free bird who has no restrictions on his movement.
36. “A free bird leaps /on the back of the wind” – What implied comparison is made here?
The implied comparison made in the above quoted lines is between wind and water stream. The free bird leaps on the back of the wind, as if it is floating itself on the back of a whirling current of water.
37. What do ‘trade-winds’ and ‘fat worms’ symbolize?
Trade winds symbolize the freedom of movement, the free will of the free bird go anywhere it pleases unlike the caged bird.
Fat worms symbolize the freedom to choose what it wants to eat by going anywhere it wants.
38. What does the caged bird sing about ?
The caged bird sings about freedom and equality.
39. Why does the caged bird sing of ‘things unknown’?
The unknown things’ refer to the things the caged bird has never known or seen before. It sings about freedom as it never got an opportunity to soar high in the sky and explore the world. The world outside and the beauty of nature were still unknown to the caged bird.
40. What does the poet actually want to convey through the use of her metaphorical birds?
The poet wants to convey that the suppressed and oppressed, especially the black Americans, do not enjoy equal rights and opportunities of growth in any field. They face many discriminations and hardships in life.
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