"Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou

Essay by nilalaHigh School, 11th gradeA, May 2007

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The poem “I know why the caged bird sings” is written by Maya Angelou, a contemporary poet of the twentieth century. In her poem Angelou emphasizes between a caged bird and free bird and on a more symbolic level represents individual human beings who have been confined via the “caged bird.

The poem begins by describing the experience of the free bird and the usage of language such as “free” “leaps” “floats” describes the pleasures and joy that accompany freedom. The free bird has the confidence and courage to rise to any height in the sky.

The next two stanzas effectively contrast the first and describe the emotions of surliness, tension and frustration that the caged bird possesses as it walks up and down its narrow cage. However, despite it disastrous confinement the caged bird’s spirit is not dead and its voice cannot be restricted so it sings.

This singing may on a symbolic level represent prayer which is heard on the “distant hill”.

The free bird, on the other hand is oblivious and enjoying the beauty of nature: the breeze, the fat worms. It is in its natural environment and this stanza conveys how nature is not meant to be caged but it should be free. With so many amenities available the bird feels it can conquer the sky; here, an element of confidence and superiority is brought in.

On the other hand, the caged bird’s dreams are at the point of shattering. Its shadow shouts on a nightmare scream. This line conveys the unreality of the bird’s position: its life has become a living nightmare.

This poem is effective in conveying contrast between the birds and we realize that the birds have come to represent those people oppressed in the black movement for freedom. The...