With close reference to the text, explain how Maya Angelou contrasts captivity and freedom in caged bird.

Essay by ff15117A+, August 2008

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The poem “Caged Bird”, written by Maya Angelou shows two main themes; social injustice and lack of freedom. The poem is based on the point of view of the poet brought up in Arkansas, U.S.A. in 1920s’ when the racism towards black people was still around. With the real-life experiences, she expresses the distress and the sorrow of the caged bird representing black people. Maya Angelou use variety of language techniques, such as metaphor, rhyme, repetition as well as action verbs and structure to show contrast between captivity and freedom. She gives us message through the poem: people are equal and we should never be treated unfairly because of our race.

In the poem, the word “free bird” is the metaphor of the white people. Stanza 1&4 shows the freedom and satisfaction of the white. “Free bird leaps/ floats downstream/ dips his wings in the orange sun’s rays” in stanza 1 shows the natural and free condition white people are in, using lots of action verbs.

The quote “dares to claim the sky” in stanza 1 and “names the sky his own” in stanza 4 are another examples of metaphor, showing the power white people enjoy and the dominating attitude they posses.

On the other hand, “the caged bird” described as black people in the poem is portrayed in the dark mood. “Narrow cage/ bars of rage / wings are clipped and feet are tide” in stanza 2,3,5,6 make the contrast between the free bird and the cage bird. These imply the caged bird is restricted in its movement and readers can feel the distress and the rage of the bird, while the free bird enjoys its freedom to the full. “Fearful thrill of the things unknown” in stanza 3&6 describe what the black people might have thought when they...