Analysis of ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things
unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

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

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.

Who is the speaker?

An innocent by stander brave enough to speak up for the bird. Kinda like the one guy in the crowd that sees something wrong happening and says “this doesn’t seem quite right.”

Who is the audience?

The audience could be me, you, or anyone else witnessing the oppresion of the “bird” and doing nothing.

THEME:

The oppressing effects of racism and segregation in America.

SITUATION:

The “bird” trying to spread its wings and become something more than its captivity allows, but the cage (his oppressor) making it impossible.

STRUCTURAL PATTERN:

REPETITION (caged bird)

This poem was written with very simple words and in a simple style, but

still it says a lot. When you read;

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.”

it makes you wonder “does humanity actually realize how precious freedom is???”

She also impressively uses effective metaphors,

words that resemble her people, themes, diction, rhythm scheme, imagery, and paradoxes that bring out feelings within the reader and even Maya herself that represent thriving anger and injustice. Justification implied in the

title demonstration how the speaker, the poet, can feel what her people went through when slavery was around.

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE:

Strong Imagery that invokes thoughts of being imprisoned come across strongly with the spirit of the

unbounded bird. “Leaps on the back of the wind” and “dips his wings in the orange sun rays” enriches the readers senses to reflect on the thought of being free and alive.

In the next stanza, Maya writes in depressing and stark voice with images and metaphors that are completely opposite from those of the first stanza.

“Narrow cage”, “bars of rage” and “wings are clipped” express a feeling of terror and fear. The irony and paradox shown in this stanza are displayed in magnitude because of the pleasant imagery in the first stanza. Such “Bars of rage”, a metaphor that represents the imprisonment of innocent slaves throughout history.

SYMBOLS:

Very obvious. The Bird being a Slave, and the Cage being its oppressor.

Thanks

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=180

and

Ann Sidion Smith. “The Song of a Caged Bird: Maya Angelou’s Quest after Self-acceptance.” The Southern Humanities Review.

for some insight on the central idea of this poem :). No direct references, but a lot of the core ideas are credited to those individuals.

17 Responses to “Analysis of ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.”

  1.   dannyceng3
    April 15th, 2010 | 10:42 am      

    Wow! I really like this poem. Do you have a time period for this poem? Is that where you got the theme (racism). I do agree that the imagery “enriches” my senses. I also like the concrete background since this goes along well with the idea of the imprisoned bird.
    Peace,
    Danny

  2.   Jane Hazle
    June 5th, 2010 | 5:42 pm      

    Good discussion of the poem, but somewhere you should reference that it is inspired by Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s turn of the century poem “Sympathy.” She borrows his “I know why the caged bird sings” and uses it as the foundation of her poem.

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