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Caged Bird- Maya Angelou• This poem is a contrast between a caged bird and a free bird and their different characteristics, emphasizing on the Caged Bird.• The poem begins by speaking of the free bird and how it has the freedom to go where ever, when ever, and can claim the sky because there are no other birds to contest with. the stanza shows us that the free bird is lazy and would rather float on the wind instead of make its own path.• The second stanza introduces the limitations set upon the caged bird, and how this affects the bird ,as the bird is still proud and cries out for freedom.• The third stanza emphasizes the caged bird and its plight. It tells of how the caged bird sings for freedom, as if it still has hope for things it does not know of. The caged bird can “ be heard on the distant hill”.The bird is shown to rebel against all that holds it back in an attempt to be freed.
• The fourth stanza is about the free bird again , and how the bird although free” thinks of another breeze” showing that although the bird is free , the bird is not content and is greedy to have even more freedom, but again it is shown to be lazy in that is unsatisfied with the stream of wind that it is on but not enough to do something about it.• The stanza then describes how easy things seem to come to the free bird, as there are worms waiting for it at dawn on the lawn.• The fifth stanza depicts the bird in its cage, the cage that has now become the grave of the birds dreams, and once again the caged bird sings of freedom,• The final stanza is a repetition of stanza three which serves as an emphasis on the caged bird. the birds song is to be feared and respected..
More analysis• The contrast between birds is highlighted not only The poem is ultimately positive, because by physicalthe caged but mental ones. The free although freedoms, bird has no freedom, his bird can vividly imagine „fat worms‟ and „sighing hope cannot be dimmed by his ‘bars of rage’ trees‟, howeverwings’. Hisbird dreams loud that it and ‘clipped the caged song is so not from experience, but longing. hill’, perhaps forcing the is ‘heard on a distant The words „fat‟ and „sighing‟ sum up the free bird; free bird to take notice.• he has all of be material desires tended in the USA, This could his compared to Slavery to, but internally still craves more.slave,cagedthe free bird the caged bird being a The and bird is imprisoned, but Importantly, African-American a white man. free of such greed. He can find solace in the only thing he has; song. Physically the slaves often used to sing while working. This bird is caged ,but internally his soul is not. had the effect of raising their spirits and This is the irony of the poem, and makes it relevant maintaining unity, producing a sense of hope. to everyday life.
Word Use• The words that are used alternate between very harsh, strong words such as “stalks “ and “fearful trill” when in a stanza concerning the Caged bird, to more flowing words such as “floats” and “sighing trees” when concerned with the Free bird.Sound Devices :• Sibilance : S1- “ leaps, floats,dips,dares”, these are all words describing the free bird and these words are all verbs of free actions.• S5 –“shadow shouts on a nightmare scream”.Rhyme• S1 and 6 – “trill,still, hill” The rhyming in these stanzas create a rhythm, a beat for the poem, and the rhythm gives a more ominous air to the stanza.
• S4- “ breeze” and “trees”. And “lawn “ and “own” this theThe first two stanzas are 7 lines each. This represents howwriter may be trying to evenly more flowing effect. two birds. sibilance gives the stanza a contrast between theStructure: is again created in stanzas 4 and 5, they have slightlyThis effectlonger lines but both are 4 lines each.at the end of the line. This• The stressed syllables tend to fallThe repetition in a regular rhythm and beat, like that of a length of gives the poem the lengths of the stanzas and the the slowthe lines create a tempo forrepetition of Stanza 3 has the effect beating tribal drum. The the poem , and the different temposthat are created work together with the words used tolines of of making it like a chorus to a song. Also, the longer createstress on different sections ofthe tempo to draw more attention Stanzas 4 and 5 slow down the poem. to what is happening.Again the poem seems like a song in itself with its own beat and even a chorus.
About Maya AngelouMaya Angelou once said, “If you dont like something, change it. If you cant change it, change your attitude.”• In a way, this really sums up the poem, ‘Caged Bird’, and her autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. Angelou was born in 1928 and lived with either her mother or grandmother for most of her early years. At aged eight she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was then killed by her uncles. She became mute for six years after this.• Angelou, after leaving home, worked in many jobs, including as a streetcar conductor, a professional dancer, a madame . As a single, black mother in the 1950s and 1960s, she worked hard, gaining acclaim with the publication of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. She has since published many other works, and in 1993 read a poem at President Clinton’s inauguration.
•Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) ‘Caged Bird’ was published in the volume Sympathy ‘Shaker, theiscageddon’tupland slopes; in 1983. It draws I KNOW what why bird feels, alas! sing?’ When the sun bright on the you inspiration heavily from a poem by Paul When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, And the river flows like a stream of glass; Dunbarfirst bird sings and the first bud opes, called When the Lawrence (1872-1906) And the faint perfume from its chalice steals — ‘Sympathy’, almost to the point of plagiarism. I know what the caged bird feels! ItTill itswhy theiscagedonsimple,wing is surprisingly I know appearsred bird beats his but blood as the cruel bars; effective.back to his perch and cling For he must fly When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;• And theypain still throbs inathe old, old scars And a pulse again with keener sting — I know why he beats his wing! I know why the caged bird sings, ah me, When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,— When he beats his bars and he would be free; It is not a carol of joy or glee, But a prayer that he sends from his hearts deep core, But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings — I know why the caged bird sings!