In the first half of the XX century, racism was still havocking in the USA. Growing in this sort of circumstances, the black poet Maya Angelou also had become a victim of racism. She wrote many famous poems referring to the state black community, and the poem “I know why the caged bird sings” is definitely one of the best. It is obvious that the caged bird represents a certain group of people; one of the proofs can be that Maya Angelou used the word ‘he’ to represent the bird rather than the more commonly seen ‘it.’ It doesn’t necessarily need to be black, but all people whose freedom were or are being restricted.
The poet used the free bird to compare with the caged bird to show the unfairness and the rage that the caged bird is experiencing. While the free bird can fly leisurely in the sky, the caged bird can do nothing except open his throat to sing to express his anger. Some people could argue that though the caged bird is imprisoned, it gets food and care from humans, so the caged bird has got even more than the free bird in some specific areas. However, I think those who have got this opinion are just complete idiots. Nobody wants to give up their freedom and be in jail just because you can get free meals in prison unless they are the idiots who got the stupid opinion that I motioned earlier.
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There is an exciting phrase used in the second line in the third and the sixth stanza. The author writes that the caged bird sings “with a fearful thrill.” She hasn’t pointed out clearly the meaning of this phrase, so it can mean both that the caged bird is scared (because his freedom had been taken away and now he is in an unfamiliar environment) or his singing can make other people fear (because of the anger that the singing contains). Next, let’s see the contrast between the free bird and the caged bird. In this poem, Maya Angelou used separate stanzas to describe the different birds. You can see the contrast in the first two stanzas even if you only look at the verbs. “Leap” and “stalk”; “dip”, “dares”, “claim” and “clipped”, “tied”, “sing”. You can see that the free bird is in a light and jumpy mode, but the caged bird has got a deeper and duller emotion.
In the fourth and fifth stanzas, the contrasts are mainly focused on the nouns, like the free bird’s “breeze,” “fat worm,” “dawn (representing the future and hope),” “bright lawn,” and the caged bird’s “grave of dreams (lost of hope),” “shadow,” “nightmare scream (terrified by. ” These descriptions are more detailed, especially for the caged bird I think the description is more focused on emotion and giving the bird a personification since “dreams” and “nightmare usually only belongs to human. “I know why the caged bird sings” is a 38-line poem divided into six stanzas. Many places are repeated, such as the third and the sixth stanzas are completely the same. Maya Angelou used this repetition because the second time you read it, you will have a new opinion about the same stanza because the first, second, fourth and fifth stanzas are different.
And though they are different, first and fourth (both talk about the free bird and the beauty of nature), second and fifth (both talk about the caged bird and the bitter taste of losing freedom), stanzas correspond to each other. There are rhymes and half-rhymes in this poem, yet they don’t appear continuously. “Trill,” “still,” “hill” is an example of rhyme, while “unknown” and “freedom” is an example of half-rhyme. Overall I think that this is a perfect poem. Maya Angelou used her own experience to write this poem, and that is why she could say that she knows why the caged bird sings. This poem had said what million of people lost their freedom and rights.
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