Caged Bird by Maya Angelou explores subjects of Social unfairness. Lack of freedom/choice and Shattered dreams in six stanzas of changing length. There is no set rhyme strategy to the verse form but there are noticeable rimes in stanzas two. three. four and five. Stanza six is a repeat of stanza three. There are half rimes throughout. Vocabulary and sentence construction is really straightforward. The stanzas surrogate between the free bird’s position and that of the caged bird with regularity: two stanzas are spent on the caged bird sandwiched between one stanza discoursing the free bird.

The line lengths of stanzas four and five are perceptibly longer than the other four stanzas.

The free bird’s autonomy is emphasized by the usage of vocabulary such as ‘leaps’ and ‘floats’ and foreground the bird’s ability to take how s/he wants to pass the twenty-four hours and where s/he wants to travel. The bird described in this stanza has the option to ‘claim the sky’ . This is a stanza full of hope and potency. This farther illustrates the eternal possibilities the free bird has when compared to the bird described in subsequently stanzas.

The caged bird of the 2nd stanza is an angry and defeated one as is shown in ‘stalks’ . ‘Stalks’ has the possible intensions of waiting for person perchance to the point of persecution. A secondary intension is that the bird is walking in a disdainful manner. Which is most likely? Are at that place alternate intensions? The bars of the coop are described through the metaphor of ‘bars of rage’ which besides adds to the general temper of defeat.

The bird’s limited vision can be perceived in many ways. Is the bird’s vision limited because of his conditions in the coop or possibly because his life is limited and therefore his skylines are limited? We frequently use the phrase ‘clipped wings’ to depict a individual whose development has been limited in some manner. Here the phrase is used in its actual sense. Since its wings are clipped and its pess tied. the bird communicates through the lone means available to it – his voice. Is this truly why the caged bird sings?

The bird sings with ‘a fearful trill/ of things unknown/ but longed for still’ which suggests that the bird has an consciousness of what it is losing. The 3rd stanza terminals on a slightly surprising note as the poet claims the bird sings of ‘freedom’ . Whose freedom? Is this hope for the hereafter or is this mentioning to a yesteryear in which the bird was free? Note the interruption of the rime ‘freedom’ ( merely like ‘sing’ in stanza 2 ) Returning to the unworried bird. we are presented with more images of a life with few bounds and boundaries. In this stanza. the free bird even ‘names the sky his own’ which links back to stanza one where he ‘dares to claim the sky’ . There is abundant potency here as shown in the phrase ‘fat worms waiting’ . The description of nature here is besides really peaceable and relaxed: ‘sighing trees’ . ‘dawn-bright lawn’ . This highlights the contrast between the lives of the two birds. a contrast which is developed farther in the 5th stanza.

The metaphor ‘grave of dreams’ is a rough and blue description of the bird’s dashed hopes. The contrast between the negative intensions of ‘grave’ and the positive 1s of ‘dreams’ jars in its stark contrast. The bird’s shadow is described as shouting ‘on a incubus scream’ once more proposing the bird’s defeat and powerlessness. The last two lines of this stanza are repeated from stanza two but in maintaining with the longer line lengths of stanzas four and five. the three shorter lines have been combined to do two longer 1s. This changes the beat giving an unsure consequence and possibly demoing a loss of hope.

‘shadow shouts’ is personification proposing that the bird is a shadow of his true potency as a consequence of his being caged.

The verse form ends with a repeat of stanza three possibly to demo hope for the hereafter.

The tone of the verse form from the caged bird’s position is surely one of defeat: the caged bird has merely one agencies of communicating. It knows what it’s losing and understands the unfairness of state of affairs but inquiries why does the free bird have picks? The tone of the verse form when looking through the eyes of the free bird is idyllic ( in stanzas one and four ) and serves to tag a contrast between his freedom and the caged birds desperate state of affairs.

The initial rhyme of stanza four in ‘fat worms waiting’ and soft through the sighing trees’ serves to underline the easy life style of the free bird.

Angelou has written an autobiography entitled ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and in it expands on this verse form. Angelou is about surely touching to the struggle Black people have faced over the old ages to derive equality.


IGCSE Literature notes for instructors. 2007. 2008. 2009

Categories: Essay