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Analysis and comments on I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou

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Comment 94 of 554, added on April 19th, 2006 at 4:46 PM.

this poem really touched my heart and opened my eyes to how life really is.
This was poem put it in words that no other could have. Its just plain and
simply beautiful.

rebecca from United States
Comment 93 of 554, added on April 18th, 2006 at 4:29 PM.

Im doing a couple paragraphs on a poem of my choice and I absolutly love
this poem. Its beuatiful and it compares to how the two bird live
differently. :) I love your poem!:D

Rhiannon Taylor from United States
Comment 92 of 554, added on April 17th, 2006 at 5:32 PM.

this poem made me cry!:( its beautiful and sadly kind of true. it should
hav been number three in the top 40 >:|

bridget from Canada
Comment 91 of 554, added on April 2nd, 2006 at 12:35 AM.

I wish to comment Maya for the wonderful poem. I am trying to write an
English paper about a character who has great influence in the lives of
many especially the minority.
Going through Maya's work, I couldn't find anthing better than this. It
very inspiring........

Benvictor Kipkorir Sang from Kenya
Comment 90 of 554, added on March 30th, 2006 at 4:52 AM.

A social and political analogy can clearly be drawn from the poem.
However, it also illustrates Maya's very personal feelings about herself.
As a young child, Maya felt she was very different from others. She
srruggled with deep pain from being rejected and abandoned by their
parents. Touts and negative comments of others caused her believe she was
ugly and unworthy. And she was a victim of secual abuse. The caged bird
is Maya. As you read her autobiography entitled "I Know Wy the Caged Bird
Sings" I believe you will begin to understand even deeper the personal
analogy to the poem.

Carol from United States
Comment 89 of 554, added on March 22nd, 2006 at 2:16 PM.

i smile and watch as the bird sings still, singing of freedom, through
notes so shrill up with that free bird, on the hill.

amanda from United States
Comment 88 of 554, added on February 28th, 2006 at 5:59 AM.

Since the poem is just so beautiful and moving, I would just like to take
it lightly, and concentrate on the feeling it gives me,not how it was
written or what it technecally means. because to me a poem is written to
bring a feeling to the reader's heart of what the writer wants the reader
to feel.

Michelle from United States
Comment 87 of 554, added on February 28th, 2006 at 3:02 AM.

All birds deserve to be free. Maya Angelou’s “I know why the caged bird
sings” is a tale of sorrow and desire. Throughout the poem Angelou recounts
the life of a free bird and the life of a caged bird. The free bird lives a
life of ignorance towards its freedom, simply dreaming and drifting without
any cares at all. The caged bird lives a desolate life, trapped within its
iron prison. The poem conveys Angelou’s feelings about the plight of the
African-American people, one of injustice and the problems they face within

The poem compares the inequalities of life between the free bird and the
caged bird. The poem describes how the free bird “thinks of another
breeze…and the fat worms waiting” Angelou intends this to represent the
white people of the USA. They have few problems in the world and live an
easy life. While the caged bird “stalks down his narrow cage and can seldom
see through his bars of rage” Life is an entirely different matter for the
caged bird. Rather than focusing of the luxuries of life he must simply
summon the will to keep wishing for a better existence. This comparison
shows the cruelty of life, one living in relative ease while another just
as deserving lives in desperation.

The caged bird is trapped within a seemingly inescapable jail, doing all
that he can to achieve his goal of freedom and happiness. However he is
given little chance “his wings are clipped and his feet are tied” There are
not many options for the caged bird, so he “sings with a fearful trill of
the things unknown but longed for still.” Even though there is a slim
chance to become free he tries anyway, for the caged bird will never give
up hope as long as he still has some kind of voice. The caged birds
determination to keep trying no matter how bad things allow him to hope
that some day he may have freedom.

Angelou uses two birds to represent both ideologies in the poem, that of
freedom and that of entrapment. Birds represent freedom and the free bird
“leaps on the back of the wind…and dips his wing in the orange suns rays”
This conjures images of freedom for the bird and is the ideal life of a
bird in general. As a contrast to this the caged bird “stands on the grave
of dreams…his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream” His dreams of freedom
are lost and he has little more to do than despair. This convinces the
reader that a bird should not live without freedom. Both of these birds are
the same creature however, so both should live with freedom.

“I know why the caged bird sings” portrays two opposite lives in the same
society. It shows the unfairness of life and particularly represents the
problems African-American people face in the White dominant society of the
USA. It shows that even though both birds are essentially the same
creature, they live with unequal standards despite both being worthy of
freedom and happiness.

Philip from Australia
Comment 86 of 554, added on February 25th, 2006 at 7:30 PM.

Here is what I thought of the poem after reading and studying it. It is not
so much an analysis of the poem, but an analysis of the devices used to
convey the thesis of the poem.

Maya Angelou is one of the major American authors of the 20th century who
is best known for her autobiographical writings. Her past years encompasses
the Civil Rights Movement, which was largely influential in her writings at
that time and up until today. The Civil Rights Movement in the United
States was a political, legal, and social struggle by black Americans to
gain full citizenship rights and to achieve racial equality. It was also
first and foremost a challenge to segregation. During the civil rights
movement, individuals and civil rights organizations challenged segregation
and discrimination with a variety of activities. Maya Angelou wrote “I Know
Why the Caged Bird Sings” in response to this movement.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” declares how there will always be social
injustices and inequalities within life. By relating to society as she
experienced it during that time, Maya Angelou compares the white people to
a free bird and the black people to a caged bird. The free bird is allowed
to roam anywhere and do as he wishes; however, the caged bird is forced to
be confined to his boundaries and sings of freedom. The caged bird’s
singing symbolizes its hope that one day they will rise to a level of
equality with the rest of society.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” possesses a passionate tone. The poem
speaks about the unfairness and social injustices people must endure as
they continue through life. Angelou describes how the free bird “leaps
[and] floats on the wind and dares the claim the sky” and the caged bird
“stalks in his cage” being “blind to the bars of rage.” She provides the
juxtaposition of the free bird to the caged bird to show the injustice
faced by many using words that evoke a sense of energy. This sense of
energy alludes to the fact that Angelou is unsatisfied with the way society
treats people and is eager to correct its faults. She then goes further to
speak of the caged bird’s song and how it “sings with a fearful trill of
the things unknown” because it “longs for freedom.” The fact that the caged
bird longs for freedom proves that the African-Americans have not yet
attained the freedom they deserve. Freedom in this sense does not
necessarily mean that the African-Americans are enslaved. Maya Angelou is
referring to the mid-1900s when the African-Americans were not treated with
equality as the white people, much less respect. It is the act of
segregation that limited the opportunities the African-Americans had to
improve their lives, thus preventing them from growing with the rest of
society, and therefore following up to today. Her taking on of a passionate
tone is in attempts to influence people to make the necessary changes
within society for a better life for the African-Americans.
Though it is simple, the poem’s diction contributes to imagery about
living life. The first of these would be the contrast between a “free bird”
and a “caged bird.” Birds symbolize freedom. Because both African-Americans
and whites are being portrayed as birds, theoretically both should share
equality and freedom; however, the African-American bird is caged while the
other is not. By simply juxtaposing both birds, Angelou describes how not
all people are treated equally. She goes further to illustrate how the free
bird “leaps on the back of the wind” and “dips his wings in the orange sun
rays.” Upon reading this is an image of the bird traveling to anywhere he
would like without bound, and a person would experience a wondrous
sensation and happiness for the bird to be so free. However, Angelou
immediately contrasts the second bird in his “narrow cage” of “bars of
rage” with his “wings clipped.” Compared to the free bird, the caged bird’s
life and situation would seem pitiful and unmatched. Such words evoke a
feeling of dread and horror. It leads readers to question how life could be
so unfair and cruel to the bird, or the African-American. Maya Angelou
intended for readers to question what they have in life, so that they would
understand that life could be unjust to their advantage or disadvantage,
and try to correct that.
Where the first two stanzas make it clear to readers that life is unfair,
the next three stanzas elaborates on this idea, and attempts to evoke
feelings of sadness and pity for the caged bird. Maya Angelou chooses to
have the caged bird stand on “a grave of dreams” while the free bird “names
the sky his own.” The situation the caged bird is in creates such poignant
grief because the connotation in a grave of dreams brings the images of a
dismal and desolate world. The connotation of “grave” is especially moving
because it intensifies the idea that the caged bird will forever be
captured with no opportunity to improve and make itself a better life. By
telling of how the caged bird still “sings with a fearful trill of the
things unknown but longed for still,” it increases the sense of
hopelessness and grief. People then respect the caged bird’s determination
to dream, live, and succeed even when it is placed into a world of
injustice and inequality. When people begin to respect the
African-Americans, Angelou’s hopes for the African-American would be
The poem’s language is symbolic, but the complex syntax and composition
arranges the words in a way relevant to the thesis through repetition. The
direct repetition of the third stanza for the last stanza is important to
the poem’s thesis. By repeating such a stanza with the caged bird singing
for freedom, it emphasizes that things have not changed for the caged bird;
however, it still continues to keep hope. Singing is often equated to
hoping, as many African-Americans did sing in the early past when they were
enslaved. Singing for freedom is transcribed to hoping for freedom. With
hope, there is a possibility that one day the African-Americans would rise
to a level of equality with the world. There is one line where its
alliteration heightens the effect of dismay of the caged bird. Its “shadow
shouts on a nightmare scream” explains how the bird’s dreams have become a
nightmare with the wretched world it has to live in. He can only “open his
throat to sing” for his own good. It represents the terrible life an
African-American would have had to go through despite his determination.
Maya Angelou writes each stanza as one sentence portraying the life of the
caged bird versus the free bird. By alternating between the life of the
free bird and caged bird, readers can clearly see the difference between
the two birds’ lives. This provides the chance to balance the caged bird’s
life with the free bird’s by seeing how one can help the caged bird achieve
the freedom of the free bird. Without any determination, the caged bird
will only retain its hope for the possibility of a better life. Angelou
indicates that there is in fact hope for the caged bird due to the rhyme
scheme of each stanza. It follows that the first three phrases of each
stanza adhere to a strict rhyming without change and symbolizes the caged
bird being forced to follow accepted ideas in society. However, the last
phrase of each stanza breaks off from the rhyme with the last word being
far from the original rhyme: “trill, still, hill, freedom.” The non-rhyme
represents the caged bird’s potential to break away from those accepted
ideas that white is the dominant race and perhaps rise to that desired
level of equality and justice.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was an accurate portrayal of the lives
African-Americans lived back in the mid-1960s, and in some cases it is
still a fairly accurate description of the lives some people live today. In
many ways it is impossible for the world people know today to live with
total equality and fairness. With people come feelings and opinions, and it
is also accepted that there are no perfect people. Many have tried to make
the world a better a better place for all, but ultimately, one can only
persevere and hope for the best.

Brian from United States
Comment 85 of 554, added on February 15th, 2006 at 9:06 AM.

this poem is so sad and i like the fact that its ambigious in the way that
it can be related to both human and animals, i thought of it more as
animals, i study animals and learn about them being caged up and it makes
me sad :(

natalie from United Kingdom

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Information about I know why the caged bird sings

Poet: Maya Angelou
Poem: I know why the caged bird sings
Added: Feb 27 2004
Viewed: 921 times
Poem of the Day: May 8 2007

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