Discuss the significance of music in the poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou.

In Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird,” the caged bird sings about freedom even though he has never known it. Music allows him to stay strong in the face of adversity and get others to hear his voice.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird ,” music is significant because it represents perseverance in the face of adversity. The speaker begins by describing a free bird who leaps and floats and flies around the beautiful sky. The speaker then describes a caged bird who has never know...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird,” music is significant because it represents perseverance in the face of adversity. The speaker begins by describing a free bird who leaps and floats and flies around the beautiful sky. The speaker then describes a caged bird who has never know the beauty of freedom. Although this bird has not known what it is like to be free, he still “opens his throat to sing.” The speaker explains that:

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.

Even though this bird has never known what freedom is like, he still longs for it, which suggests there is an innate desire in all of us for freedom. The bird’s song is an expression of its anger and frustration as well as his desires and hopes. It is a way for him to maintain his dignity and sense of self while being caged by forces outside of his control. The fact that the bird’s voice is heard “on the distant hill” shows just how powerful his song is, as it passes through the physical limitations the bird cannot. It is also interesting to note that the structure of this poem is similar to that of a piece of music. Consider how stanza 3 and stanza 6 are exactly the same, much like a chorus in a standard song. This is yet another message about the power of music and by extension the power of one’s voice to persevere in the face of adversity.

It is also important to note that just because the caged bird is singing does not mean that he is happy. Instead, he is making his voice heard so that his desire for freedom can be heard far and wide. This is important to understand since the poem reflects the historical experience of the Black community and how they have been oppressed like the caged bird in this poem while white people have gotten to live like the free bird.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on