Explain what is meant by the metaphor "a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams."

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In Maya Angelou's famous poem "Caged Bird ," she metaphorically contrasts the plight of oppressed African Americans with the independent, privileged white citizens in American society by contrasting the lives of a caged bird and a free bird. While the free bird flies uninhibited through the sky, enjoying...

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In Maya Angelou's famous poem "Caged Bird," she metaphorically contrasts the plight of oppressed African Americans with the independent, privileged white citizens in American society by contrasting the lives of a caged bird and a free bird. While the free bird flies uninhibited through the sky, enjoying the "orange sun rays," the caged bird struggles to see through his "bars of rage" and sings of freedom.

In the fifth stanza, the narrator writes that the caged bird "stands on the grave of dreams," which metaphorically represents the unattained goals and aspirations of oppressed African Americans, who could never climb the social ladder to attain their dreams because of prejudiced laws and restrictions preventing their social mobility. The "grave of dreams" conjures images of death and decay, which accurately portrays the sense of futility and lack of hope African Americans may experience in America's prejudiced society. The caged bird not only represents oppressed African Americans, it also symbolizes the futile dreams of countless marginalized minorities.

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Metaphor is a figure of speech that is symbolic of something else. In the case of Maya Angelou's poem "Caged Bird," the caged bird is a metaphor that recurs throughout the poem. The bird can be seen as a metaphor for African American people. Certainly the language of cages and clipped wings brings to mind images of slavery. But Angelou often spoke about the importance of discourse between people of all races in America, so it could be argued the bird is humanity and the cage is ignorance of history and the ties that bind people together. The "grave of dreams" is reminiscent of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, so the bird is standing on a metaphorical graveyard of opportunities and ideals that have been ignored or forgotten.

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