How does Maya Angelou portray the image of nature in the poem "Caged Bird"?  

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The primary natural symbol utilized in "Caged Bird" is the bird itself. Angelou contrasts the free bird with the caged bird to show the innate conflict that a lack of freedom creates.

The natural imagery surrounding the free bird is hopeful. The bird is free to leap "on...

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The primary natural symbol utilized in "Caged Bird" is the bird itself. Angelou contrasts the free bird with the caged bird to show the innate conflict that a lack of freedom creates.

The natural imagery surrounding the free bird is hopeful. The bird is free to leap "on the back of the wind," soaring freely to any destination it chooses and with the aided guidance of a natural force. The orange sun is his to "[dip] his wing" into, connoting a sense of warmth and brightness. The free bird knows no limits, claiming the sky as his own.

The caged bird experiences no such joys because he is deprived of a natural world. Instead, he peers through the "bars of rage" with clipped wings. The caged bird can only long for the natural world that he was designed to be a part of; he knows that this world exists and sings in hope of reaching it someday. Although he stands on a "grave of dreams," he continues to "[sing] of freedom."

Therefore, the natural world is portrayed as a symbol of freedom and hope. A life lived in absence of nature is a world that is bleak and barren, especially for a creature whose existence is dependent on open skies and windy journeys.

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In the poem "Caged Bird," nature is presented as synonymous with freedom and independence and serves to emphasize, by contrast, the oppression and imprisonment of those who are victims of prejudice.

In the first stanza, the "free bird leaps / on the back of the wind." The wind here helps the bird to fly and symbolizes not only freedom but also power, or, more specifically, the power that comes with freedom. The bird then playfully "dips his wing / in the orange sun rays." The fact that the sun is orange implies either sunrise or sunset. A sunrise in literature often symbolizes a new beginning. Perhaps here, the sunrise symbolizes the new beginnings and the possibilities that come with freedom.

These images of nature, symbolizing freedom and independence, are contrasted by the images in the second stanza. In the second stanza, the symbol of nature is the caged bird, who represents people, specifically African American people, who are victims of prejudice. The caged bird has no wind to leap upon and no sun to dip his wings to. Instead, his "wings are clipped and / his feet are tied." The caged bird here represents an affront to nature, made all the more appalling by the contrast with the positive images of nature in the previous stanza.

In the fifth stanza, we again have images of nature which connote freedom and independence. The free bird anticipates "another breeze" and "winds soft through the sighing trees." The personification of the trees as "sighing" is interesting here. A sigh usually connotes sadness or exhaustion, and so the implication is perhaps that the trees are sighing for the caged bird. This suggests an affinity between the different parts of the natural world. The injury done to the caged bird is an injury to nature in a broader sense.

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Both Angelou's poem and her book play on the same metaphor of a caged bird, a wild thing trapped, representing the plight of oppressed peoples, specifically black Americans.

Nature in this poem, then, is portrayed as representing a freedom the caged birds long for. Dynamic images such as that of the free bird who "leaps / on the back of the wind" and then "floats downstream" suggest that those who are free can both enjoy and almost harness nature, using it to carry them. Even the sky can be harnessed by those who are free and can "dare to claim" it.

The caged bird longs for these freeing aspects of nature, such as the "breeze" and the "trade winds" which move through "sighing trees." The trees here are personified: the image of them sighing suggests that they are peaceful and content with their lot, in contrast to the caged bird.

To those who are trapped, the "distant hill" in nature becomes a dreamed-of horizon, representing something wider than itself. The caged birds do not have the luxury of feeling the wind or harnessing nature's power, so they associate nature and its wildness with the freedom and wildness they themselves have been denied.

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