How does the poet reveal the plight of the caged bird?

Expert Answers

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

"Caged Bird" is a poem by African American writer Maya Angelou (1928–2014), originally published in her collection Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? in 1983. The poem consists of six stanzas written in free verse . It is narrated in the third person and contrasts free and caged birds,...

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

"Caged Bird" is a poem by African American writer Maya Angelou (1928–2014), originally published in her collection Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? in 1983. The poem consists of six stanzas written in free verse. It is narrated in the third person and contrasts free and caged birds, with the first and fourth stanzas focusing on the free bird, and the second, third, fifth, and sixth stanzas focusing on the caged bird. The third and sixth stanzas are identical and thus form a refrain. Thus, the first way Angelou emphasizes the plight of the caged bird is through contrasting it with the free bird.

The first major contrast is spatial, with the free bird roaming across an open sky, soaring in the wind, and seeing vast territories spread out beneath it. The caged bird is described as being confined to a small space, with its visual field limited by bars and with its wings clipped rather than functioning.

Next, Angelou contrasts the dreams and thoughts of the free bird with those of the caged bird. The dreams of the free bird, of fat worms and fresh breezes, are things a free bird can reasonably expect to experience. The caged bird stands on a "grave of dreams" and instead is described as living in a nightmare, singing of the freedom it cannot have.

The two main ways the plight is revealed are directly, through description such as clipped wings and tied feet, and indirectly, through comparisons and descriptions of the two birds' songs and dreams.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team