In the poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" what is the figurative language in the first two stanzas?

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Figurative language is a broad general category for a variety of literary techniques.  Some of the most common forms of figurative language are metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, and symbolism.  Those are focused on word meanings.  Other forms of figurative language might focus on word sounds to further develop a picture, emotion, or sound.  Those devices are things like alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance, and consonance. 

Stanza 1, line 2 contains an example of personification.  The line is “on the back of the wind.”  It personifies wind by giving it the human trait of a back. Perhaps the last line “and dares to claim the sky” is personification as well, since claiming something is generally a human trait, too.  

Stanza 2, line 3 (of the stanza) contains an example of alliteration.  The “s” sound is repeated with the phrase “seldom see.”  Beyond that, the entire stanza is a symbolic metaphor for the oppressed black people of Angelou’s time.  Angelou is illustrating how unfair laws and social conventions limited the true potential of African Americans.  Their “wings are clipped.”  

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