Plot-wise, this poem is a fairly straightforward poem. There are two birds in the poem. One is a free bird that lives in a forest, and the other bird is a tame bird that lives in a cage. The two birds meet and have a conversation with each other. The gist of the conversation is that each bird wants the other bird to come and join him. The tame bird wants the free bird to come into the cage, and the free bird wants the tame bird to join him in the forest. Each bird presents his opinion that his present location is better than the other bird's location, and each bird counters that argument. For example:
The cage bird whispers, "Come hither, let us both live in the cage."
Says the free bird, "Among bars, where is there room to spread one's wings?"
Then in stanza two there is this example.
The cage bird sings, "Sit by my side, I'll teach you the speech of the learned."
The forest bird cries, "No, ah no! songs can never be taught."
While the plot of the poem is simple, the poem has a way of sparking some interesting debate among readers. Which bird does indeed have it "better"? The final line seems to leave readers with the impression that the tame bird is quietly admitting that the free bird has it better; however, without having experienced both worlds, neither bird is able to effectively judge the "superior" environment. I also like presenting my classes with the idea that this poem illustrates the opposite idea of the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence. In this poem, each bird thinks his "grass" is best.