What is the implied meaning of "his bars of rage" in the poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to determine the meaning of the line “his bars of rage” in Maya Angelou’s poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” it may be helpful to look at the whole stanza of the poem.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and  

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The poet is creating the image of a bird held in a barred cage which is in opposition to a bird flying free that she describes in the first stanza. The bird is “stalking” around in that cage which connotes anger and frustration. It is blinded by that “rage” and understands that there is no escape from its bars of incarceration. The bird cannot visualize what the free bird can because it is caged with pent up anger. The “bars of rage” are a metaphor for the feelings of people who are bound by slavery, ignorance, and prejudice. Ms. Angelou goes on to explain that the bird cannot obtain its freedom but it chooses to express itself joyously implying that although it maybe be angry and unable to break those bonds, it will not be silenced.

Read the study guide:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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