What is one literary element in Maya Angelou's poem "Caged Bird"?

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shake99's profile pic

shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Maya Angelou’s poem Caged Bird, like all poetry, makes use of several literary elements.  A quick reading reveals the usual poetic emphasis on rhyme, metrical consistency, imagery, and repetition. But this poem, unlike many others, utilizes one other element, that of juxtaposition. This term refers to the placing of two things together for the purpose of contrasting them.

A look at the poem’s subject shows us why Angelou chose to use the element of juxtaposition to express her idea. She is looking at the idea of imprisonment (maybe slavery in particular) by using two birds, one free and one imprisoned.  Notice that she starts the poem with a stanza about a free bird, followed by two stanzas about a caged bird, followed by another stanza about the free bird, then back to the caged bird for the final two stanzas. She is alternating, or “juxtaposing” her subjects.

By the end of the poem, we have contrasting images of the two birds. This makes Angelou’s imagery more powerful, because we see the free bird’s life in terms of words like “leaps, floats, dips, and dares,” immediately followed with the caged bird’s condition, expressed with words like “stalks,” with “clipped” wings and “tied” feet.

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shmindle's profile pic

shmindle | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) Honors

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First of all, a literary element is a component of a literary piece.  For example, instead of looking at a piece as a whole, we can examine its literary elements.

Although you only asked for one, such examples include:

Setting: Where/when is the story taking place?

Theme: What is the author trying to convey?

Characterization: What are the characters like? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they contribute to the story?

POV: What is the point of view? Is it biased?

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