Why does the caged bird stand on the "grave of dreams?"

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The caged bird in Maya Angelou 's poem represents the oppressed peoples who are unable to escape the "narrow cage" into which society traps them, unable to see beyond the enforced "bars of rage" that impede their view of the world. In saying that the caged bird stands on "the...

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The caged bird in Maya Angelou's poem represents the oppressed peoples who are unable to escape the "narrow cage" into which society traps them, unable to see beyond the enforced "bars of rage" that impede their view of the world. In saying that the caged bird stands on "the grave of dreams," then, what Angelou is saying is that the people the bird represents certainly have many dreams and ambitions of their own, but that all of these ambitions and dreams are usually killed by society and oppression. As such, the bird stands upon the "grave" of these dreams, as if in remembrance of them, knowing that it will not be able to keep any of its dreams alive as long as it is within the cage. The bird sings of freedom, something "longed for still," just like these dreams which have died.

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In Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird” she creates a vivid image with the line “But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.” This is a death image. The hopes and dreams of a whole race of people are dead.

Angelou uses the images of a free bird and a caged bird to compare the lives of those who are free to create their own destiny, and those who are oppressed based on their race. Those who are oppressed have hopes and dreams but they are unattainable not because the people are incapable, but because they are born as people of color. She goes on to say that the bird, representing the oppressed people, lives with its feet “tied” and wings “clipped,” which renders it devoid of choices to better its situation. In spite of the dire circumstances, the bird chooses to sing. In other words, its spirit will not be broken.

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