Explain what is meant by the metaphor "a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams."
In Maya Angelou's famous poem "Caged Bird," she metaphorically contrasts the plight of oppressed African Americans with the independent, privileged white citizens in American society by contrasting the lives of a caged bird and a free bird. While the free bird flies uninhibited through the sky, enjoying the "orange sun rays," the caged bird struggles to see through his "bars of rage" and sings of freedom.
In the fifth stanza, the narrator writes that the caged bird "stands on the grave of dreams," which metaphorically represents the unattained goals and aspirations of oppressed African Americans, who could never climb the social ladder to attain their dreams because of prejudiced laws and restrictions preventing their social mobility. The "grave of dreams" conjures images of death and decay, which accurately portrays the sense of futility and lack of hope African Americans may experience in America's prejudiced society. The caged bird not only represents oppressed African Americans, it also symbolizes the futile dreams of countless marginalized minorities.