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 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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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.

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Explain what is meant by the metaphor "a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams."

Metaphor is a figure of speech that is symbolic of something else. In the case of Maya Angelou's poem "Caged Bird," the caged bird is a metaphor that recurs throughout the poem. The bird can be seen as a metaphor for African American people. Certainly the language of cages and clipped wings brings to mind images of slavery. But Angelou often spoke about the importance of discourse between people of all races in America, so it could be argued the bird is humanity and the cage is ignorance of history and the ties that bind people together. The "grave of dreams" is reminiscent of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, so the bird is standing on a metaphorical graveyard of opportunities and ideals that have been ignored or forgotten.

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