Understanding the Poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The poem entitled, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is probably one of the most moving poetry works written by far. A poem written by author, Maya Angelou, it one that not only reflects feeling of oppression but reflects the effect of this oppression as inner turmoil and shackle to a person.
In the opening stanza, the author paints a picture of nature where birds are free to fly and live. This stanza describes how a bird can fly freely in the sky and the wind does nothing but support its flight. The author could have depicted herself as the bird and the wind could be the society. The author paints a picture of freedom where the author portrays a feeling of no restriction. Just like how the bird attempts to claim the sky, the current and the wind supports its flight.
In the first stanza, the author seems to want the readers to be accustomed to the idea of the being free in a picturesque guise of a flying bird soaring in the skies. You can clearly see how the author may have started the poem with an intent to instill the feeling of a calm and light atmosphere before preparing the reader to the contrast that is to come in the second stanza. The contrast is transitioned using the “but” in the beginning of the first line. This clearly implies that the reader will expect a scene that is quite the opposite of the free nature of the first stanza.
The second stanza opens with a portrayal of feelings far different from the first. The freedom that the bird in the first stanza experienced is the opposite of the longing and despair that the bird in the second stanza feels. This stanza imparts a sense of unfairness and longing. It clearly opens the feelings of the author regarding the unfair treatment of Black Americans during her time. Despite the freedom that the Black Americans seemed to have in those times, there was still restrictions on opportunities that are open to them. These restrictions may not have been blatantly obvious, but they clearly felt by the Black American community. The singing part can be reflected as to how those who have felt this restriction resorted to other means to feel freedom such as the author herself. To express freedom in time constricted by racial beliefs and discriminations, she loses herself in singing and dancing, and in her chosen art, literary writing.
The third stanza also supports the feelings of longing presented in the second. But, here, you can already see the development of doubt and fear in the poem. The fear of the unknown consequences of the actions done, of expressing freedom. This stanza shows that the author, though she wishes to attain freedom, is fearful of what the consequences for this quest is. In those times, this fear is justified. She does not yet know that the outcome of her cry to serve fair opportunities to Black Americans like her.
The fourth stanza goes back to the free bird where the bird ones more feels the winds blowing preparing it for another step and another flight to flying with no worries. It once more brings the reader to the peak of satisfied freedom as the bird thinks once more of another bout with free flying. This set the reader’s mind of the possibilities and hope that the future can be a much freer world than the current times the author lives in.
The last two stanzas depict once again the feeling of longing for freedom and how the author is indeed well-versed with the status of her people in her time. However, there is already an addition of affirmation that despite all those trials, the author and the people residing in those times are not afraid anymore to take a stand and fight for their freedom, not literally but figuratively. The author depicts an intense sense of courage and how if people will only fight for freedom, they will surely be free. The author imparts a powerful sense of courage that those who will read the poem will be able to feel and internalize.
The poem is indeed a work of art. Thinking back on its publication in 1969, it must have been a truly moving tail told in picturesque manner filled with imagery. It reflects one woman’s desire for freedom not only for her but for her people. An autobiography with a similar title was also released portraying the entire life of the author, Maya Angelou, and how she battles for freedom of expression and equal rights for Black Americans like her.
Today, the poem can be related to the oppressed state of many people nowadays. These oppressed states can come as a restriction in the form of limited finances, clashing nations, differing views and stand points, or a clash of one’s own principles in life. Whatever oppression there may be, this poem is piece of work that can help enlighten minds that there is hope and that just like the bird in the cage, freedom will come, and you can welcome it when you “sing”.
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