Freedom is something every human being wishes to experience and it can appear in many forms. The “Caged Bird” is an inspiring thought provoking poem about freedom and social injustice. Does the Caged Bird sing? Yes, it sings of freedom. And I empathise completely with the poet as she uses powerful descriptive language and imagery to convey the message of freedom and injustice. The poem itself was inspired by Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s poem called “Sympathy”. This poem is also about a caged bird and obviously referring to the black community in the USA.
In the first stanza Angelou sets to describe a free bird and what it does. The “free bird” itself could mean many things, but I personally believe that the free bird describes the dreams of the Afro American people and I think that’s what Angelou believes as well because she grew up in the time of racial oppression in the USA. Angelou gives us a sense of happiness and energy in the first verse as “A free bird leaps on the back of the wind. ” This sets off a feeling of freedom of the bird. Angelou then shows us that, after the burst of energy, the bird relaxes as “he floats downstream till the current ends.
” This reflects very positive imagery and he is not putting much energy into doing what he is doing. In the last line the bird “dares to claim the sky” give us an idea of a risk taker and the fact that he is able to take risks. This verse is free, meaning it has no rhyme and I think this relates to the freedom of the bird. In the second stanza the author shows us the pace of the stanza by using the word “stalk”; this has a slow and kind of evil feel to it. The author shows us the tone of the stanza with the word “rage”.
“The stifling narrow cage” implies darkness, little or no movement and a feeling of being trapped and I think the poet wants us to feel sorry for the caged bird. This could be compared to slavery during the late 1800s in the USA and the racial discrimination during the 1900s. The “clipped wings” show the hopelessness of escape for the caged bird. The only resource left is to sing. In this verse we see a rhyme with two lines, “cage” and “rage”. This emphasises the anger in the bird and that the cage has absorbed the rage of the bird. In the third stanza the poet still talks about the caged bird but this time on his singing.
The bird “sings with a fearful trill” and this gives me the impression that he is scared to sing because someone has forbade him to sing (owner, master). The bird sings “of things unknown” so this gives us a sense of confusion or oblivion. There is rhyme in this stanza with three lines “trill”, “still” and “hill”; these words have a shivering sense and I think emphasizes the fear of the bird. At the end of the stanza Angelou tells us the bird “sings of freedom” and that I think reflects the hopes and dreams of the bird and the black community at the time to finally be treated as equals.
In the fourth stanza Angelou goes back to the free bird. The pace of this stanza is very smooth and swift because Angelou uses words like “breeze”, “soft” and “sighing”; this gives me a feeling of relaxation and the fact that the bird is allowed to do whatever he wants, he is his own boss. The bird has “fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn” which I believe signifies that he has access to all the pleasant things without trouble. Angelou also uses alliteration in this line with “worms waiting”, I believe this helps the flow of the poem and that it emphasizes the relaxation of the bird.
In the final line of this stanza the bird “names the sky his own” this goes back to the first stanza when the bird “dares to claim the sky” and here he finally achieves this. In the fifth stanza Angelou contrasts with the caged bird. Angelou uses a metaphor in the first line as the bird stands on the “grave of dreams”; this could mean all the dreams that he has had but have been shattered. The bird has a “nightmare scream” and this goes back to the third stanza when the “sings with a fearful trill” although here the bird is shouting and not singing so maybe what started off as the bird singing turns into a scream.
From the third line until the end of the last stanza is all repeated and I believe Angelou does this to drive through to the reader to feel sorry for the caged bird. My conclusion is that Angelou wishes us to feel for the caged bird which represents the black community during the 19th and early 20th century. I believe she wants us to be that free bird, to be that person who has total self control with nobody to tell us what to do. This poem is filled with emotion from the poet and you can feel it with the words she uses and the way she uses them. Angelou is very effective in driving her message through.
Throughout the poem, Angelou uses many captivating imagery and emotive language which engages the reader with the poem and she endeavours to convey an emotive message right through. Finally it generates pathos emphasising the unimaginable, undeserved discrimination which generated a serious discussion of a distressing affliction throughout the 20th century. This spiteful reality was painless to ignore yet painful to experience. Only very few brave freedom fighters, Angelou being one of them, fought for prerogatives and for this we should admire them.