Sammy Assuncao

“I Know why the Caged Bird Sings” analysis


The poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, written by Maya Angelou, is about two birds, one bird confined in a cage and one that is free to claim the sky. This poem is riddled with poetic devices, such as, metaphors. Metaphors are used in this poem with lines such as the free and caged bird to represent the free citizen and the African American in the respectively. There is repetition used in the poem to emphasize the bird signing and is repeated throughout the poem. There is also end rhyme used to rhyme such words as thrill, still and hill. While the denotative meaning of the poem is straight forward, a bird that is free lives without restrictions as one birds is tied up and locked in a cage and can only sing for help as it’s the only tool it has. The connotative meaning of the poem is a bit different than that. Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist for African American rights in America. This gives more context to the to poems denotative meaning within the poem. The caged bird represents the African American people and the free bird represents the rest of America that is free from prejudice and racism and are given more opportunities than the African American people. The caged bird stuck behind of bars of hatred, only has his voice to cry out against prejudice in the hopes that someone hears as it is the only thing it can do as it’s confined within a cage. This is commentary on the situation of the African American people back in the day, as prejudice and discrimination were high back then. While white people were given more opportunities to do things, caged birds could do nothing but speak out. This is what type of civil rights that Maya Angelou fought for and is portrayed in this poem she wrote. She wanted to illustrate with this poem was the struggle of the African American people and how important it was to rely on their voice. This poem is significant because it illustrates the situation of the African American people back in the 1950’s and shows a side of the story that isn’t commonly seen today. Finally, we can say that the thematic statement is: “One’s voice is one’s most valuable tool in under prejudice”.