Full Summary and Analysis of Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”

This is a good full summary and analysis of Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird.”

About the Poet (Maya Angelou). Who is Maya Angelou? 

Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928, and she lived until May 28, 2014. Aneglou lived at a time when racism and racial discrimination was at a high point in the United States of America. She had to find a way around it as she suffered it with the other African-Americans. She had a brother, and at a very young age, her parents divorced leading to her mother and father to be sharing them among themselves. While she and her brother were at her mother’s place, her mother’s boyfriend raped her.

Armed with the racial and sexual exploitation she encountered while she was younger, she began to write autobiographies about her experiences and they became famous. Thus, her books and write ups focused on racism, sexual exploitation and other social crises in the US. The most popular of these books is I know why a Caged Bird Sings, and it is from this book that she got the title of her poem, “Caged Bird.” Before writing, she worked as a stripper, a journalist, a sex worker, an actress and a whole lot of other odd jobs.

She was active during the civil rights movement in the United States of America. She opposed racism, and was an agitator for Black Awakening or Consciousness. She stayed in Africa for a while. In the 80s, 90s and 2000s, she received great recognition for her works including numerous doctorate degrees and national awards. She passed away in May, 2014, aged 86.

Background of the Poem

You won’t understand full summary and analysis of Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” if you don’t know the background. The poem deals about the racial inequality and racism in US at the point this poem was written. The African-Americans were discriminated against and denied lots of opportunities due to the colour of their skin. This prompted Angelou to write this as he considers African-Americans as caged birds who seek for freedom.

The Summary and Analysis of the Poem

The persona in the poem begins the poem by putting out the situation of a free bird. The free bird is free to sing and move around and relish the cool breeze. This is against the situation and experiences of the caged bird. The caged bird sings with fear and there is no freedom. The caged bird is locked in its cage, and therefore, there is no much freedom for it.

While writing about the free bird, the poet also concerns itself with the caged bird. A vivid imagery is created to portray the suffering of the caged bird. Apart from the pain of being locked up, the caged bird is also scared and scarred. Freedom is denied this bird, and what happens is that the bird yearns for freedom. Looking at the free bird, it would love to be free.

“Caged bird” is simply an animal symbol of African-Americans who the persona captures in an apt imagery as the caged people. There is no freedom for these people because they are restricted by racial social institutions of the US. They are not comfortable with their situation and do not yearn for nothing other than regaining their freedom.

The African-Americans yearn for their freedom from the racial discrimination of the white and the lack of opportunities for them. They also do not want to be treated as people not qualified to be full humans like the white. The persona (in code) seeks the equal treatment and opportunities for all the races.

Themes in Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”

The themes in the poems are like what is entailed in the content of the poem. Once you realize these themes than you have done a good work in understanding the full summary and analysis of Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird.”

  1. Quest for Freedom: The “caged bird” in the poem yearns for freedom even though it is locked up. The persona in the poem presents the bird as in a bad situation and would definitely want out. The bird doesn’t struggle violently for freedom but through its situation and mood, it desperately sing and yearns for freedom.
  • Man’s Inhumanity to Man: The one who locks this bird prevents it from being free like other free bird. The bird is locked and so doesn’t reach its potentials. It longs for freedom and wishes to reach its potentials.
  • Racial Inequality/Discrimination: This is the background of the poem and is expressed in the poem by vividly portraying the poor situation of the caged bird. This caged bird is a symbol describing the African-American situation.
  • Lack of Opportunities/Inability to Utilize One’s Potentials: The caged bird is denied opportunities and is not allowed to reach its potentials because it is locked up in the cage. Unlike the free bird who has all the right to reach its potentials and meet most opportunities, the caged bird is denied this.

Poetic Devices/Style in the Poem

  1. Symbolism: Symbols represents something else are used well in the poem. For instance, “caged bird” representing African-American is used repeatedly.
  • Imagery: Through the vivid depiction of the situation of the caged bird and the repetition of some words, a perfect mental picture of the poor situation of the caged birds is well-captured.
  • Repetition: There is the good use of some words for emphasis such as “caged bird,” “free bird,” and “fearful trill.”
  • Personification: There is also a good use of personification as the bird is often depicted to sing or yearns for freedom and want to sing.

There are other poetic devices in the poem such as Alliteration and Metaphor. The Tone/Mood of the poems is a sad one and showcases a gloom atmosphere with lots of anguish.

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