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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou


Picture taken from Second Air Division Memorial Library


Maya Angelou, the writer of the poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has wrote the poem based on her true life story as an African-American woman that suffers in the early years of her life. It is an incredibly sad yet inspirational poem. Every word she used gives us the picture of what is going on in the past. The points which I am going to focus on are the theme of the poem, literary devices used in the poem, issues and concerns raised, and the tone and mood of the poem. 

            The theme of the poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is about racial segregation. It talks about how life is before, back in America. It talks about the great wall built between the whites and the blacks which is clearly shown with the word she used as the metaphor-“free bird” and “caged bird”. Back in America, the racial segregation between the whites and blacks started during the 1800s and early to mid 1900s. The whites were so powerful that “he names the sky his own.” In contrast, the blacks can only “stands on the grave of dreams” and “sings of freedom”. The racism and the difference between the whites and colored people can obviously be seen in this poem. In the second stanza of the poem especially, gives us a negative feeling when Angelou used the word “but” to put a line between the free bird which is the whites, and the caged bird which is the blacks.

            The literary devices used in this poem are metaphor, oxymoron, anaphora and repetition. Metaphor such as “caged bird” and “free bird” are used to describe the black race and the white race. Meanwhile the word “sing” is always related to happiness but in this poem, it is used as a medium to voice out the sadness, crying for freedom, and telling the world about hoe helpless the blacks are, which created the element of oxymoron. Angelou also used anaphora in the 2nd stanza, line 4 to 6, in the 4th stanza, last two lines, and in the 5th stanza, line 2 and 3. To get better understanding of the poem, she used repetition to stress out the meaning in 2nd stanza, last 3 lines, and 3rd stanza, the first three lines.

            Next, when talking about the mood and tone of this poem, they were separated into two; free bird and caged bird. The free bird carries more positive mood such as joyous, dignified, confident and powerful meanwhile the tone are joyful, audacious, proud, and fanciful. In contrast, the caged bird carries more negative mood such as tense, painful, terrifying, heartbroken, and really sad mood meanwhile the tone are afraid, poignant, bitter, pitiful and dramatic. We can hear it through the phrases used in the poem.

            Lastly, by analyzing this poem, I realized that there is a big issue that the world need to be aware of which is racial segregation. To make the world a better place to live, this issue should be avoided. We can see clearly through this poem, how suffering life can be when there is a wall between the races that separate them as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both”. I believe that all of us should live in this world as one, not as you and me. When the ‘one’ is separated, then it is no longer one but becoming two different parts which then leads to misunderstanding and disagreement.

*Do contact me if you need the references. By the way, remember not to plagiarize. This is for you to refer to!  ^^

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