I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou -In this poem, Maya showcases her African American struggle in her days by relating herself to the bird she describes in this poem. The bird cries for freedom just as how the black Americans also wrote and sang and danced and cried out for the freedom they deserved but were never heard. Yet, just as the bird, they would continue to sings and not relent until they were given their equal rights, because they knew they deserved it.First Stanza – A free bird leaps on the back, Of the wind and floats downstream, Till the current ends and dips his wing, In the orange suns rays, And dares to claim the sky.Using words such as “free bird” and “claim the sky”, she emphasizes how the bird is entitled to claim the sky because it is born free and the sky is its natural habitatSecond Stanza – But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage, Can seldom see through his bars of rage, His wings are clipped and his feet are tied, So he opens his throat to sing.She now describes the injustics that the same free bird is going through. The bird isn’t free anymore – locked up in a cage with his wings clipped and feet tied, can’t even look at the sky.
Maya Angelou being a person of color during her times, herself felt restricted from enjoying the freedom that should have been her human birthright. Just as all the bird can do now is open his throat to sing, Maya also relates to the bird by writing her poems and to get her voice heard. She wrote and sang and danced because it was her way of expressing her longing for freedom.Third Stanza – The free bird thinks of another breeze, And the trade winds soft through, The sighing trees, And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright, Lawn and he names the sky his own.Back to discussing the free bird – Maya describes how it dreams of breeze, the trees and the joy that awaits him. He names the sky his own.Fourth Stanza- But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams, His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream, His wings are clipped and his feet are tied, So he opens his throat to sing.
She talks about the caged bird again to draw a stark contrast to the joy and ecstacy that the free bird felt before compared to what the bird actually feels. This stresses on the reality of the life of the caged bird further. “Stands on the grave of dreams” expresses her own reality. She has so many dreams that died in their own graves because she was discriminated against the whites.
Just like the bird shouts, Maya also felt her voice wasn’t heard in the prevailing world (her cage) of discrimination and racism. She just like the bird felt so despondent that the screams are like that of someone having a nightmare, reaffirming the idea that the bird sings because he wants to voice his desire for freedom and his desire to express himself.Fifth Stanza – The caged bird sings with, A fearful trill of things unknown, But longed for still and his, Tune is heard on the distant hill, For the caged bird sings of freedom.The bird sings a “fearful trill” because it is scared of what lies in the future.
The freedom which is unknown to him, is still something he wants to sing about because he longs for it. His cry for freedom can be “heard on the distant hill”. TThe author also cries for her freedom but feels there are heard only in a distant hill, because she feels her voice is feeble and distorted (like distant noise) when heard.