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Caged Bird – Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St Louis, Missouri. Her life has been through many highs and lows, such as experiencing rape by her step father, death in the family, she went mute, early pregnancy, activism and success with her writing and being recognised by important people like the president at the time Bill Clinton. Her emotional Rollercoaster of a life intertwined with her very strong and sometimes misinterpreted views has propelled her to write such a compelling piece of poetry.

The poem has a very distinct structure by each stanza describing the free Tor caged bird. The poem structure is like a song with the free bird stanza’s being the choruses. There is also a point to be made about the poem structure as the caged bird has 4 verses as opposed free bird only be given 2 by Maya Angelou, She has made the point that most things are clear with the free bird and its all clear cut and it doesn’t need much to the describe it.

Whereas the caged bird needs 4 verses so it can be heard and it also ends up reiterating the point by 2 of its verses being identical. The Structure also is a bit different because Maya Angelou has set the poem up into 2 halves with the second half having longer lines than the 1st half apart from the 3rd and 6th stanza. In the poem rhyme can be really obvious rhyme which is also repeated like “trill”, “still” and “hill and half rhyme like “dream” and “screams” and the other rhymes like assonance “heard” and “bird”.

The assonance has a lot of importance on the message the poet is trying to put across because it is not flowing full rhyme and the pace of the poem is slow, so the reader might get a good at the stanzas, whereas if it is flowing rhyme the reader might just skim over it. I get impressions of the free bird that it is care-free and it is described with unrestricted moved, hence it is the free bird with verbs like “leaps”, “floats”, “dips and “dares”.

The character is also proved to be adventurous but effortless in doing so, also with an air of swagger and arrogance about him maybe suggests too much of the freedom could be set to be his downfall. “and he names the sky his own” tells us that nothing is the limit in the natural world and everything is there to be claimed but more importantly for Maya Angelou for black people in the 1950s maybe she was referring to them saying everything is there to be claimed for them if they take the opportunities.

The impact of the phrases relating to the sky being at the end of the verses in 1 and 4, is that the sky in the world is the height of everything and the impact of the image is also showing me an alpha-bird, a great self believing image. The poet first of all contrast the two types of stanzas, the free bird and the caged bird my making lines correspond to each of the lines in the other’s stanzas on the caged bird and 2 on the free bird which I think is because the poet is trying to emphasize the point that the caged bird is more important and has more to “sing” about.

Earlier on I talked about the phrase describing the free bird, well the caged bird has a lot more said about him such as, “his wings are clipped” a birds unique feature are its wings and to that away from the bird is dismal and I think the bird can’t be judged on whether it deserves dismal treatment yet because in the poem no actions of the caged bird are mentioned that would deserve this and we can only assume that it cant be that bad and not be worth it, and as if it was that bad it would be mentioned.

“Fearful trill” these aren’t the sounds of a happy bird. His feet are tied”, possibly one of the statements that can always be related to mistreatment and slavery. “Distant”, the bird is away from everything and is the reason why it feels the need to sing. “Bars of rage is telling me that the bars that are trapping this caged bird are putting so much fear into this bird that he looks at the bars with rage or the other way around. “grave of dreams” is a metaphor because graves have dead people in them and you would expect them to go in a sentence with nightmares, the opposite of dreams as dead people don’t tend to have dreams.

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