Caged Bird

Caged Bird Essay

Question: Explore the ways in which the poet has used language and other poetic devices to present ideas in ‘Caged Bird’?

In the poem ‘Caged Bird’, the poet Maya Angelou expresses her views on social injustice. The poem itself is an extended metaphor of two birds; one bird is ‘caged’ while the other is ‘free’, this is a metaphor towards slavery with the ‘free bird’ representing whites and the ‘caged bird’ representing blacks. It could also be argued, though, towards any example of social injustice. Angelou shows her views through the use of conjunctions, rhyme and use of diction. Together, these techniques give a clear contrast of the unfairness between the standards of the ‘free bird’ and the ‘caged bird’.

When describing the ‘free bird’ Angelou starts lines with the conjunction ‘and’; ‘and floats downstream’, ‘and dips his wings’. This repetition of ‘and’ followed by what the ‘free bird’ does shows the many choices and opportunities the ‘free bird’ gets. The ‘free bird’ is ‘free’ to do as he pleases; he even ‘dares to claim the sky’. This relates to social injustice as the ‘caged bird’ ‘sings of things unknown but longed for still’, as if the ‘caged bird’ is deprived of the rights of the ‘free bird’ to ‘dip his wing’ or ‘float downstream’. The use of this conjunction shows the many choices the ‘free bird’ has and the injustice of the caged bird not getting these same opportunities.

In a repeated stanza (3 and 6) Angelou uses end rhyme to show the ‘caged bird’s’ lust for freedom and to add emphasis to the fact that the ‘caged bird’ does not get the same opportunities as the ‘free bird’. Throughout stanza’s 5 and 6 Angelou uses a repeated rhyme pattern, ‘trill…still…hill’, before on the last line of the stanza the word is a mismatched word, ‘freedom’. Having this word mismatched adds emphasis to it and shows the how much the caged bird wanted this unique thing; ‘of things unknown and long for still. This relates to the social injustice...