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Natalia Prigioni Introduccin a la literatura

Guide to analyse poetry: Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

1- Literal meaning of the text: What is the poem about?

The poem is about two birds: one is imprisoned and the other is free.

2- Symbolic or metaphorical meaning:

The poem compares and contrasts the situation of human beings who
are free to those who suffer oppression and it highlights the role of art
as a means of empowering people who experience imprisonment.

3- Structure:

Contributes to convey meaning since it remarks the value of freedom:

-Free verse
- Varied number of lines per stanza.
What structures the poem is the sharp contrast between the birds.

4- Speaking voice: Who speaks in the poem?

(The speaking voice is the voice of the poem, not necessarily the writer)

In this case, the speaking voice seems to have disappeared behind the
description of the birds.

5- Atmosphere:

In the stanzas that refer to the free bird the atmosphere is cheerful,
hopeful: mainly created by the use of colours such as blue, orange
or hinted by expressions such as sighing tress.

One imagines the sound of the trees moving in a natural landscape. Also,
dawn bright lawn suggests the beginning of the day and the colours
are vibrant orange and green. Added to the blue of the sky, it creates a
peaceful and joyful atmosphere.
The stanzas that depict the caged bird create a gloomy atmosphere, that
conveys tension and suffering through the following words and
expressions: bars of rage, shadow,grave of dreams, nightmare

6- Analysis of relevant quotes: (Those which best contribute to build up


General idea, key words, meaning and connotation, connection to the

rest of the poem:

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

- The birds standing point is the tomb of his ideals and hopes, which
means that they are dead. In his mind, he has no bright future ahead
of him.
- The connector but foreshadows a contrast with the previous stanza.
It already hints that this stanza will describe the opposite situation so
it helps to create the contrast.
- grave of dreams implies that that we are before the tombstone of
the bird`s dreams, this image is shocking because it suggests death.
The choice of the word grave is really effective because it has an
emotional impact on the reader. We do not only understand that the
situation is completely hopeless from an intellectual point of view. We
feel the hopelessness together with the bird.
- This line creates a sharp contrast with the joyful situation of the free

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

- The pronoun his already conveys the idea that the line is not alluding
to a bird but to a person. However, the noun shadow portrays an image
that resembles the person but it is not, it might transmit that the
prisoner was no longer human. Perhaps because he is not fully human
anymore. He has lost his humanity together with his freedom because
the former does not exist without the latter.

- The noun scream is related to the noun dreams of the previous line.
They share a semantic field, both refer to the oneiric world. However,
here they both suggest a terrible situation during day time.

They both imply that the bird is constantly suffering and sees no way
out, he will not wake from this nightmare because he is standing on the
grave of dreams.
- Shout and scream also share meaning, the repetition of the concept
suggests growing pain, what starts as a shout ends in a terrifying cry
for help.

These two sounds are related to fearful trill: they share the idea of
fear, the need for the voice to be heard and the desire of
communication. But in the last expression the sound has become more
humane because the phrase is preceded by the verb sing. The song,
art, is what gives him back his power and his human feature.