“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”-Sharma

Shalvena Sharma


Period 3

February 13, 2012

                                                                                         “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

      Life – living, growing and producing more of the same kind. The word I mark the most is “living.” My definition of life is having fun, adventure, discoveries and to learn. Have you ever heard of a person named Maya Angelou? Well, she is the poet who wrote the mysterious poem I’ am going to narrate about. In the poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou the poet uses symbolism, metaphors and mood to show us that you should live your life or you will regret it.

When I realized that Maya Angelou used symbolism as a way to show us the theme of the poem, I was a little shocked. The quote, “His wings are clipped and his feet are tied. So he opens his throat to sing,” is showing us that the caged bird is like a prisoner in jail and just like a prisoner in jail, the caged bird is hoping for freedom. The message I pulled out from this quote was that there is always something to do even if you don’t think so. The poet used this example of symbolism to show us what a caged bird is representing and the difficulties it has to face.

The caged bird is a prisoner in jail. Do you think this is a regular sentence or a type of figurative language?  If you answered figurative language then you are correct. It is a metaphor, which is the most used figurative language in this poem so far. In the quote, “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,” is stating how free bird is living it’s life, while the caged bird can’t even sing without a “fearful trill.” The message that came to mind was enjoy life as you have it. The theme is clearly demonstrated here because it is trying to compare the life of a free bird and a caged bird, and show how different their lives are.

The poet uses mood to display the theme by creating the feelings of sadness, desperation and loneliness in the following quotes: “But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams/His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream.” Don’t these two lines give you a creepy, horror film feeling? It does to me, but a sad, desperate and lonely feeling too. I mean it sounds like even the caged bird’s shadow wants to be free and flying. From this quote we can see the pain that the caged bird is receiving by seeing others having fun without him. Imagine you as a diabetic and someone right in front of you eating a double, chocolate layer cake. How would you feel?

So I state again, the poet uses symbolism, metaphors and mood to show us a mysterious poem that is at once sad, but still exciting. The message of each quote gave me an idea of what the theme is. Would you live your life-like a free bird or a caged bird? I’ m not saying go sky- diving anytime you want, I’m just saying there has to be at least a bit of fun in life. So if you don’t live your life the only thing you’ll do is regret.


Maya Angelou- Sharma

Maya  Angelou

Born: April 4th 1928 St. Louis, Missouri She is still living today

Maya Angelou is successful writer, actor, dancer, poet and filmmaker. She was also the first African-American woman to be a cable car conductor and director in Hollywood.

Maya Angelou was raised in St. Louis and Stamps Arkansas. She was treated differently because of her race and skin color.Her parents being divorced, she lived with her brother and grandmother as a child. Her brother stuttered, so she was called ”My” and later on it progressed to ”Maya.”Maya Angelou learned religious faith and how to live traditional African-American life from her grandmother.At age seven, when Maya Angelou went to visit her mother in Chicago, her mother’s boyfriend had sexually harassed her. The only person to know about this was her brother, later on she heard that an uncle had murdered her molester.From then on she didn’t speak until five years went by and she was thirteen.Joining Mission High School and winning a scholarship to go study drama and dance at San Francisco’s Labor School she realized how much talent she had within herself. After returning to high school Maya Angelou became pregnant with her son, Guy. She took up the job as a waitress to support her son and her.

In 1952 she married Anastasios Angelopulos, a Greek sailor and started her career as a nightclub singer.her career became a hit, but her marriage became a flop.In 1954 and 1955 she went on a tour to perform the Porgy and Bess opera and learned modern dance from Martha Graham. In 1957 she recorded her first album, the Calypso Lady.She moved to New York, joined the Harlem Writers Guild, and wrote and performed  Carabet for Freedom with actor and comedian Godfrey Cambridge. There she fell in love with Vusumzi Make , a South African civil rights activist.then they moved to Cairo, Egypt and she became the editor of The Arab Observer. Later on they went to live in Ghana, there she became the instructor and assistant administrator of the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama, was the feature editor of The African Review ,wrote for The Ghanaian Times and the Ghanaian Broadcasting Company .

Maya Angelou went overseas to the United States came back with the knowledge of how to speak Italian, Arabic, French, Spanish, and West African: Fanti.At Ghana she met Malcolm X, whose intentions were to make an organization of African-American unity, but shortly after Maya Angelou returned to USA Malcolm was assassinated. So she began working more with Martin Luther King Jr. Sadly he too was assassinated and on Maya Angelou’s birthday! Taking her friend’s advice she found peace in writing, creating I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Like a disease Maya Angelou’s books and poems spread everywhere.People wanted her as their teacher and lecturer.One of Maya Angelou’s screenplay called Georgia, Georgia was the first ever screenplay by an African-American woman selected for the Pulitzer Prize. Many presidents even invited her in their commissions and inaugurations, in one of them she read ”On the Pulse of the Morning,” which was broadcasted live all over the world.  ”Down in the Delta,” was her first feature film, that she directed.

Maya Angelou was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Arts, Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to her by Barack Obama) and she also narrated an award-winning documentary of a film :The Black Candle , along with a book,  Letter to My Daughter.

    I hope there are more medals and awards to come, along with super-hit poems!


1. “Maya Angelou Biography — Academy of Achievement.” Academy of Achievement Main Menu. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.  
“Maya Angelou Biography.” — Academy of Achievement. Web. 27 Feb. 2012. <http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/ang0bio-1.&gt;.
2. “Maya Angelou – Biography.” Maya Angelou – The Official Website. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

“Maya Angelou – Biography.” Maya Angelou. Web. 27 Feb. 2012. <http://mayaangelou.com/bio/&gt;.


3. “Maya Angelou Biography.” Famous Poets and Poems – Read and Enjoy Poetry. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.