Chapter 7 I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The poem ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ talks about the meaning of freedom and the need for it. All you need to know and learn about this chapter is given below.

Meet the Poet

  • Maya Angelou is an African-American poet, writer, and civil rights activist.
  • Born: 4 April 1928
  • Place of Birth: Missouri, USA
  • Died: 28 May 2014
  • Major Works: And I Still Rise & Heart of a Woman
  • Best Known for: Maya Angaloue is an activist who came from a marginalized society. She had to face descrimination based on her race and gender. She had also gone through sexual assault as a kid. Thereby, her works speak and represent the marginalized and the discriminated lives of African-Americans. Her works represent her ideologies and the raw realities of their life.
Beautiful bird caged
Beautiful bird caged

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Summary of the Poem

Through the poem the poet is comparing the life of a free bird with that of a caged bird.

The analogy of the birds are a direct representation of slavery and other racial discrimination prevailing in our society.

The free bird is enjoying the wind and flies around in the air. He touches the sun’s orange rays and dares to claim the sky. At the same time the caged bird is held up in the narrow cage. He can only see the outer world through the bars of rage. He is angry due to his imprisonment. His wings are clipped down and feets are tied. Hence he can only sing. His voice is the only thing that is free for him to use in his autonomy. Therefore, he uses it to sing and express his anger.

...his wings are clipped and
His feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird is singing with a fearful and quavering sound. The caged bird is singing about freedom and it can be heard till the far away hill. While the caged bird sings for his freedom, the free bird is thinking of another breeze. He is extremely happy to be in the wind that slides over the sighing trees. He goes ahead to name the sky after him. Nothing stops him.

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
And he names the sky his own.

Meanwhile the caged bird stands on a grave of dreams that are unfulfilled. His shadows shouts a nightmare. His wings are clipped and legs tied. Hence he opens the throat to sing. The caged bird is singing about freedom hoping to gain one. His voice is echoing in the hills.

The repetition of lines and stanza by the poet is a way to bring attention to the core of the poem. The poet paints a clear picture of the life with freedom and the one without it. With freedom the bird is able to fly high and live his dream. This is a direct reference to the lives of people with agency in their life. Coming from the black community the poet is aware of the limitations their community had to face due to apartheid.

Hence the entire poem is a reference to the discrimination their race had to face. Here, by using her voice to speak about it, the poet herself is the bird who is singing in the cage. The poem has various layers to it. In each reading you might be able to come up with a new interpretation. This is a sign of a skilled writer.

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Bonus Info

African American Literature

African American literature refers to the body of writing produced by authors who were born in the United States and were of African descent. African American Literature is replete with expressive subtlety and social insight, and that provides illuminating assessments of American identities and the history of the country. Even though African American writers, led by Toni Morrison, have received widespread critical acclaim since 1970, this body of literature has been acknowledged not only on a national but also an international level ever since it was first published in the late 18th century.

Other African American Literature you can check out!

The 1987 published novel titled “Beloved” by Toni Morrison is a crucial text in African American Literary Canon.

“Purple Hibiscus” is a great read by the famous Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

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I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Questions and Answers

Below are a few questions that you can look out for your examinations and class tests. Stand out with perfectly written answers with help of Aneetta Class.

A free bird is capable of flying high in the sky. It can even conquer the sky and name it after him. The bird flies and enjoys the wind and the sky unlike the caged bird.

The caged bird is imprisoned. Its wings are clipped and legs are tied. The only way through which the bird can explain his emotions is through singing for his freedom. His autonomy is only associated with his voice hence he makes use of it. He is singing to express his needs and to speak for his freedom.

Freedom is the ability to live on your own free will. Freedom is important as it affects one's thoughts and feelings. The absence of freedom is the absence of free thought and free will too. Hence it is extremely important to have freedom.