Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

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According to Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, she describes the hardships faced growing up as an African American girl in the southern states of America and California throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s. It is an evocative story of the horrible experiences of her childhood, during which she shuffled to and from drastically different surroundings in rural societies.

Maya Angelou writes in great detail about how she has come face to face with rape, racism, and sexism in the beginning years of her life. During these times, she struggled against the odds of being African American at a time when prejudice, especially in the South, was at its boiling point. But most of all, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is her coming age of story, and ones self discoverance.

Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Caged Bird’, uses a bird as the metaphor of the poem to get the message of the poem across to the reader. By doing this, the author opens up to describe slavery, but also the freedom the bird has, and the adventures that are open to the bird; all the while, exploring the bird’s actions and feelings throughout it.

‘Still I Rise’ is aimed at the white race and the treatment that the blacks received from them. This is stated right at the beginning to make sure the reader knows this, and is pulled into the poem straight away. However, the writer is not easily down-hearted by this treatment, and is determined to rise above it; she is proud of her colour and willingly declares this throughout the poem. This is similar to ‘Caged Bird’ in which when the bird is captured it always knows that it has its song and it can ‘Sing for freedom’ and although it gets captured and tied up, no one can stop its song. Its joys of being able to do what it wants, but this is short lived and the bird is captured, yet freed once more.

The novel I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and the poems ‘Caged Bird’ and ‘Still I Rise’ each have their own interpretation of a coloured race and the entrapment of that race and their bid for freedom. These poems along with the novel also display the ways of expressing their determination and the segregation of their race. Maya Angelou has intentionally expressed these themes strongly in her works because she felt strongly at the time of the segregation of the black communities, being part of one herself.


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Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. (2021, Apr 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/maya-angelous-i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings/

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