Caged Bird

Caged Bird Study Guide

Often interpreted as an allegory for the experience of oppressed Black Americans, Maya Angelou's "Caged Bird" is a poem that compares the experience of a captive bird to a bird who lives freely. While the free bird soars through the sky and thinks only of the wind, sunlight, and worms to which he is entitled, the caged bird—whose feet are tied and wings are clipped—sings a song to express his longing for a freedom he has never known. By juxtaposing the two birds' existences, Angelou presents a symbolic exploration of the spiritual resilience of the oppressed.

Published in Angelou's 1983 poetry collection Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?, "Caged Bird" features language and imagery that alludes to Angelou's 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Angelou borrowed the memoir's title from Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "Sympathy," which features a poetic speaker who sympathizes with a caged bird.