What do you find particularly memorable in the language the poet uses in Caged Bird?
In the poem, Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou, the language has been employed effectively. She has defined her own structure, so as to find the sound, tempo and rhythm that are most suitable for this poem. The imagery, as well as the sounds, with which the poet uses to aid in the conveyance of her message and ideals, has been executed effectively. Furthermore, the use of contrast and comparison is central to the poem and is presented in a powerful, albeit straightforward manner.
Angelou has chosen to shape the structure of a poem to benefit her own ideals, and has achieved this remarkably. This is apparent as, even though each line has a different number of beats, the first line only having four, the second, having six and the fourth having five, the poem in its entirety is still lyrical and musical, and this lyrical style ties in with the poem’s image, that of a caged bird, which “sings with a fearful trill…” By opting not to constrain her poem through the use of rigid meters, rhythm and general structure, each stanza, or rather, each line contributes to the poem’s overall idea.
Whilst the structure is integral to the poem, so is the use of enjambment.
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In the first stanza, the structure is smooth and the words flow continuously. The poet has employed enjambment to help make the verse sound more free and boundless, in accordance with the image of a free bird, which “leaps on the back of the wind”. The structure of the stanzas do not inhibit the meaning of them, but instead, helps to develop them, and it is this skill with which Angelou writes that makes the poem as a whole, effective and memorable.
Moreover, Angelou has employed imagery to her advantage in this poem. By using strong, connotative words, she has created a stronger image for the reader to imagine. Her use of effective and clear adjectives, as well as strong, effective metaphors, create a compelling picture which helps the reader to visualize the “dawn-bright lawn” and “sighing trees”, thereby enabling the reader to clearly understand the image. The metaphors allow the reader to comprehend the poet’s vision, and this is used again when she writes “the caged bird stands on the grave of dreams” as well as the lines, “dips his wing in the orange sun’s rays”. This use of strong adjectives and stronger metaphors help to clearly impress upon the reader the image which the poet has intended for us to envision.
Additionally, Angelou has utilized sound to its greatest effect in each of the poem’s stanzas. This has been done to help set the overall tone of the verse and the entire poem. The reader can see this in the first stanza, where Angelou has used softer, longer vowel and consonant sounds to help add to the soft, carefree atmosphere of the stanza. This can be seen with words like “free”, “leaps”, and “floats”. This is again seen in the fourth stanza, through the use of sounds that accentuate the softness of the ambience, which is apparent in the words, “breeze”, “soft”, and “sighing”. In contrast to this, harder, shorter vowel and consonant sounds help to illustrate the bleak, wretched atmosphere of the cage in stanzas two and five. These sounds are used in “stalks”, “clipped”, and “scream”. This use of sound throughout the poem helps the reader to understand the contrasting atmospheres and the overall tone of the poem.
Angelou has centred her poem on the contrast and comparison of the free bird and the caged bird. This contrast portrays the differences between the lives of these two birds. In the first stanza, the free bird “floats downstream” and “dips his wings in the orange sun’s rays”. This helps the reader to understand the carefree nature of the free bird. In contrast, in the second stanza, the caged bird “stalks down his narrow cage” and his “wings are clipped and his feet are tied”. This contrast between the free bird and the caged bird is an effective method, which Angelou enlists, to convey her beliefs and to ensure that the reader can understand her intentions, as well as making the poem memorable and appealing.
Angelou has effectively written her poem, and in the process has made it memorable. Her choice not to follow a standard structure has proven fulfilling, as her structure has successfully expressed her message. In addition, the imagery with which she portrays her visualization has helped to impress an image upon the reader, which is helped by the use of different sounds through the poem that enables the reader to fully grasp the mood of the stanzas. This, in turn, helps the contrast and comparisons in the poem to be made more prominent, which ultimately allows Angelou to successfully convey her message, that of the luxuries of freedom, and, in comparison, the bonds of an oppressive society.