Short Summary of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
The poet commences the poem with the description of the free bird or the free people who can live on their own and no one rules them. The free bird can fly free in the sky, and can swing with the wind. It means that the free people are not accountable to anyone and can do whatever they wish to, wherever they wish to go or do. If you would have ever noticed a bird flying up in the air and then swing with open feathers towards the floor. While they swing to the floor, they do not have to put any energy in flying, they just flow with the wind. This expression denotes that they are having a ride and a gala time in doing so. Similarly, the freedoms to live make the people happy and do whatever they wish to. They can move freely, ride and play with whatever instruments they wish just like the free fall ride of the free bird. This free bird can fly so high to touch the extremities of the sky. It seems as if it is touching the dark orange sun. It looks very much similar to the expression as if the orange sun is like a big pool and the free bird is going to dive in the pool of orange sun rays and wets his wings. After doing so, they feel so pride and feels like the masters of the world, the sky. They claim the sky to be their own. Similarly, the free man can walk and move with proud.
Now the poet comes to not so good picture. She is now referring to the bird in the cage who is sitting so uncomfortably in the small area. The scene is so gloomy; it cannot even have a nice look beyond the bars of its cage. The bird is not just deprived of the free open sky, but it is held in very sad position. Its wings are clipped so that it cannot move its wings and its legs are tied so that it cannot even move in the small cage. The condition of the bird is really very sad since it is deprived of living life on its own and is made a slave. Its entire body is paralyzed because it is tied. The only thing he can do is open its throat to speak out. In such a situation, one can imagine the sadness in the voice of the little poor bird. It is singing the song so that anyone can hear its agony and make him free. He knows that there is no way that he can get a life like the free bird flying up in the air, but it is still hopeful for freedom.
This caged bird is very thrilled because the treatment it got at the hands of others is very scary and dreadful. It fears whether this action of singing through its only free throat shall not be punished. He has never tasted freedom but it longs for it since it knows that the life here in cage or prison is very hard. The song of freedom sung by the bird is so deep that it can be heard on the distant hill. It means that everyone knows about the agony the caged bird is suffering.
Again the thoughts of the poet move to the free bird who is wandering freely in the sky. It can feel the lovely breezes through its body. Not only its body, but the sound of the trees when the cool breezes pass and move the leaves of the trees. The free bird does not only enjoy the ride in the sky but has plenty of food for its reach. There are big fat worms which make the cuisine for the free birds, who can hunt them anytime they want. Once again, the poet says that for free people, the world is their own, and they walk with the pride of freedom.
Again moving to the dark dull side, the poet’s thoughts come back to the caged bird. For this bird, now the freedom looks like a dream which can never come true. The bird is kind of losing its hopes and feels as if its dream of freedom is going to be buried in the grave since it seems it will never be accomplished. With all the hopes shattering and it is so shaken that it feels as if even its shadow will also scream out its agony and the sufferings it is going through. This bird is singing the song of its freedom even in such dreadful condition. Its sufferings are so fearful and its voice so sad and filled with agony, which can be heard and understood by anyone. Its plight is very painful.