How does Maya Angelou portray white supremacy in the poem Caged Bird?

QuestionsHow does Maya Angelou portray white supremacy in the poem Caged Bird?
Nandini A asked 3 years ago

Remark on the portrayal of White supremacy in the poem “I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Angelou.

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2 Answers
Jayanta Kumar Maity Staff answered 3 years ago

Maya Angelou’s poem ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ describes the state of two birds, where one is free and ‘floats’ and ‘dares to claim the sky’, while the other is caged in his ‘bars of rage’. The first and the fourth stanza shows the delight of the free bird experiencing freedom, whereas the rest of the stanzas concentrate on the plight of the caged bird. Angelou puts greater emphasis on the lamentable state of the caged bird, and contrasts this with that of the free bird.

Angelou, with the metaphor of birds, represents the inequality of justice seen in the society of her time which differentiates between the African-American community and its White American counterpart. Angelou was a representative of the African-American community and actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement. So, In many ways the poem ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ can be considered as the poet’s personal expression.

In the poem she essentially indicates to the privileges that the White Americans enjoyed through the portrayal of the free bird. The free bird “dares to claim the sky” and even “names the sky his own”. This signifies how the White people could do whatever they wished to. They even made rules according to their will and devoid the tribal people of their basic rights, as indicated by the portrayal of the caged bird. Maya Angelou has thus successfully depicted this white supremacy in her poem.


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DHANANJAY answered 4 months ago

The poem is written by a powerful and daring feminist writer of Afro-American community. She was a well known poet and Civil Rights Activist who voiced the grievances of the black people suffering racial discrimination in the U.S.A.

She was just 17 years of age when she wrote the poem. This piece of writing gained popularity and she soon became a leading, prominent female figure for the black ones.

The poem is beautifully presented using the metaphor of birds. The free bird is the symbol of the white people while, on the other hand, the caged bird depicts the black ones. This poem is successful in bringing out the sufferings of the black who suffers (suffering) without any cause.

His wings are clipped and his feet are tied” portrays the deep sufferance of the tribals. She says that the birds were in a narrow cage and then too, their feet were tied and wings were clipped. This means that the tribals were just deprived of their rights. They were not treated as humans.

Focusing on the white people, the poet says, “(They) dares to claim the sky“. It means that they had limitless freedom. Thus the poet is completely successful in portraying the White supremacy.


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