I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Important Questions

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou is one of the most acclaimed poetic pieces written by the prominent African American poet, Maya Angelou. Although African American people were free people in Angelou’s time, there were still many restrictions on them in society, that many black Americans did not feel free at all. This poem reveals the depth of those feelings.

Important Question and Answers

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

A free bird leaps on the back
Of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wing
In the orange sun rays
And dares to claim the sky.

1. How does the poet refer to nature here? What does the poet mean by the phrase ‘dares to claim the sky’ in the last line?

Ans. She refers to nature by describing the way “a free bird leaps on the back of the wind”. She also describes the bird’s flight against the orange sky. The last line speaks of the state of absolute freedom enjoyed by the bird out of cage. A free bird such as this can fly in the sky as it wishes.

2. How does a reader get a hint of appreciation for the beauty of nature?

Ans. The way she describes the “orange sun rays” gives the reader an appreciation for the natural beauty of the sky. Moreover, her description of the way the bird “dips his wing” helps the reader to appreciate the bird in his natural habitat, enjoying his freedom.

3. What is the free bird metaphor for here? Explain.

Ans. The free bird enjoys its freedom without any interference. The free bird is compared to the white race retaining freedom and aversion towards black people of America. They have the freedom to pursue their ambition easily. They are unaware of the cries and needs of the oppressed black community.

4. What is meant by “orange sun rays’’?

Ans. The poet says that the bird seems to dip its wings in the orange rays of the sun. Here she refers to beauty of nature, that nature is full of colours. The way she describes the “orange sun rays” gives the reader an appreciation for the natural beauty of the sky. It alludes to a free, lively and a blissful atmosphere where the free bird lives.

5. Describe the image of the bird as presented in the stanza.

Ans. The poem is a contrast between a caged bird and a free bird. In the first stanza Maya Angelou breathes life into her description of a ‘free bird’ by using verbs like ‘leaps’,‘floats’,‘dips’. The free bird is a symbol of freedom and happiness and these well chosen verbs are especially meaningful because they contain joy and energy. The free bird has the freedom to go wherever and can claim the sky because there are no other birds to contest with her. The stanza shows us that the free bird is lazy and would rather float with the wind instead of making its own path.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

1. Describe the tone of the poet in these lines. How does the bird respond to his existential condition?

Ans. The poet’s tone is dark, unnerving, and even frustrating. She describes that the caged bird can hardly see through his bars of rage. The bird is helpless by everything but only responds by opening his throat to sing due to his immense longing for freedom.

2. Explain the lines:’ can seldom see through his bars of rage.’

Ans. By the lines, “can seldom see through his bars of rage” i.e., the poet says that the caged bird is hardly able to get a glimpse of the sky which makes him angry. His clipped wings and tied feet tied prevent him from flying away. His aspirations are suppressed, he is helpless to even get a sight of the great freedom outside the bars of the cage which makes the bird resentful for he longs for freedom to be outside the cage

3. What does the use of the word ’but’ in the beginning suggest?

Ans. This stanza is in stark contrast with the first. By using the word “but” to begin this stanza, the poet prepares the reader for this contrast. The poet then describes the pathetic condition of another bird that is captive in a caged, with wings clipped and feet tied. The word “but” indicates that the idea or imagery that the poet is going to present is contrary to what she has already stated.

4. What is the condition of the bird described in this stanza?

Ans. The bird’s wings are clipped and feet are tied. It hardly even gets a chance to see the sky. It has been placed in a cage that prevents it from flying. The bird is helpless. He is resentful, for this unfair captivation to him as birds fly freely in the sky and they should not be kept captive. He longs to be free from the pain and suffering inside the sorrowful cage.

5. Whom does the poet refer indirectly while mentioning of the free and the caged bird?

Ans. This contrast between the birds enables the poet to express indirectly her own emotions about freedom and isolation. By the ‘free bird’ the poet refers to the white people, and the caged bird can be interpreted as the black race being deprived from freedom by their skin colour. This could be compared to slavery in the U.S.A, where the blacks were suppressed from their aspirations and were much tortured by the white people.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

1. What does the poet imply about the bird’s craving for freedom?

Ans. The author implies that even though the caged bird may have never experienced true freedom, yet deep down that bird still knows that it was created to be free. Although freedom, to the caged bird, is “fearful” because it is “unknown”, he still sings “a fearful trill” because he still longs for freedom.

2. Give the significance of the lines: The caged bird sings with A fearful trill of things unknown”.

Ans. Maya Angelou uses irony to be cleverer and effective but less direct in conveying her feelings. ‘The caged bird sings with a fearful trill’. This sentence is ironic as the caged bird is the one singing not the free bird as we expect. However, the words ‘fearful’ and ‘trill’ makes us realize that actually it is not a happy tune but in a fearful and trembling tone. The bird is unknown of many strange things but still sings the songs of freedom in quaver which enables the readers to reach to more depth and appreciate freedom.

3. What does the poet mean by the expression ‘his tune is heard on the distant hill’?

Ans. The speaker reveals that cry for freedom is “heard on the distant hill”. This parallels to the author and her cry for freedom in the form of equality. She feels that her cries are heard, but only as a soft background noise. She still feels that she is caged and that although she sings, her cries are heard only as a distant noise.

4. Show the relevance of the stanza.

Ans. The stanza describes the conditions of the American black people longing for freedom. It implies that even though the caged bird may have never experienced true freedom, deep down that bird still knows that it was created to be free. Here, the poet reveals that like the caged bird many black people are deprived from their freedom and that although they sing their cries are heard, but only as a distant noise.

5. What does the last line imply?

Ans. The last line states, “For the caged bird sings of freedom”. With this, the speaker implies that although the caged bird may never have experienced freedom, he still sings of it because he was created for freedom. This is paralleled to the African American struggle in Maya Angelou’s time. She feels that black Americans wrote and sang and danced and cried out for the freedom they deserved, but they were only heard as a distant voice. Yet, this would not stop them from crying out for freedom and equality because they knew they were made for freedom, and they would not relent until they were given their rights as human beings to enjoy the freedom they were created to enjoy.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.
But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

1. How does the poet describe the bird’s freedom here? Comment on the tone of the poet.

Ans. The poet says that a free bird has freedom of choice and opportunities to fly at his sweet will. He can enjoy the “sighing trees” and is free to find his own food. The tone of the poet suggests a sense of ecstasy and thrill due to freedom.

2. What is meant by another breeze? Why does the free bird thinks of another breeze?

Ans. “Another breeze” implies that the free birds thinks for a flight in a different air current. The poet writes that a “free bird thinks of another breeze“, so that is he can enjoy the sighing trees and be free to find his own food. The bird is not contented and is greedy to have even more freedom, but again it is shown to be lazy and unsatisfied with the stream of wind that is on but not enough to do something about it.

3. In what way is the caged bird different from the free bird?

Ans. The poem is a contrast between a ‘free bird’ and ‘caged bird’. The caged bird possess its own limitations. His wings are clipped and feet are tied. He hardly even gets a chance to see the sky. He has been placed in a cage that prevents it from flying. Despite its fear, the cage bird continues to sing for freedom. The bird opens his mouth to sing because his desire for freedom and his desire to express himself cannot be controlled. Whereas a “free bird thinks of another breeze “so that he can enjoy the “sighing trees” i.e., it is free from all worries and sufferings.

4. Explain: “But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams”.

Ans. The reality of the life of the caged bird is revealed in this line. It is a dark, sombre and haunting image indicating the slavery and inability to exercise one’s freedom of choice. The bird is helpless by everything. His aspirations and desires are suppressed by the sorrowful captivity of the cage. He is unable to fulfil his dreams and cries out like someone who has seen a nightmare.

5. How does this signifies the author’s own state of mind?

Ans. The reality of the life of the caged bird that the bird “stands on the grave of dreams” reveals the author’s feelings about her own dreams. She has so many dreams that have died because she was never given the freedom to achieve all that her white counterparts were able to achieve. Discrimination and Racism made up her cage, and although she sang, she felt her voice was not heard in the wide world, but only by those nearest her cage.

6. What does the poet wants to convey by the contrast between the two birds?

Ans. These contrasting environments—the freedom of an open world of the free bird and the restrictive surroundings of the caged bird—create the setting for the poem, to contrast a free bird with a bird who is confined to a cage; the poet wants to convey two different birds as metaphors for people free from oppression and people who are oppressed by society. The metaphor shows the free bird and caged bird which is important to understand for the theme. The tone shows the difference between the free bird, proud and controlling, and the caged bird, angry and determined which is essential to the theme. ‘For the caged bird sings of freedom’ is the last line of the poem and it delivers a very important message for the reader – the caged bird wants to be like the free bird. This tells us that we should be aware and thankful for the freedom we have and basically this sums up the whole poem.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *