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Summary: How Maya Angelou Shares Her Life Experience Through Her Works Using Symbolism

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Maya Angelou refers to birds on her both works ‘Caged Bird’ and ‘I Know Why Caged Bird Sings’. There is an ongoing symbolism about birds that they are free beings, fly wherever they want to. Yet, on her works, she puts an emphasis on the caged bird.

In the poem ‘Caged Bird’, Angelou mentions that his wings are clipped and his feet are tied. It is an unnatural circumstance for a bird and it means he was a free bird at some point or even worse born to that environment.

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She refers to her community as ‘he’. The black community been through discrimination and was not let to be themselves like the bird. This discrimination done by the other communities, white folks if we had to be specific and with time this discrimination done by the black community to their own members. As Angelou mentions in her book, in her younger years she felt ugly since she did not have physical features in a certain way, common knowledge made her feel ugly.

At some point, she must felt that she was the caged bird. Just like a caged bird, striped from his identity by taking away his main attributions from the bird. She could be that caged bird, that she was trapped by the rules and taboos of her community.‘The caged bird sings’ as Angelou constructs this sentence, she uses the word ‘sings’, because that’s what birds do. The word ‘sings’ has a positive connotation yet next line shows that it is a ‘fearful thrill’.These lines reminded me of the part where Maya Angelou goes to church and her community sing with the church choir. It is a notion of unity among the black community and even a cultural defence. And that’s what religious people do when they feel sad or hopeless, they go to the church and sing, just like the caged bird.

There is another aspect in the poem, the free bird. I think the free bird is the personification of the poet herself, Maya Angelou. She mentions that the free bird feels like he owns the sky. That free bird might have been caged at some point in his life and he break free and we are seeing the free bird he has become. It could be that she was trapped by the rules and taboos of her community and with her experiences she was able to break free, now she became the free bird that she was supposed to be. We know from her autobiography that she started to question things from an early age. The fact that they were sent away from home, she getting raped. These events made her more conscious about life and how it worked. Maya and Bailey moving to Arkansas, living with their Momma must have changed a lot in them. They had to move to a quite racist part of the country and they learned how a black individual dealt with racism.

In a part of her autobiography, Angelou mentions that white kids were mocking her momma and she handled the situation just by singing, just like the caged bird. In an interview Angelou tells about this situation more in dept ‘..ten-year-old Marguerite experiences what she describes in Caged Bird as the 'most painful experience that I ever had with my grandmother.' In this confrontation, Mrs. Annie Henderson, Marguerite's grandmother and her absolute protector, positions herself as a literal harrier between her family and a 'dangerous' white world, even though she must subject herself to racial insult to do so. liven when verbally assaulted by the adolescent girls, Momma Henderson remains outwardly 'cool,' giving no visible sign of her inner turmoil.’. This gives us an idea about the importance of her grandmother, Momma and how she inspired Angelou to deal with racism and hardship of life. It clear that Angelou idolized her grandmother and has a large impact to her and her perspective to how the things should go, that she should remain cool blooded.

Throughout the poem, the reader can sense the contrast of the caged and the free bird. While free bird has dreams to accomplish the caged bird is desperate and ‘stands on the grave of dreams’. The caged bird could only think about the caged that he is trapped in. In this case we can ascribe the caged bird as the blacks, people of colour. In the interview, Angelou tells about a memory that includes her Uncle Willie she tells that ‘I knew that killing was a sin. I knew that you weren't supposed to do anything to whites, not speak to them or even look them in the eye. I also knew that whites could and did do anything to us.’. These lines basically mention about the circumstances that black people had to go through every day. Angelou describes that there were unwritten rules between blacks and whites, that the blacks are not free nor equal. They were trapped into their skins, symbolized as the caged bird.

The symbolism of the cage is the restrictions that Angelou been through not only by the society as I mentioned before but restricting herself. The one that limits himself or herself is more hurtful than the community restricting that person. In that case, you can fight with the others if you have the will. However, you cannot fight with yourself if you are not aware that you are trapped. Angelou knew that she was trapped, she was trapped in her skin colour, trapped in her gender, and trapped in her community. On her autobiography, the audience experiences her journey with her, the moments which she starts to break free. For instance, after she gets raped which is a traumatic even for whoever has to go through, she stood upright, without feeling ashamed or without blaming herself. As she continues to tell her story we, the reader understands that were two reasons for that. First being, she was mistaking rape with love, Angelou thought that she was receiving the love her biological father lacked. Second reason was that (we learned this further in the book) she did not valued sexual contact. Rather she felt sorry for her raper, Mr. Freeman since he was lynched to death for raping her.

Therefore, society expected her to be broken, in fact, she became silent after that incident yet as I mentioned not because she felt ashamed but she felt sorry. I think the society expected Angelou to cage herself and found that her silence was meant to be. Yet it is obvious that she got through from her traumas, in an interview Angelou was asked how she dealt and healed from the traumas that she been through and her answer was, love. Angelou mentions‘I can't remember a time when I wasn't loved by somebody. So even in the bad, really bad times, in Saint Louis, my brother, Bailey, helped. When I couldn't really trust my mother or her mother, or my uncles . . . they amused me, of course . . . they were funny . . . but to trust them???? My grandmother loved me and Uncle Willie loved me UNCONDITIONALL Y . . . even when 1 became so weird that they couldn't understand me—they loved me.’.

 Maya Angelou shares her life experience through her works I Know Why Caged Bird Sings and ‘Caged Bird’. Through these works, the readers could have a new perspective about being a bird or being caged. These works made me think about those people that go through mainly discrimination. Also, it is brilliant that she told this issue with such an easy metaphor, bird and freedom. Everyone knows that, birds are free beings yet she argues why the caged bird sing. 

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