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How does Angelou describe the bird and its flight?
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In “Caged Bird,” Maya Angelou juxtaposes the ideas of a free bird and a caged bird to show the effects of oppression. Stanza one focuses on the free bird:
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.
In this stanza, Angelou uses metaphors to make the flight of the bird appear less like flying and more like floating. For the free bird, flight is effortless as it rests “on the back of the wind / and floats downstream / till the current ends,” as if it is lounging on a raft rather than having to put forth any effort on its own. For the free bird, flight is natural and easy. Near the end of the stanza, the rays of the sun are compared to a liquid, which the bird leisurely dips his wings in as he “dares to claim the sky.”
The progression continues when Angelou returns to the free bird in stanza four:
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
Here the bird casually thinks of yet another breeze on which to float and now no longer “dares to claim the sky,” but instead “names the sky his own.” For Angelou, the free bird’s flight is like floating. Rather than fight to stay in the sky, the bird floats, lifted, upheld by the atmosphere.
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