Analysis of the Literary Devices in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

Analysis of the Literary Devices in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

Maya Angelou has used various literary devices to enhance the intended impacts of her poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.

Read Also: Summary and Analysis of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


1. Alliteration: Alliteration is a literary device in which a series of words begin with the same consonant sound. This poem is rich with alliterations and its examples can be seen in the repetition of /s/ sound in “seldom see-through” and then /w/ sound in “worms waiting” and then again /sh/ sound in “shadows shouts.”

2. Assonance: Assonance is the use of vowel sounds in quick succession. The poem has a couple of assonances, for example, /i/ sounds in “distant hills” and “sings with fearful hills”.

3. Consonance: Consonance means repetitive sounds produced by consonants within a sentence or phrase. In the lines “But a bird that stalks down” /b/ sounds have been repeated and in the same way, /d/ sound is repeated in “trade winds.”

4. Imagery: As imagery pertains to the five senses, this poem is full of different images. “free bird” and “back of wind” images for sight and feelings. Similarly, there are some images such as “orange sun rays” is for sight, and “throat to sing” is for hearing.

5. Metaphors: There are two major metaphors. The first metaphor is of the free bird that is for the white Americans or free people, while the caged bird is the metaphor of African Americans and their captivity in the social norms.

6. Personification: Maya Angelou has used personification such as “sighing trees” as if trees are feeling sorrow. Also, she
has personified the bird by changing its pronoun from “its” to “his”.

7. Symbol: Maya Angelou has used different symbols to show racial discrimination and social construction against her community. The caged bird is a symbol of imprisonment, while his song is a symbol of freedom.

This analysis shows that this poem has used literary devices to point out the importance of freedom before the Civil War era and even now.

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Analysis of the Poetic Devices in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

Although most of the poetic devices are part of literary devices, yet some devices are only used in poems. The analysis of some of the major poetic devices used in this poem is given here.

End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make a stanza melodious such as in the first and second line of the third stanza. The
rhyming words are “trill”, “still” and “shrill”.

Internal Rhyme: The internal rhyme is rhyme within a line such as in the line “waiting on a dawn bright lawn” two words “dawn” and “lawn” rhyme with each other.

Repetition: The poetic, as well as the rhetorical device of repetition, emphasizes a point through repetition such as “A free bird thinks” and “The caged bird sings” which have been repeated in the poem several times.

Stanza: The poet has used stanzas with a different number of lines with no regular rhyme scheme.

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