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Lesson Note
Subject: Literature In English 
Topic: Summary Analysis of the Novel “The Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou.

Lesson Objectives: This lesson is aimed at helping learners understand the poem “The Caged Bird”. By the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:

  1. In few sentences describe who the Poet;
  2. Recite the poem;
  3. Identify and write about setting of the poem;
  4. Identify the poetic devices used in the poem;
  5. Identify and discuss the themes in the poem;
  6. Point out the characters I’m the poem.

Learning Aids: See Reference Resources below lesson content.

Lesson Summary

Note: This is just summary of the poem for instruction purpose and does not cover all contents. As students preparing for exams, we always advise not to depend on this alone but get a copy of the book from bookshops for detailed study. 

Lesson Discussion

The Caged Bird By Maya Angelou
Meet The Poet
Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou (April 4, 1928 to May 28, 2014), was an American author, actress, screen writer, dancer, poet as well as civil rights activist. She gained popularity for her 1969 memoir, I know why the caged bird sings, which made literary history as the first notification best seller by an African-American woman. Angelou received several honours throughout her career including two N A A C P Image awards in the outstanding literary work (notification) category, in 2005 and 2009.

The poem
The free bird leaps
On the back of the wind
And float downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

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.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tone is heard
On the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighting trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn- bright lawn and 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

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.

See 2022 WAEC past questions with solutions on Literature in English

5. Imagery
We have the following imagery carefully drawn from the poem: “trees”, “sky”, “wind”, “sun rays”, all help to increase our understanding of the poem.
6. Onomatopoeia:
The words below from the way they sound suggest their meanings in the poem and help provide fact to the subject matter of the poem. These words are “clipped”, “bars”, “cage” “floats”, “fearful”, “sighting”, “grave”, “sighting”, “leaps” etc.
7. Personification
it is worthy of comment that some human attributes are given to non-human things in the poem examples we have “sighting trees”, “the free bird”, “leaps on the back of the wind and dares to claim the sky”.
8. Assonance
Some notable examples in the poem are “bares of rage” (“a” assonance) , “dips his wings”, (“I” assonance), “narrow cage” (“a” assonance) etc. They are use in the poem for musical and rhythmic effect.

Poetic Devices
1. Title of the Poem
Any analysis of caged bird must begin with the title. This is because the reader immediately knows from the term “caged bird” that the story will necessarily involve the restrictions imposed by a cage on the bird within it’s bars.
2. Diction and language: Diction is the nature of words
The poet’s choice of words for the poem is simple for the reader to understand and the line of the poem itself is precise.
3. Repetition
Certain words are repeated for effect in the poem. Poetic device lays emphasis and to compare attention and this is true in ordinary way of speaking. In the poem we have such words like ” free bird”, “caged bird”,” sings of freedom”.
4. Alliteration:
notable examples of this literary device in the poem are
“Seldom see”,”worms waiting”, “shadow shouts”, “through the/tree etc. Their general application in the poem heightens the musical and rhythmic quality of the poem.

See 2022 WAEC past questions with solutions on Literature in English

9. Irony
it is an irony of situation that a bed with clipped wings and it feet still tied and placed in a cage, continues, nevertheless to open his throat and sing. It is anticipated that only the free birds should be singing but reverse is the case in this poem.
10. Mood
The state of mind in which the poet Express the poem is sadness and optimism. Even with it clipped wings, tied feet, narrow quarters, and bars of rage, however, the fragile caged bird is still able to survive and continues to sing of freedom.

See WAEC past questions on Literature in English


A setting (or backdrop) is the time and geographic location within a narrative, either non-fiction or fiction. It is a literary element. The setting initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story. The setting can be referred to as story world or milieu to include a context (especially society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. Elements of setting may include culture, historical period, geography, and hour. Along with the plot, character, theme, and style, setting is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.
The contrasting environments in the poem -the freedom of the open world and the restrictive surrounding of the caged bird, create the setting for the poem. The reader can feel the breeze, see the sun, imagine the rich feast of fat worms, and hear the sighing trees of the world of the free creature, in contrast, the reader feels the fear and restricted movement since the bars imagines the wants, and hears the songs of the imprisoned bird.


An important way of revealing the character of the caged animal is to pit the exploits of the bird that is free against the stalking of penned animal, the reader is able to experience the deprivation of the confined creature and the ecstasy of the free one. A description of the shackled feet small quarters and dipped wings provides the reader with the physical pain that the bird had to endure; the word “fear” conveyed its emotional plight. The most significant characteristics of the manacled creature, however is its singing despite fear. This song divulges its hope and inner strength. The reader’s own throat is closed with emotion as the bird opens its throat in song. The ability to sing despite being caged regenerate energy with which it uses to overcome the challenges posed by the harsh or hostile environment.

See 2022 WAEC past questions with solutions on Literature in English


In contemporary literary studies, a theme is a central topic, subject, or message within a narrative. Themes can be divided into two categories: a work’s thematic concept is what readers “think the work is about” and its thematic statement being “what the work says about the subject”. Themes are often distinguished from premises. The most common contemporary understanding of theme is an idea or point that is central to a story, which can often be summed in a single word (for example, love, death, betrayal).

The caged bird has two main traditional literary themes. They are:
Theme of Reversal of Fortune and theme of survival of the unfittest.
The poem did well by first presenting the free bird before depicting the caged bird. The poet helps the reader visualize what the caged bird must have been like before it was captured. Also description of the two contrasting environment helps the reader feels sense of loss of captured bird due to its reversed fate. Even with it clipped wings tight fit narrow quarters and bass of rage however the fragile caged bird is still able to survive and so again through it songs. This imprisoned bird truly epitomizes the survival of the unfittest, which is the central theme in the verse.
the house and painful aspects of the case two beds existence do not take away its dignity and the physical and psychological pain do not destroy it still the dad continues to know the source of its strength and to use it means of expression song to pray and rebuild its life. the melody signifies the ability of the bird to tap it internal creative resources for it healing. The belief of the imprisoned creature uncle its identity and allow the bed to adapt to its situation creatively. The political poem encourages strength in adversity. Although the bird is still at the end, the reader is left with hope. The reader trusts that the bird can endure the operation that hopefully Will soon lift.
The poem caged bird seek to show that even a simple man is capable of overcoming the struggle in life with decency, dignity, and heroism. Life is struggle to be borne, not like a burden but as a challenge. It is true that no man is an island of himself, but when one has to face the true moment of reckoning in a struggle, he is usually all alone and must call upon his own courage, grit, perseverance, and determination.

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Lesson Evaluation

  1. In few sentences describe who the Poet.
  2. Recite the poem.
  3. Describe the  setting of the poem.
  4. Mention the poetic devices used in the poem.
  5. Mention and discuss the themes in the poem.
  6. Enumerate the characters in the poem.

Questions answered correctly? Bravo
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See WAEC past questions on Literature in English


Angelou, Maya (1969). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House. 

Arensberg, Liliane K. (1999). “Death as Metaphor for Self”. In Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook, Joanne M. Braxton, ed. New York: Oxford Press.

Fatiregun, V.A. English Literature, Unseen (Poetry and Prose) Nigeria: Fatiregun Press’s. 1971.

Murfin & Ray: The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, p. 455.