Caged Bird: AHSEC Class 11 Alternative English answers

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Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of chapter 8 “Caged Bird” of the Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 11 (first year) Alternative English (Seasons) textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

a caged bird and a free bird

Summary: In her free verse poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” also known as “Caged Bird” American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou addresses the topic of sexism and racism. The poem “I know why the caged bird sings” also known as “Caged Bird” is often read as a meditation on social inequality and the values of liberty and fairness. Angelou uses the analogy of birds to highlight the injustice she witnessed between the African-American and White communities in her time. By using birds as a metaphor, she shows how different freedom and captivity are.

An unstoppable bird is depicted in the first few lines of the poem, “leaping on the back of the wind,” illustrating its ability to freely roam and soar through the air. It floats lazily over a gusty wind until it reaches the point where the gusts die down and the air is calm.   His house is the entire sky. Poet Maya Angelou draws a parallel between this scenario and the image of a caged bird. The bird tries desperately to escape its cage but to no avail. 

As a metaphor, the cage is small, and its bars are made of anger. The angry expression on the bird’s face suggests it is frustrated by its confinement. It longs with every fibre of its being to be freed from its situation. The confined bird is unable to observe anything beyond its limits. Its freedom has been snatched from it, or its wings have been clipped. We associate wings with the concept of flight, which is closely linked to the concept of independence. Wing clipping refers to the act of restricting an animal’s flight. It’s flightless even if it wants to take to the air. This symbolises the bird’s isolation from society. Even though he is in such a hopeless situation, the caged bird still “opens his throat to sing.” To him, that’s the pinnacle of happiness and success.

The bird in the cage is unsure of its words. He’s lamenting a privilege he lacks by singing about it: freedom. His ultimate goal is independence, but he’ll never be free. The song of the caged bird is not one of despair, but of freedom, inspiration, and hope. The liberated bird, on the other hand, enjoys his independence. He particularly likes to soar on the trade wind that whistles through the forest. The name “sighing trees” most likely comes from the sound the wind makes as it rustles the leaves. They’re not exactly free, but the trees are ‘tied’ to the ground just like the caged bird.

For sustenance, the free bird envisions a large worm. The wind in his feathers, the ocean and the ground beneath him, and the vastness of the sky above him make him feel like a king, and they are all his. That the bird considers the sky to be his own is what the poet means by saying that the bird “names the sky his own.” On the other hand, the captive is acutely aware that he is neither free nor soaring through the air but rather a prisoner in a cage. Consequently, he “stands on the grave of dreams.” He realises it is hopeless to imagine himself soaring through an unrestricted sky. He no longer believed that he would ever be set free. The bird in the cage chooses to sing because it is the only thing he can do unrestrictedly. His feet and wings are bound, but his throat has not been choked yet.

One bird in the poem is free to roam the open air, doing whatever it pleases, while the other is trapped in a cage and must endure unimaginable hardship. The former uses the song as a means of coping with its environment, while the latter uses the song to communicate its desire for independence. 

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I. Answer these questions in one or two words.

1. Where was the poet born?

Answer: Maya Angelou, whose real name is Marguerite Johnson, was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri.

2. What does the word “clipped” mean in the poem?

Answer: When referring to a trapped bird, the word “clipped” in the poem refers to the act of securing the bird’s wings.

3. What did the caged bird do inside the cage?

Answer: The bird can be heard inside the cage, singing in a trembling voice about things it doesn’t know.

4. Where does the free bird dip its wings?

Answer: The bird takes a bath in the sun’s orange rays and dares to fly to new heights.

5. What does the free bird think of?

Answer: While soaring on the trade wind that blows through the forest, the free bird imagines another breeze. It’s already planning what to do with the hefty worm it’s going to eat. The wind in his feathers, the ocean and the ground beneath him, and the vastness of the sky above him make him feel like a king, and they are all his.

II. Answer these questions in a few words.

1. What does the free bird do downstream?

Answer: As the poem opens, a bird soars “on the back of the wind,” symbolising the ease with which it can travel and soar through the air. It rides the wind current down until it dies out and the air is calm, then returns to its starting point. The bird is at peace as it dips a wing into the ocean of orange sunlight. Whenever and wherever it pleases, it can go.

2. What is a trade wind?

Answer: The southeast-to-northeast direction is the traditional path of the trade wind, which is a strong wind that blows steadily toward the equator.

3. Why does the caged bird sing ‘a fearful trill’?

Answer: Although the bird in the cage may never have flown freely, the author implies that the bird retains some innate sense of its original state of freedom. The bird in the cage may find the freedom to be “fearful” because it is “unknown,” but he still sings “a fearful trill” out of longing for it. The speaker claims that the distant hill can be “heard on the distant hill.” the bird’s screams of freedom from its cage.

4. What kind of song does the caged bird sing?

Answer: Caged bird sings in a shaky voice, longing for unfathomable things. Its song seems to be about how much it wants to be free. The bird’s song appears to be an expression of its inner state, a means of maintaining its own motivation and inspiration for others. This explains why the bird in the cage is singing a song of liberation.

5. What does the phrase “grave of dreams” mean?

Answer: As the term suggests, a “grave of dreams” is a place where dreams are laid to rest. The bird in the poem is aware that he is not free to soar through the air, but rather is a prisoner. So, he’s basically standing on the grave of dreams.

III. Answer these questions briefly.

1. What does the free bird symbolise?

Answer: The white majority, represented by the free bird, has historically oppressed the black community. The bird in the wild is completely content with its independence. She has equated those who fly free without experiencing prejudice with the free bird and those who are caged and experience prejudice with the blacks. Angelou used these analogies to illustrate the injustice and inequality of her time. The free bird symbolises white America’s continued independence and hostility toward black Americans. They can easily pursue their goals because they have a lot of freedom to do so. They don’t pay attention to the pleas of the oppressed black community.

2. What does the caged bird symbolise?

Answer: Throughout the poem, the speaker imagines a “caged bird” who can barely move around its “narrow cage” and can only sing about the freedom it has never known and will never know. This metaphorical bird in a cage can be read as representing the experience of any oppressed group, but it is most often used to describe the history and contemporary reality of racism faced by the black community in the United States. The metaphor captures the crushing pain and cruelty of such treatment, likening the oppression of marginalised groups to the mental anguish of a caged bird. The poem employs the metaphor of a bird to convey the psychological and emotional effects of oppression in addition to its more obvious physical manifestations.

3. Describe the helplessness of the caged bird? 

Answer: The poem “Caged Bird” has a mood that is gloomy, unsettling, and frustrating. According to her, the angry bird in the cage can’t see anything. The bird can’t help but sing because he’s so desperate. When he looks up at the ceiling of his cage, all he sees is black. This makes him very angry. He is unable to fly due to his clipped wings and tied feet. He feels resentful and longs for freedom because his ambitions are stifled and he is unable to see the great freedom outside the cage. Since birds are meant to soar through the air without being confined, his confinement enrages him. The caged bird is frustrated and angry because he can’t do anything to help himself. All he can do is express his longing for independence through song. Though he has never known anything but confinement, the bird in the cage knows that he was meant for flight. The bird in the cage fears the “unknown” of freedom, but he still sings “a fearful trill” with a quavering voice out of his desire to be set free.

IV. Answer these questions in detail.

1. What is the theme of the poem “Caged Bird”?

Answer: In “Caged Bird,” themes of slavery and liberation, prejudice and oppression, and dashed hopes are examined. Racism is a central theme in all of these. Those who believe in treating everyone fairly are symbolised by the soaring bird. A bird in a cage is a metaphor for people who are denied their fundamental freedoms. The free bird stands for white Americans, while the imprisoned one symbolises African Americans who are denied basic civil liberties. Angelou illustrates how the free bird views his freedom as his due, while the caged bird, who has never experienced freedom, values his freedom for what it is. Just as an insomniac appreciates the value of sleep, Angelou presents a paradox in which the caged bird is a more reliable authority on freedom than the free bird. The cries of an imprisoned bird for freedom are a powerful symbol of resilience.

2. Compare and contrast the condition of the caged bird and the free bird.

Answer: One bird is free and “floats” and “dares to claim the sky” in Maya Angelou’s poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” while the other is trapped in his “bars of rage.” The first and fourth stanzas highlight the joy the free bird feels while flying free, while the remaining stanzas focus on the suffering of the caged bird. The free bird rides the wind, bathes its wings in the orange sun, and proclaims the heavens as his own. He fantasises about tasty treats, such as fat worms, and hopes for another breeze through the trees. His everyday life is filled with vivid imagery and a sense of the fantastical. Conversely, the caged bird struts dejectedly within his confined space, straining to peer out through the bars. His feet are bound and his wings clipped. To convey his pain, rage, and terror, he lets out his “nightmare scream.”

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