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This poem was written by an African American during the nineteenth century. The poem is written figuratively. At an overview, it portrays the pain and difficulties this poet goes through. Though he relates these with the struggles a caged bird goes through, it clearly shows that he is talking about something deeper than the struggles and the pain of a caged bird. In each stanza, the poet describes some kind of a struggle or pain that the bird is undergoing and states that he knows what he is going through.
In the first stanza, the poet starts by saying that he knows what a caged bird feels like (first line). The poet talks about the bright sun, the stirring wind and the flowing river, scenes that we take for granted but which this caged bird cannot enjoy. This bird only seems to view this wonderful scenes form s distance but he cannot enjoy them as he is closed up in a cage. In deep, this is the kind of feeling that the poet had when he was in slavery or recovering from it. He tries to show us how an imprisoned man cannot access even what seems to be the most basic and obvious things. This caged bird only seems to see and envy other free bird at a distance bird he cannot access what they are enjoying e.g. the wonderful perfume in the air and the coming out of the buds (the fifth and the sixth line) (Dunbar 184).
In the second stanza, the writer starts by telling us that he knows why the caged bird beats his wings on the bars of the cage until he bleeds. This shows the struggles the bird goes through as he tries to free himself. As well known, the African Americans were slaves for many years and even after they were freed, they still faced other difficulties like racism amongst others. The writer tries to describe that he is trying to free himself from all these and especially racism. The bird is trying to free himself for he wants to go back to his perch and so the writer uses this figurative speech to show that he too wants to go back to where he belongs and where he calls home where he can be himself and rule himself as he wishes without being under someone’s command or being looked down upon. As the stanza continues, it shows us that this bird had some old scars (fifth line) meaning that he had tried to free himself many other times before. The poet tries to tell us that he had tried to free himself many times before which might be at the time of slavery and now racism.
In the third stanza, the poet continues to let us know that he knows why the bird sings. In this case, this song is not a song of joy but of prayer and pain. The bird prays that God might let him out of the cage and imprisonment so that he can be able to enjoy what the other birds enjoy outside. The bird sings with pain from the bruises and the scars that he has from the many struggles he has had as he tries to free himself. This clearly shows what the poet constantly does. He constantly prays to God so that he could be free from discrimination of any kind or any other kind of oppression that he would be undergoing.
This poem is metaphoric. The bird symbolizes the writer and the cage symbolizes the kind of struggles the writer has been imprisoned in of which he is trying to free himself from. The title “Sympathy” is a metaphor of what the writer is going through. The kind of situation he is going through is sympathetic but he is not requesting for our sympathy but our understanding and the right to be a free man like the others.
When he says that he understands what the caged bird feels like, it acts like an eye opener to the reader. This poem can be associated with many situations today. When we cage a bird, we do not have much in our minds for we only feel that it is only a bird and it is not ourselves in that cage. But once we are in such a cage ourselves, we get to understand that it is as much hurting to a bird as it is to ourselves. This is why the poet says that he now knows what a cage bird feels like.
The poet was also trying to show the readers that they should not do what they would not want others to do to them. The pain of a caged bird can also be felt by an imprisoned. This could have been a message to the oppressors trying to show them that the pain they were inflicting on the people they were oppressing is the same pain that they would feel if they were in their shoes.
As it frequently appears, there are a couple of themes that have been brought out in this poem there is the theme of oppression that is clearly seen. This theme is brought out by the fact that the bird is caged instead of being out with the others or in his nest (mentioned in all the stanzas). It is also seen by the way the bird tries to free himself and there is nowhere mentioned that there is a person trying to free him. This is what the writer is going through.
There is the theme of freedom clearly seen in the poem. In the second stanza, the bird beats himself against the bars of the cage trying to free him. The old scars symbolizes that he has done this many tomes before. The bird is trying to free himself. In the third stanza the bird sings as a sign of making a prayer to god so that he helps him to be free. All these are indications that there is a need to be free from all the oppressions and the struggles the bird is going through. These are the same kind of things that the poet is going through as he writes this poem.
The theme of religion is brought out as we see the bird singing and making a prayer to heaven (where God is believed to live) so that He may free him from the cage. This is the same thing the poet seems to do in order to free from the bondages of the struggles he is going through. The belief in God is what seemed to make the people move on and be able to hope for a better future. He believed that he would pray to God and He would answer.
We Wear the Mask
This poem is three stanzas long. It portrays the kind of life the African Americans went through in their day to day lives. This a great picture of what the slaves went through especially those in the United States of America. Slaves went through a very humiliating and painful kind of life so it was not easy for them to freely show what or how they felt like. This is why the poet tells us as the audience that they wear masks. Masks prevent one from seeing the actual thing. In most cases, one is only able to see a vague appearance of the actual thing. Mask is used to hide. In this case, the poet uses this figurative speech to show us that they did not show their true feelings or emotions as they were.
In the first stanza, the writer tells us that they wear masks that grin and lie hiding away their cheeks and eyes (first and second lines). This shows that they wanted to hide the eyes and the cheeks that were swollen with tears and many days of crying. As we read on, we see that they put on smiling faces even though they had heats that were full of pain and bleeding (the fourth line). This clearly shows that they had no intention of letting the world know the kind of pain they were going through for they felt that others had no idea of what it felt like being a slave.
In the second stanza, the poet feels that there is no need in the rest of the world knowing what they were going through. He felt that it was only good that they only see their smiling faces without getting to know the exact kind of pain and the emotions that were going through them. The poet thought the rest of the world could not do much to help them and that is why he feels that the world should only get to see the slaves wearing masks of emotions and feelings.
In the third stanza, the poet starts by telling us that they smile even tough they are full of cries. These cries are directed to Christ. He further explains that they sing but not with joy but pain. This stanza portrays the kind of emotions that these people hide in order to give the rest of the world a different picture all together. The poet sees no need of letting the world know the kind of feelings that these people are going through. He wants the world to see a different picture from the actual thing that is happening in their lives.
This whole poem is showing a lot of hypocrisy. The poet says that the people smile while their hearts are torn and bleeding (the fourth line in the first stanza) while they sing even when they are full of pain. When one does not show their true feelings or their true selves, they are being hypocrites. The poet does not want the rest of the world to know exactly what the people he is writing about are going through for it might show a sign of weakness or he feels that the people will not be able to understand what they are going through.
Slaves were had respect for them and so the poet felt that it was better of for the world to see another different picture about them than they actually were. One can never know how one feels until they wear their shoes or they are put in that particular position. For this reason, this group did not see the need to put on sad faces and be all emotional to a people who had no idea what being a slave felt like.
This group of people did not also want to ask for sympathy. When one wears a sad face or acts all emotional, they mostly attract sympathy. This is something that this group of people did not want. They wanted to look as if they were strong on their own so as not to be looked down upon further than they already were. They wanted to make themselves strong rather than seeking sympathy from the rest of the world.
The theme of religion is brought in this poem. In the first and second lines of the third stanza, we see the people crying out to God even though they are wear5ing smiles on their faces. Slaves drew a lot of their faith and strength from god who they mostly believed in. They felt that He would answer their prayers when they prayed to him that kept them moving and able to carry their day to day torment. Ones spirituality was able to make him or her strong for they had someone to look up to (Jarrett, Dunbar and Lewis 137).
This poem can be related in today’s life. Many people camouflage their true feelings so that the rest of the world does not know what is going on in their own lives. Many people go around smiling while they are really hurting in the inside. There are others who show a lot of love to one while they really hate them in real. Many people do not show their real feelings because of one reason or another. Some do not want the others to know what is going through them so that they do not give a wrong or bad impression of who they really are.
Today, we all lie at some point. We can lie by words of mouth or by giving the wrong impressions as seen in this poem. This is not right for speaking out how one feels might lead some one in getting help of a problem they have. It is always good to be true for this can get one go further than they thought.