I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Summary ICSE Class 10 English

Study Material

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ICSE Students can refer to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Summary ICSE below which has been prepared by expert English teachers of ICSE as per that latest syllabus and guidelines issued by ICSE. These Chapter summaries have been prepared to help students to understand the entire chapter easily. You can also refer to more study material for ICSE Class 10 on our website

ICSE Class 10 English I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Summary

We have provided below a summary of Chapter I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This is an important chapter in Standard 10th ICSE English. The summary provided below has been prepared by expert English faculty for ICSE based on the latest ICSE books. You should refer to all Chapter Summaries ICSE Class 10 English which will help you to understand all chapters and to get more marks in exams.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ICSE Class 10 English

About the Poet

Maya Angelou (4 April, 1928 – 28 May, 2014) was an American poet, story teller, actress and an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. Her memoir, ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, made a literary history as the first non-fiction best-seller by an African-American woman. Her volume of poetry, ‘Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water’ fore I Die’ (1971), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She had gone through a lot of roughness and disparity in her life, which is reflected in her writings.


Angelou, with the metaphor of a caged bird, represents the social differences of her time, between the African-American community and the White-Americans. She illustrates truthfully, both, the feeling of freedom and of captivity through a bird that is free and a bird struggling to fight against adverse surroundings. The free bird is referred to the free White people and the caged bird whose wings are cut off and feet entangled, refers to the Black community.

Explanation of the Poem

Stanza 1. 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.

Explanation: The opening lines of the poem describe the actions of a free bird. He takes a jump and hovers himself over the wind and travels along with the current, relishing in the sea of orange sunlight and proclaiming its freedom. Here, the ‘free bird’ refers to the people who enjoy the right to take their decision in life independently and enjoy the bliss of freedom.

Word Meanings :

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Summary ICSE Class 10 English

Stanza 2. “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.”

Explanation: The second stanza highlights the plight of the caged bird for whom freedom is a mere dream. He has lost the hope of flying freely in the sky with his wings wide open because his wings are clipped and feet are tied. He is forced to live in a confined space and peep between the bars to have a glimpse of the outside world. He is deprived of the joy of freedom. The only thing he can do is open his mouth and sing. Here, Maya Angelou shares her frustration of being restricted to enjoy the freedom which should have been her right as a human being.

Word Meanings :

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Summary ICSE Class 10 English

Stanza 3. “The caged bird sings
with 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.”

Explanation: The caged bird lacks confidence and enthusiasm. Although he sings, his voice is full of pain, anger and fear. He sings about the unknown surroundings; about his liberty. He dreams of a better life; dreams which cannot be fulfilled. His voice is heard far and wide, but none comes to his rescue. This stanza reflects Maya’s frustration and helplessness.

Word Meanings :

1. Trill — A quick high sound that is repeated
2. Longed for — Desired

Stanza 4. “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.”

Explanation: The focus of the poem again shifts to the free bird which is cherishing his ride in the sky. The lovely breeze caress his body and he longs for yet another breeze, which make the trees sigh while passing through them. The free bird has ample food to feed on, the big fat worms in the lawn which they can prey on any time.
Here, the poet again emphasis that the free people have the entire world to claim as their own and wander about.

Word Meaning :

1. Sighing — To utter a mourning sound

Stanza 5. “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.”

Explanation: On the inverse side, the caged bird, who is a captive, knows that his desire of flying free is futile. His dreams culminate into a nightmare. He feels that the agony he’s going through will make his shadow also scream. This reveals that the poet had her own dreams which got crushed due to lack of freedom to achieve them. The poet restates the idea that the bird opens its mouth to sing, to voice his desire for freedom and expression.

Word Meanings :

1. Nightmare — A frightening dream
2. Scream — A sudden laud cry

i know why the caged bird sings summary

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