Paul Dunbar's Poem, Sympathy, Grasps the Cry for Freedom by African Americans

Paul Dunbar's Poem, Sympathy, Grasps the Cry for Freedom by African Americans

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In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, Sympathy, He grasps the all-inclusive cry for freedom, the theme of African American literature since black poets first began writing poetry. Dunbar uses the greatest power that he has, his words. In this poem the speaker begins with a sentence that is direct and describes his feelings from the beginning, which is “I know what the caged bird feels, alas,” the word alas meaning and expression of grief or sadness the speaker is feeling for the caged bird. In this poem the speaker represents the black Americans of that time in the vivid description of the caged bird and its experiences. This poem expresses the birds longing to be free, and the longing of the black Americans to be free also. After describing the deep feelings the bird has, the speaker exclaims that he too knows why the caged bird sings, because he is theoretically a caged bird himself. The speaker in the poem metaphorically becomes the caged bird that beats his wings against bars that do not give.
However, the poem is much more than the tale of a caged bird longing to be free, it goes much deeper into history and the deep heart felt feelings of oppressed black Americans. This poem follows the abaabaa scheme, emphasizing a pattern within each stanza, where the first line is set up in a connection between the speaker and the caged bird. The poem features repetition, or near repetition, in the first and last lines of each stanza to further emphasize the degree to which the poet depicts the caged bird. As the poet goes deeper and further along in his poem, the story unfolds into a harsh contrast between the feelings of the caged bird and what black Americans faced in that time period.
“I know what the caged bird feels, alas!” (1), the first...

... middle of paper ...

...spair. The poet is showing the birds deepest feelings and the speaker feels the same, he too pleads to heaven for freedom.
The poem ends with,” I know why the caged bird sings!”(21), the speaker is telling the reader that he knows the struggle for freedom that the caged bird endures, and why the bird sings to heaven for deliverance, because he too prays for release.
In this poem the poet tells his and all black American’s struggle to have the same freedom as the white people with the contrasting, vivid tale of a caged bird that sings for freedom to be out in the beautiful nature surrounding it. I believe the title of the poem,” Sympathy”, is the feeling that echoes out of the poem as you read it, sympathy means an understanding for another’s sorrow, and the poet whole-heartedly understands the birds struggle and he knows why the caged bird keeps singing for freedom.

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