Length: 5 Pages 1129 Words

The poem "Sympathy", by Paul Laurence Dunbar suggests to the reader a comparison between the lifestyle of the caged bird, and the African American in the nineteenth century. Paul Laurence Dunbar's focus of "Sympathy" is how the African American identifies and relates to the frustrations and pain that a caged bird experiences. Dunbar begins the poem by stating, "I know what the caged bird feels, alas!" which illustrates the comparison of a caged bird to an African American. Dunbar writes a poem with vivid and descriptive language throughout. Dunbar uses this to emphasize his point that someone tied up in bondage and chains figuratively is not fortunate enough to enjoy the finer things in life. Sadly, "springing grass", a flowing river, and budding flowers are things that unoppressed people might take for granted (For a slave or someone struggling to get on their feet post slavery, could not take the time to enjoy life's pleasures in which Dunbar symbolically uses nature.) Dunbar uses language that reaches out, striking a personal chord with the reader. Grass, river, or flowers may be objects we enjoy, but underprivileged people, not necessarily minorities, cannot enjoy because of social or economic circumstances. Underprivile Continue...

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Slaves sang to express their unhappiness; to release the emotions African Americans were not allowed expressing without severe punishment. " (Lines 10, 11) Dunbar identifies the African American lifestyle with what the caged bird feels. Ironically, the life of the caged bird is the life of the African American. Dunbar refers to this singing in the last stanza of "Sympathy" and compares it with why the caged bird sings. The remaining portions of the second stanza portray the self-inflicted and non self-inflicted physical wounds of the caged bird to the African American. He begins this stanza with, "I know why the caged bird beats his wing. The self-inflicted wounds come from the battle for freedom. " (Lines 2-7) Interpretivly, Dunbar seems to be relating the caged bird's sadness that stems from not being allowed to enjoy the mysterious beauties of nature. This poem could be directed to anyone in any given situation. Dunbar attempts to bring the reader into the first stanza by evoking emotion and refection of the beautiful things that all humans should be able to experience. In essence, African Americans were prisoners in their own home i. Caged birds too are like prisoners in their own home. "I know why the caged bird sings, ah me", begins the third stanza of "Sympathy.


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