An interpretation of Sympathy (By Paul Dunbar)

Essay by grigsA+, March 2003

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An interpretation of


By Paul Dunbar

I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!

When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,

And the river flows like a stream of glass;

When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals --

I know what the caged bird feels!

The cage bird is not allowed to use its ability to fly. Just like the African American was not allowed to explore and be free, instead they were enslaved by the master. These slaves used the sun as a glitter of hope and a symbol of freedom. While the master took the spring glasses for granted the slaves were not able to enjoy those thing because, like the caged bird, they were imprisoned by their social status." Like a stream of glass" this gives you a picture of a calm and serene body of water flowing peacefully something that the slaves longed for.

Dunbar repeats "I know what the caged bird feels" throughout the whole poem giving you the impression that he is talking about himself.

I know why the caged bird beats his wing

Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;

For he must fly back to his perch and cling

When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;

And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars

And they pulse again with a keener sting --

I know why he beats his wing!

As the bird beats its wings, trying to get out of its cage the slave also is trying to find freedom. They both know that they have been unjustly imprisoned, as they fight for freedom their blood is soak into the ground. The...