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Irony in A Little Bird I Am

Irony Examples in A Little Bird I Am:

Text of the Poem

🔒 4

"bound..."   (Text of the Poem)

The verb “to bind” suggests a type of restraint. The adjective “wandering” in this context represents freedom of movement. That He “caught and bound” her suggests the use of violence and force. The verbs used in this line further clash with the speaker’s eerily pleasant and complacent tone, suggesting that readers should look past what is directly stated for the violence behind the speaker’s words.

"please..."   (Text of the Poem)

Careful readers will read this line as incongruous. Rather than resenting her captor, the caged bird “most loves” to please him. Although the speaker says this line earnestly, readers should hear the claim through her situation: without choice or recourse to do anything else, without knowledge or experience of the outside world, the speaker can only gain pleasure from singing to the man who stole her freedom. The speaker’s pleasure in entertaining her oppressor is another sign of her oppression and another catalyst for readers' indignation at her situation.

"it pleases Thee!..."   (Text of the Poem)

Building on the inversion from the first line in the poem, the speaker provides us with a stronger example of sarcasm. Along with the absurd notion that a captive would be happy to be a prisoner, the exclamation mark at the end of this line provides a sarcastic twist. The logic here is also suspect: the little bird is pleased to be a prisoner because He is pleased to have her as a prisoner. This evidence further lends itself to a reading of the poem as a condemnation of the institutions that prevent women and others from having agency and authority in their own lives.

"Well pleased..."   (Text of the Poem)

Alcott’s speaker presents us with a statement here that operates on two levels. A more surface-level reading suggests that the little bird is happy to be God’s prisoner because it pleases His will. However, many readers should wonder why anyone would be pleased to be someone’s captive. This suggests then that the line is intended to be ironic—the little bird was taken from the “fields of air” and now can only “sit and sing.”

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