Literary Devices in A Little Bird I Am

Literary Devices Examples in A Little Bird I Am:

Text of the Poem 4

"my God..."   (Text of the Poem)

This line could be read as voicing both the feelings of the speaker and the poet. “My God” can be read as a vocative that suggests an earnest address to God. In this reading of the line, the speaker innocently accepts her cage as a positive thing; denied “fields of air” and the perspective to understand her captivity, the woman believes He is good to her. “My God” can also be read as an expletive. In this reading, the voice of the poet seeps into the narrative to sarcastically comment on the speaker’s offensive conditions. The effect of the line is to highlight the outrage that the reader should feel over the speaker’s description of her “happy caged life.”

"bird..."   (Text of the Poem)

In Greek mythology, women who were violated or pursued by men were often turned into birds to set them free. One example of this is the story of Philomela. Philomela is raped by her sister’s husband, who then cuts out her tongue to keep her from telling anyone. After Philomela enacts her revenge, she is turned into a nightingale to escape punishment and regain her voice in the form of birdsong. Alcott draws on this long history of bird imagery to create a sympathetic speaker in the first line of her poem.

"A little bird I am..."   (Text of the Poem)

When word order is inverted from a typically normal structure, as it is here, it is known as hyperbaton. Alcott’s use of this particular device in the opening line of the poem not only emphasizes the speaker’s “I am,” but it also subtly indicates an inversion in how the text is presented and how it should be read. This means that readers should consider much of the poem as satirical, or mocking.

"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.”