Themes in A Little Bird I Am
Themes Examples in A Little Bird I Am:
Text of the Poem
"bends..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
The verb “to bend” also means to tie, fetter, or otherwise restrain. This meaning of the word suggests that the man deliberately restrains her in order to hear her song. While birdsong usually has positive connotations that symbolize freedom, joy, and peace, the “bending” in this line changes the connotations of the song. It becomes a symbol of her oppression rather than her freedom; He repurposes it for His own means. In this way, He not only metaphorically destroys her freedom but literally takes it from her.
"bound..." See in text (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..." See in text (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.
"sing..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Birdsong is typically associated with peaceful, hopeful, or joyful things. Throughout literature it is used to symbolize the coming dawn or spring, marriage unions, and the end of hardship. However, it can also represent the pain in the lack of freedom. The “caged bird's” singing takes on heartbreaking connotations and invokes not only pity in the reader but indignation at the creature’s trapped condition.
"it pleases Thee!..." See in text (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.
"Him..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
The speaker’s captor is simply identified with this capitalized, masculine pronoun. Western cultures and Judeo-Christian religious systems have typically used a capitalized, masculine pronoun to refer to God. This could suggest then that the speaker exists in a cage because God has willed it. However, since the speaker has identified herself as a “little bird,” the capitalized pronoun could emphasize the power that her male captor has over her. In either reading, the idea conveyed still suggests that the little bird, or woman, was put into a cage by someone with more power than her, emphasizing her lack of agency in this situation.