"We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar was first published in 1896, a time when African-Americans, like Paul Laurence Dunbar, were treated with distain and had very few rights. The tone of the poem is a combination of anger, despair, and sadness. He skillfully uses the metaphor of wearing a mask to express the widespread oppression of African-Americans. This poem contains a lot of figurative language and other literary techniques. The poem starts with Dunbar using the word "we" to speak for the entire black population. He does this because he is painfully aware of the social, economical, and political status of people of his own race. Throughout the entire poem, he illustrates the terrible injustices they had to endure while "wearing the mask" to hide their true emotions behind a smile. An example of this can be seen in line 4, "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile." This line conveys the message that even though they were grossly mistreated, they had no choice but to keep smiling. Dunbar uses lines 10-11, "We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries/ To Thee from tortured souls arise," to illustrate how African-Americans saw Christ as their only salvation and pleaded with Him to deliver them from their bondage. In two different parts of the poem, line 6, "Why should the world be overwise," and line 14, "But let the world dream otherwise," Dunbar expresses his anger with all the countries of the world who either are willing participants in or sit by idly while the people of his race were treated in a deplorable way.
"We Wear the Mask" has a very interesting rhyme pattern: AABBA AABC AABBAC. The poem is broken up into three stanzas. They are all different lengths with the first stanza having five lines, the second having four lines, and the last stanza having six lines. The form of the poem is very fitting for the story that Dunbar is telling in the actual poem. He tells of how there life is in chaos, and the form of the poem is very similar as it is...
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