February 28, 2013
We Wear the Mask
The lyric poem “We wear the mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a poem about the African American race, and how they had to conceal their unhappiness and anger from whites. This poem was written in 1895, which is around the era when slavery was abolished. Dunbar, living in this time period, was able to experience the gruesome effects of racism, hatred and prejudice against blacks at its worst. Using literary techniques such as: alliteration, metaphor, persona, cacophony, apostrophe and paradox, Paul Dunbar’s poem suggests blacks of his time wore masks of smiling faces to hide their true feelings. In the first stanza, he starts off with the title of the poem stating, “we wear the mask that grins and lies” (1). In the first line he uses a metaphor to explain the “mask” that is put on to show grins. Of course there is no actual mask, but the mask can be a representation of a fake personality that is happy or blissful. It could be said that the reason for this “mask” is to prevent their tormentors from starting any controversy. Dunbar also uses another metaphor, “This debt we pay to human guile…” (3). Obviously he does not mean that there is a debt to human guile that he is paying with money, but rather since blacks have always been seen as deceptive since slave times, they must forever live in it. Since slave times blacks have not been respected. Even after blacks received the right to vote and own land, the federal system still made it hard for blacks to make a breakthrough. The use of metaphor is used to describe the overwhelming struggles blacks had to go through in a white man’s world. Through the use of metaphors, Dunbar implies the feelings the blacks once had to fake in order to not get into any trouble. The second stanza, especially, emphasizes the poems paradox and alliteration. This stanza...
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