Behind “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Topics: Poetry, Literature, American Civil War, Feeling / Pages: 3 (535 words) / Published: Aug 24th, 2013
Alejandra Huezo

Behind “Sympathy”
By Paul Laurence Dunbar
In the 1890s Paul Laurence Dunbar composed a literary work named “Sympathy” where the speaker’s attention is on a cage bird. This poem perhaps was the result of Dunbar’s after high school experience operating an elevator cage. That was the only job he could find because he was denied positions in business and journalism because of his race (African-American). And by this literary work it can be inferred that he felt trapped at this job, because of his race and the time period. He also compares throughout the poem himself to the caged bird that does not have the freedom to enjoy the nature and to fly like all other birds (white people) at that time. Dunbar uses imagery and symbolism to establish the mood of the story in the poem.
Dunbar at the beginning of the poem says “When the sun is bright on the upland slope” (2), giving the wonderful and peaceful fragmented image of a shining sun on the top of a mountain. He gives the sensation of freedom to the reader, even though the author does not feel free. During the work he also says “when the wind stirs soft through the springing grass” giving images to show the reader what is like to be in a bird cage (discriminated). Dunbar’s use of great descriptive words gives the reader the sensation of the reader looking at the bird in the cage, being held and bleeding. And it makes the reader feel like the bird (Dunbar) is desperate to get out.
The author was held back from a lot of things, counting furthering his career for the reason of the racial outlining during the civil war. He “knows what the caged bird feels” (1), because he was also detained back. In the last stanza, Dunbar goes on to state about the bird singing, and wanting to get out of this cage immediately and “that he sends [a prayer] from his heart’s deep core”(19). This symbolizes the Dunbar’s deep need to escape into something further than what he actually is, an isolated poet

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