October 10 2014
We Wear the Mask
In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem We Wear the Mask you quickly find out it is one big metaphor. Dunbar’s meaning behind this poem is about people covering up their feelings like someone using a mask to cover their face; as if it’s a big front to hide what is really going on. Dunbar being an African American poet in the late 19th and early 20th century was a harder time on colored people. His poems relate back to the hardships he saw and knew. The poem is broken up into three paragraphs. Each one talks about this mask hiding cheeks and eyes, covering up the truth from the world, and dealing with your emotions behind closed doors. In We Wear the Mask Dunbar uses metaphors and symbolism, which all add up to the theme of the poem. Dunbar points out almost immediately that this mask has only one side to it, which is happy. He states in the first line “We wear the mask that grins and lies.” Blatantly saying this mask is portraying a smile yet lies about its gesture. A person could be dying inside and that’s why the mask is there. The mask acts a metaphor in this poem, because it is saying their feelings have to be covered up like a mask. As if the world doesn’t want to see those hardships people go through or maybe people don’t feel comfortable with sharing those personal issues. Dunbar being an African American in these times saw a lot of awful things and has had a lot of terrible things happen to him. The reason he speaks of this mask was because that is all his people knew. When something happened to them such as being separated from their loved ones they could not show any emotion due to the consequences from their owners. This “mask” was created based off of fear. The main factor in this poem is all about symbols. The mask is the symbol in this situation and there is so much meaning behind it. Dunbar creates this mask to cover up all hurtful and sad feelings one might have during that time period. In society back then...
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