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We Wear the Mask By Paul Laurence Dunbar - Essay Example

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It proves to be a compelling poem that places emphasis on the reason why African Americans are forced to put on a mask in an effort to hide their suffering and pain as they serve in slavery. Dunbar describes…
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We Wear the Mask By Paul Laurence Dunbar
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We Wear the Mask The poem d, We Wear the Mask was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. It proves to be a compelling poem that places emphasis on the reason why African Americans are forced to put on a mask in an effort to hide their suffering and pain as they serve in slavery. Dunbar describes how the mask helps African Americans appear as happy people while deep down their hearts, they are troubled and grieved by the suffering brought forth by slavery. Dunbar’s use of poetic devices is commendable because he relies on different devices in an effort to enhance the meaning of the entire poem. This paper will present an analysis of the poem highlighting its meaning and some of the devices used by Dunbar to enhance the theme he developed throughout the poem.
From the title of the poem, We Wear the Mask, Dunbar introduces the theme that he wishes to discuss in his poem. In the first stanza, he highlights that the mask they wear serves to help them smile, and deceive the world that they are happy. The same mask serves to keep away their cheeks and eyes from the worlds closer analysis. However, beneath the mask, they are suffering intense pain and grief because of the “human guile” mentioned in line 3 of the first stanza. Evidently, Dunbar speaks in reference of African Americans suffering from the exploitation of slavery and other evils perpetrated by slave masters hurting the slaves. Despite their suffering, they mask their true feelings and pretend that they are content with the situation just as it is (Dunbar).
The second stanza begins with an ironing tone because Dunbar asks why the world should make efforts of being “over-wise”. This is a pure irony because Dunbar makes it look like considering the grievances of African Americans is going overboard in the realm of wisdom. In his opinion, the world should only remain wise enough to be able to see their smiling faces because they wear the mask. This means that the world will never recognize the deep suffering experienced by the African Americans and will always consider them satisfied with their position as slaves. This also brings in the aspect of racism and the negative effects suffered by the minority groups specifically the African Americans. Although they are discriminated against, they are not allowed to voice out their suffering or even their ideas. In the last stanza, Dunbar highlights that African Americans seek intervention from Jesus Christ, who is the only one who can perceive their true suffering. On the other hand, the world never recognizes their cries because of the mask they are forced to wear.
Dunbar’s poem makes use of figurative language in an effort to describe the situation of the African Americans. Moreover, a tone of despair and sadness is evident throughout the poem. Repetition of the line “We Wear the Mask” places emphasis on the main idea communicated in the poem. Dunbar uses a unique structure of the stanzas with the first one having five lines, four lines in the second stanza and six in the final stanza. Both the second and third stanzas have the line “We Wear the Mask” in an indented form. Dunbar’s poem makes use of this unique structure and exhibits an iambic tetrameter in all the other lines except the indented ones. The poet’s expertise in the combination of different devices, which defines a unique form of the poem, is critical in enhancing its meaning (Dunbar).
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Dunbar, Paul. We Wear the Mask. Web. 7th October 2014. Read More
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