An Analysis Of Sympathy, By Paul Laurence Dunbar

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“Sympathy” was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African-American poet. Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872 in Dayton, Ohio to Joshua and Matilda Dunbar (Potw.org) Due to his financial situation, he was not able to attend college, but he published his first collection of poetry called Oak and Ivy in 1893 which included “Sympathy” (Poets.org). He has also published other collections such as Majors and Minors, Lyrics of a Lowley Life, Folks from Dixie, which are only some of his literary works (Poets.org). Within this poem the narrator feels trapped like a caged bird, hoping one day he will get out and experience freedom again. The narrator conveys his feeling of isolation and frustration through his visual imagery and diction. Throughout the poem, Dunbar uses the “caged bird” to portray the black experience within America before civil rights were given to African-Americans.
In the first stanza, the “caged bird” (line 1) is contrasted by his surroundings, or the imagery of the outside. The “sun is bright” (2), “the wind stirs soft through the springing grass” (3), these lines contribute to the euphonic
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The bird “beats its wing” (8,14), while staining the “cruel bars”(9) with his blood. Dunbar gives a clear picture of the bird’s current situation versus his past. He would rather “be on the bough of a-swing”(11) than “fly back to his perch and cling”(10). The exact rhymes at the end of both lines give the poem a lyrical feel, while still maintaining its seriousness. The contrast is very evident between the first stanza’s peaceful imagery of nature, and the second stanza depicts the bird’s horrific state. Moreover, the bird’s “pain still throbs” (12), while the “old scars / pulse again with a keener sting” (12-13). The “old scars” can connote to those memories of freedom he will never get back to, or represent all those times he has beat his wings with the same

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