Sympathy Paul Laurence Dunbar Analysis

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African Americans have dealt with racism in the United States for several centuries. Some still face racism to this day. Sadly in recent years the term racism has taken a different meaning from what it once was. To clarify the confusion: racism actually means for one to believe that one race is superior to another race. Racism was not exclusive to the south, as many still faced discrimination in the north as well. During that time many African Americans sought to express their feelings towards racism through poetry; one of those poets is Paul Laurence Dunbar. The poems “Ode to Ethiopia” and “Sympathy” were both written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, who was an African American living during the Jim Crow period. The tone of both poems is quite the …show more content…
In the poem “Sympathy” the author describes how he knows how the caged bird feels. The cage is a reference for the imprisoning effect racism has over him. In the poem he starts with the phrase “I know what the caged bird feels” (1) and later paints the picture of a spring day and the bird only able to enjoy the day from a distance, as he is trapped in the cage. In the second stanza, the author starts with, “I know why the caged bird beats his wings” (8) and this could mean him knowing how the caged bird wants to be free but he cannot leave. Later in the second stanza the author describes how the caged bird has to fly back to his cage. This could represent how many of the former slave had nowhere to live after they were freed, and some had to go back to their slave owners. In the third stanza the author starts with, “I know why the caged bird sings” (15) and this could represent him coming to understand why the bird sings. The bird’s singing represents a prayer, but to Sara Constantakis, she believes the singing being “a plea, a begging to a higher power for relief” (Constantakis, 204). For “Ode to Ethiopia,” it is about a parent telling their child to be proud of who they are, and puts an emphasis to being hopeful for the future. However to Aija Poikane Daumke, she views this poem as the rise up of African Americans from slavery. In the first stanza, the author makes references to slavery and how it made …show more content…
In the poem “Sympathy,” imagery is used to set the tone of the poem. When the author mentions how the bird is in a cage and describes the surroundings of what is outside of the cage and all the bird can do is watch, “I know what the caged bird feels, alas! When the sun is bright … the wind stirs soft through the spring grass”(1-3). This creates a sense of defeat as all the bird can do is watch and only enjoy the view from a distance. In the second stanza the author mentions how the bird return to his cage, “For he must fly back to his perch and cling” (10), and this creates a feeling of defeat given as the bird has no intent of leaving his cage most likely due to the bird not having a place to stay. One could say that the bird represents the author, and the bird inability leave his cage could represent the author’s feeling of being trapped in metaphorical cage by racism. For “Ode to Ethiopia,” the tone of the poem has an optimistic outlook towards the future of his race. In the poem “Ode to Ethiopia” the author uses words like “Slavery” and “Sad days” to create a sense of gloominess; however, by the fifth stanza he uses words like “glory”, and “forgiving” to give the reader a sense of optimism. The tone of sympathy shows that the author is imprisoned racism and is unable to escape his cage, but when he writes “Ode to Ethiopia” the tone shifts to a

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