We Wear The Mask, By Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

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At the turn of the 19th century, America was faced with vast changes; Black Americans in particular were faced with a world that was "seemingly" better than before, but in reality they were still faced with the daily struggle of being black in America. In Paul Laurence Dunbar 's, "We Wear The Mask, the uses of symbolism, wordplay and various themes express the deception of the thought that black Americans were content with their social, legal, and psychological circumstances at the turn of the century.
Through the use of symbolism in "We Wear the Mask," Dunbar conveyed the overall underlying meaning that the pain of black Americans during the time was all overshadowed and hidden beneath the small "improvements" for those during the period. Black Americans in the late 19th century,even after emancipation, were often portrayed as stupid and easily manipulated but content or happy with what they had been offered or given by society. The mask serves as the major symbol throughout the poem and is presented in stanza 1. Dunbar starts the poem off with "We wear the mask that grins and lies,"(line 1) you are immediately presented with the idea that the mask, in this case, conveys the "constant humiliation blacks endure by having to hide their true feelings in an alien society." (Constantakis 256) Here the mask “suggests the minstrel shows in America where white performers in blackface, or black performers, played stereotypes of plantation darkies, singing and dancing in their…

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