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
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Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem We Wear the Mask took place in the slavery period of history but could also be related to even present day situations. People use masks every day to cover up some emotion they might not want seen. The situations may vary but the true meaning to the poem and life’s situations stayed the same. Dunbar used the symbol of the mask to use a common occurrence to something not related to that situation; which also related back to the way he used the mask as a metaphor. Reading over some history on Dunbar himself, it was easy to tell how one could come up with such a powerful poem. The central idea and theme of his work was one of a man that had a very thick mask of his own. While living on the plantation he would write and eventually had to work his way up in the poetry world. He was blessed with the brains but not the funds to go to college but that didn’t stop him. He moved to Chicago in hopes of getting noticed. He met a man that goes by Frederick Douglas. Douglas thought very highly of Dunbar’s work and said he was “the most promising colored man in America.” After more and more recognition he published some of his works and reached his life goal of being a poet; creating poems that tell stories with hidden messages and deeper meanings.
Zafar, Rafia. We Wear the Mask: African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print.
Poets.org. Academy of