We Wear the Mask Essay example

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William Shakespeare once proclaimed that “the past is prologue.” Are we really bound by history? Is our present a mere continuation, a monomorphic continuation if you will, of the novel that is our existence, or can it be developed in a bifurcated fashion? Paul Lawrence Dunbar, prominently noted as the "Poet Laureate of the Negro Race" (p 905) is a prime example of how the past can be depicted in a multifold manner. His two works " We Wear the Mask" and "An Ante-Bellum Sermon" illustrate the double-consciousness that Dunbar was most notorious for. It must be noted, however, that these two works, despite differing in forms of dialect, are conflations of one source, through an intrinsic connection. One will evidently see both the apparent …show more content…
The first stanza in itself is a lament of the "Negro's" conditions as perceived by the world. It is a representation of the past, in that the past is the speaker's past lament of the mask, not a past event in history/time. The first two lines of the poem, "We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,-" (p 918,2) are incorporated to introduce the image White Americans see when visualizing the slave. The Negro creates a "smile" despite possessing a "... torn and bleeding [heart]" (p 918,5) in order to create a more aesthetically pleasing image for the white community. Not only through appearance but also through opinion was the slave seen in a distorted light. Dunbar's line, "And mouth with myriad subtleties" (p 918,6) to highlight the fact that blacks are difficult to perceive, or even the fact that they hold many opinions(myriad) yet none of them hold much value and are suppressed (subtleties). As we transition to the second stanza the poet morphs his purpose of writing from lamenting the perceived "mask" to being content with its implementation. This is shift from his previous view, which served as the past. He vehemently states, "Nay, let them only see us, while we wear

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