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Critical Essay Of Dunbar's Poem "We Wear The Mask"

1553 words - 7 pages

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us, while
            We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
            We wear the mask!

OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS
The poem “We Wear the ...view middle of the document...

a
Why should the world be over-wise, a
    In counting all our tears and sighs? a
    Nay, let them only see us, while a
            We wear the mask. c
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries a
    To thee from tortured souls arise. a
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile b
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile; b
    But let the world dream otherwise, a
            We wear the mask! c

MIMETIC ANALYSIS
The poem tells about the “mask” which figuratively represents the “pretention” of the black Americans. The “mask” helps the blacks to show happiness and contentment in the midst of torment as expressed in the first stanza:
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.
The “mask” keeps them to habitually conceal their anguish and anger from whites, as well as from one another as revealed in the second stanza:
Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us, while
            We wear the mask.
And since wearing the “mask” hurts them, they ask to have peace from Christ and hope t have a brighter future as expressed in the third stanza:
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
            We wear the mask!

EXPRESSIVE ANALYSIS

Paul Laurence Dunbar is an African- American poet of the late 19th and 20th century. He is born in Dayton, Ohio to parents who had escaped from slavery in Kentucky. No wonder that the content of his poem, “We Wear the Mask” significantly talks about the experiences of the blacks as slaves. This poem also serves as his commentary toward the complicated situation of the blacks in the society. In his poem, he describes the harsh reality of the black race in America and how they hide their grief, sadness, and broken hearts under a mask for a survival strategy towards whites. For instance, the “We” of the poem describes the black society that lives a double life, the masked and the unmasked. Dunbar also included the word “mask” in his poem because historically it stands for the concealed acute distress and pain on the part of the blacks. The poet cited that masks when worn is always smiling but underneath are the torn and broken heart of one’s soul and the black community is paying this debt dearly by wearing it every day. It is emphasized in these following lines:
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
Dunbar distinguishes that the black people knew very well on how to deal with the situation for their sake. They knew that if they would reveal publicly their true feelings about white’s maltreatment of...

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