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We Wear the Mask Analysis



Author: Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar Type: Poetry Views: 5659



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 other-wise,
We wear the mask!

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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||




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what is all about we wear the mask and what is the exactly thing that shows that it was a reaction toward s the black Americans

| Posted on 2013-01-31 | by a guest


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what is all about we wear the mask and what is the exactly thing that shows that it was a reaction toward s the black Americans

| Posted on 2013-01-31 | by a guest


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Look there is a great amount of disrespect on these messages. And yes to who every said it gives this poem more of a purpose. And only people who are uneducated bastards would even leave a comment like the one above. And only uneducated bastards would disrespect african americans. WHY leave a comment at all. PLus im not saying this because im black either... cuz im not im a 22 year old white women who doesnt like disrespect.

| Posted on 2012-04-04 | by a guest


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He is saying that people should just not worry about it. So in conclusion, just dont worry about what it means.

| Posted on 2011-10-25 | by a guest


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Whether or not people admitt it, everyone has \"worn a mask\" and paraded around as someone false to either join a crowd or remain in one. I know I don\'t take my \"mask\" off until I know I won\'t be judged because of it. Only in environments which promise to be accepting and inclusive do I ever reveal my scars or so-called imperfections. No two people are exactly alike, yet we see the same faces over and over again at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Underneath those masks are unique ideas and questions. Why must true identities remain hidden? All this does it torture sould and stomp on creativity. A world full of masks is a world devoid of communication and interaction, a world incapable of transformation...a society with a bleek future. The hatred I see in some of these comments only gives this poem purpose--to shut you up.

| Posted on 2011-09-12 | by a guest


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Go get a life u uneducated bastard. Your daddy probably didn\'t love u that\'s why you\'re acting like that. You need help. I can tell your life is going nowhere quickly.

| Posted on 2011-03-30 | by a guest


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This is a stupid poem how cares about blacks hahaha.

| Posted on 2011-03-30 | by a guest


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We can have many interpretations of who placed the mask to the African-Americans. It may be the society, blacks themselves, whites, etc. You might question why the blacks themselves would put on the mask the society has made. Well, it is because they don’t want to cause trouble. TO survive as an American, they had to follow what want. For the society, their emotions and feelings didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how broke or suffering they were. Only thing that mattered to them was the mask that covered the whole thing up. Whether it is doing the job right. This is shown in line 4 and 5. Emotions are free and individuals have complete control but it could be repressed by something. Mask is a symbol of repressing the blacks that are not acceptable at that time. They lie to themselves for society: sacrifice, in a way. The persona of the poem is telling us that don’t judge by the physical appearance or the appearance it seems to show because it has deeper stories beneath. Blacks might be seen as a happy slave who loves to work, but actually, it was the complete opposite. Society’s pressure decorated the “masks” for blacks to live under what they want them to live.
Paul Lawrence Dunbar was the first African-American writer to earn a national recognition. It would be a very hard thing to write “we wear the mask” or any other poem he wrote. (Most of the poems he wrote were about racial injustice, probably because his parents were slaves.) Since the society was still full of racial injustice and KKK’s were around, it would’ve been a suicide to write such a protesting poem. This reveals some about his character. He is brave, and can’t stand injustice.

| Posted on 2010-10-18 | by a guest


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Dunbar was thought to be the first African Americans to earn national recognition for his writing. He gained attention after selling a published collection of his poems to riders on the elevator he operated in a building in Dayton, Ohio. During the 19th century in order to get buy in America blacks frequently concealed their pain, frustration, and anger from whites, as well as from one another. Prejudice was an immense problem in America during this time period. Being caged in created pain for the African Americans. In We Wear the Mask and Sympathy; Paul Laurence Dunbar was able to display to the reader through symbols how he felt in America as an African American during a very prejudice time period.
In We Wear the Mask Dunbar displays through his poetry the false mask appearance that hides true feelings. “Grins and lies,” refers to the broad spectrum of emotions and actions that the mask can portray, grinning may have a relation to "gritting," as of the teeth, or "grin and bear it. Also the poem refers to "shades our eyes," as in eyes are the windows to the soul, and when wearing the mask the soul specifically is covered. This is one of the most powerful lines of the poem, "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, and mouth with myriad subtleties" is underlining how inappropriate it is that while their hearts bleed they must only be concerned with the mouths of their masks and how well they portray false emotion.
The caged bird in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy” represents both the author himself and the African American community as a whole. In the first stanza of the poem it shows the natural longing of the “caged bird” to be free. The author explains, “I know what the caged bird feels…When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, And the river flows like a stream of glass”. In other words, the author understands what it’s like to have freedom just out of reach. Though they were labeled as free men they were still “caged” by the open racism of the time and this is also regarding slavery in their past. The last stanza of the poem shows the fearless hope of the African Americans. “When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore” they continue to believe in the possibility of freedom. “A prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core, a plea, that upward Heaven he flings – I know why the caged bird sings!”
Both We Wear the Mask and Sympathy have the same underlying factors which make them similar. These lyrical poems expressed the feelings and emotions of an average African American during the most prejudice times of America. In the poem We Wear the Mask, “debt...to human guile" may be a reference to slavery, like they are paying the price for greed of years ago. Dunbar explains how the cage or slavery caused the people pain "the pain still throbs in the old, old scars," the poem can be represented to be about racism and segregation because as he was born around the time he experienced the racism from white Americans.
Paul Laurence Dunbar died before he was able to see his lyrical poems be read with respect and be a part of literature. However through both of these poems he was able to convey his feelings of pain and segregation through his poetry. Even throughout the 19th century when America was the most prejudice Dunbar was able to express the misery of his people within the organized depths of his poetry.

| Posted on 2010-04-20 | by a guest


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This is a man writing about how life is full of people who hide their pain and try to cover it up with a crooked smile. But really, that only lasts for a little while.
Look up "Perfect People" (a song) by Natalie Grant for a really good example!

| Posted on 2010-04-12 | by a guest


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I hope everyone knows that Paul Laurence Dunbar is an African American man. That's why he wrote this poem.

| Posted on 2010-02-28 | by a guest


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I still don't understand why he wrote this poem. My teacher said he wrote in because of the Harlem Renasance. But I don't see why or anything in this poem that has anything to do with it.

| Posted on 2010-02-21 | by a guest


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I agree with the above statement, but I feel as though more specifics should be adressed. "grins and lies" refers to the broad spectrum of emotions and actions that the mask can portray, grinning may have a relation to "gritting," as of the teeth, or "grin and bear it." it refers to "shades our eyes," as in eyes are the windows to the soul, and when wearing the mask the soul specifically is covered. "debt...to human guile" may be in reference to slavery, like they are paying the price for greed of years ago. "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,//and mouth with myriad subtleties" is underlining how innappropriate it is that while their hearts bleed they must only be concerned with the mouths of their masks and how well they portray false emotion. Every line of this stanza is ended with a comma, emphasizing how the subjects must try to fit in neatly between the lines. notice how the commas and other punctuation become more sporadic as the subject's mask wrinkles and the tone becomes more passionate.
The second stanza is almost a justification, like trying to gain back some dignity or "stick it to the man," or regain some choice in the wearing of the mask. It also gives some solidarity, unites the subjects of the poem and more clearly seperates the oppressed from the oppressors. There is far more variety in punctuation as they gain freedom.
the final stanza is like a breaking, from both the desire to fit in neatly and from the desire to separate. The subject here is speaking truth at last, as opposed to the "smile" of stanza one and the separation of stanza two. The speaker is speaking freely, confessing to Christ about how miserable he or she is, the original ideas, as represented by "we smile, but" in line 10 and "let the world dream otherwise" of the second to last line, minor mentions while the "vile clay" and long miles are the true stars of the speaker's attention. The punctuation is the most free here, to underscore the truth of this stanza in comparasin, ending in a crying, aching "we wear the mask!" The use of end ryhme in this poem emphasizes the tedium of putting false pretenses over true ones, and needing to analyze every movement before it is made; like every word must be carefully analyzed to make sure it fits with the one before it, the subjects of the poem must be sure that every motion is suitable before they make it.

| Posted on 2010-01-07 | by a guest


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that was posted by andrew harris ofpuyallup washington
dont bite its copyright.

| Posted on 2009-01-23 | by a guest


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False face their true emotions with a diluted appearance.
Emotions can be repressed.
Though one can have full control of thought, one can repress those thoughts if forced.
Dunbar’s piece “We Wear the Mask” is a relevant piece that should be read and create discussion about its modern relevance. Dunbar uses “mask” to convey the artificial outer appearance of the people he is speaking of, including himself. The people spoken of are African-American, but Dunbar fails to reveal the true people spoken of, so the works universality is endless. Knowing the time period that these people were in that he vividly speaks of in the poem, we can conclude from the work, that he is speaking of a group of people in a bind, the people are binding their feelings, opinions and physical actions, because of the time period not allowing for the specific people to express themselves. The mask is a symbol of this binding and “hushing” of these things that are not acceptable in the society of the time. This concealed pain and suffering is the mask, the mask is a strong symbol in this prodigious work. The mask is such strong symbols because the reader is allowed to use their imagination. The reader can only imagine what such a people may feel like when being forced to false face their true emotions with a diluter appearance, to make such of their appearance a light thing. The people of the poem wear a mask that grins and lies the line here attempts to convey that the outer appearance lacks to support the true emotions on the inside, it attacks a main theme of the poem, they make their appearance suitable for societal conventions but lie to themselves in the process, knowing they think otherwise. Dumbing down themselves they wear a mask, an outer appearance that hides their cheeks and shades their eyes the mask conveys the smile and excited eyes but it is a false face, it only is what society of the time wants from them but contradicts the eternal feelings of sorrow and heavy hearted emotions that they could only wish to show. it is latter stated by Dunbar that this debt to themselves is paid to human crafty and artful deception, directed to destroy them.

| Posted on 2009-01-23 | by a guest




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