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Home > Free Essays & Book Reports > Poetry > We Wear The Mask

We Wear The Mask

Analysis of “We Wear the Mask” In one of Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s most famous poem’s “We Wear the Mask,” 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. “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.” In the first verse, the mask is taken off. The “We” of the poem describes the black community that lives a double life, the masked and the unmasked. Dunbar included the word “mask” in his poem because historically it was a false deceptive role-playing that was acceptable for a survival strategy by blacks and it maintained a sense of empowerment in a racial society. The word “lies” is a simple word but the mask not only lies to the whites, but to the person who is wearing the mask that start to live by it. Dunbar uses the word “mouth” as a verb, which intensifies our expressive genuine facial features that never lies. In life, the mask is the concealment of those features that reveal tears that give quality to a smile. The masks when worn is always smiling but underneath are the torn and broken heart of one’s soul and “this debt we pay to human guile.” The debt that the black community is paying dearly by wearing the mask everyday for the cunning white race with “myriad subtleties”, the black race that wants to speak out and be heard. “Why should the world be otherwise, In counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while We wear the mask.” The second verse, the mask is replaced. The word “overwise”, Dunbar recognizes that the black people knew too much for their own good. They knew that if they were to speak out that they would be condemned for knowing too much in which they struggled for equality from the white race and peace within. In the last three lines of the second verse emphasis their hurt when they are not around the white race and how they are trapped under 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! In the words “We smile”, it shows that they wear their smiling mask everyday with tortured souls beneath and that they pray to Christ to find peace in the awful world they live in. The words “clay is vile” sets the setting for slavery on a plantation in the south where clay is popular. The plantation is where they worked and lived. Which did whites that treated blacks with disgust own. The words “world dream otherwise,” says that the otherwise will turn their head the other way and think differently. Some of them will die with their mask on and never realizing the truth or some will wake up without the mask and reveal the truth that it is wrong. In Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s poem, he links it to the black race and uses extended metaphor to have a penetrating insight to the reality of the frowned upon race in America, that struggles for equality and peace within a racial society.

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In one of Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s most famous poem’s “We Wear the Mask,” 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.

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