Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear The Mask" And His Facade Of Opinions

886 words - 4 pages

Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "We Wear The Mask" is about his views on

racism and the struggle for equality for the African-Americans. What is so

beautifully unique is how he wrote it in an artful, refined dissimulation of his true

self. He is deliberately misleading and often indirect as if to hide beneath his

words, coming across as oblique and delicate at the same time. This further

stresses the idea of the mask, being concealing and elusive, in many ways.

This particular piece of work is unequaled, not only to the literary world,

but the author himself. Paul Laurence Dunbar's other poems are written in a

specific dialect, brought on by his African-American descent. One example comes from

an earlier poem "When Dey 'Listed Colored Soldiers." The title alone is a good example

but the rest of the poem continues "DEY was talkin' in de cabin, dey was talkin' in de hall;

But I listened kin' o' keerless, not a-t'inkin' 'bout it all" and so on in this matter. In contrast

to this vernacular, "We Wear The Mask" was written in formal English which adds to the

over-all anonymous aspect of the poem. He wrote with his experiences as an

African- American but presented them in a way that any would understand. It's

purpose was to masquerade the race of the poet so that the poem would be

relatable to any reader, allowing it to make an impact and enable a shared

compassion between humans without definity.

The poem actually begins with the congregate voice of African-Americans

as we. Because he choose not to write as I the connection to the author is

removed and allows the audience to further assume the personae of the author

as anonymous. It continues on through the line "We wear the mask that grins and

lies" which is also very vague because it is not specified whether or not the mask

is lying to people around or to the person that is actually wearing it. It is both a

veil to shield the emotions of bearer of the mask and personal denial of specific

emotions whether they are guilt, sorrow, or anger. Emotions are tightly capped

when the mask ''hides our cheeks and shades our eyes" where you cannot tell if

he is crying or smiling.

"The debt we pay to human guile" is reference to the slavery and struggle

of the African-Americans. "Human guile" is the trickery, cunning, and deceit of

those who enslaved them. Dunbar doesn't actually mean that they are in debt

but it was sarcasm and irony to the fact that they have paid their lives to people

who had no interest in the well-being of the African-Americans, only in the

leisure of their...

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