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We Wear the Mask
Transcript of We Wear the Mask
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! Paul Laurence Dunbar Dunbar writes about this "mask" that is worn by humans around each other to hide any of our pain and sadness. We give off the impression to every one that we are happy with the "mask" that we put on, even when the we are at our lowest point, because it is easier to simply show the world everything is okay. With this mask, we are lying and hiding the truth, which can be viewed as wrong. Theme/Main Idea: Thesis: Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask" focuses on using symbolism to connect a mask to how humans must lie and deceive others into believing their sadness and pain is actually happiness. Poetic Elements: Symbolism:
Mask used to symbolize the forefront people must put on to show others everything is okay
Hides all feelings of pain and sadness
"We wear the mask that grins and lies, / It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes" shows the mask itself is grinning, not the man behind it
Descriptive words such as "bleeding hearts", "tortured souls", "tears and sighs" set a mood of distress
"We sing, but oh the clay is vile/ Beneath our feet, and long the mile;" gives an image of those who are cheerless, still singing to keep an image of happiness
AABBC Rhyme scheme
The non-rhyming last word of the last line in each stanza directs the attention at the falseness of the mask Conclusion: Lies and false smiles known as the "mask" is put on by humans to hide pain and sadness to others. Having others think we are happy instead of problematic is a natural instinct of all people. Paul Laurence Dunbar, being an African American author, connects this poem to the history of African Americans. "but oh, the clay is vile/ beneath our feet and long the mile" could stress the hardship of African American struggles.
With this poem, Dunbar stresses that the falseness set by people are unreal, and that the world only sees our disguise instead of the distress behind the "mask". Dunbar, Paul Laurence. The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Joanne M. Braxton, ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993
"Racial Fire in the Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar" in A Singer in the Dawn: Reinterpretations of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ed. Jay Martin. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1975. Copyright © 1975 by Jay Martin.
The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ed. Joanne M. Braxton. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993. Copyright © 1993 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.