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We Wear the Mask

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Chris Cao

on 19 May 2014

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Transcript of We Wear the Mask

We Wear the Mask
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 - 1906)

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!
The title of the poem means people do not show themselves as they truly are, but they hide their pain and pretend to be happy when they are in public. A good summary of this would be the quote in the poem "grin and bear it".

In "We Wear the Mask" the mask hides the faces of African Americans. They are in pain in the inside but they have courage to smile. The mask may show happiness but beneath the mask is sadness and frustration. They sing away their sorrows everyday because they do not want to remember. This is what they go through and live with.
The connotation of the poem has personification because the mask is given human like abilities. A example would be "We wear the mask that grins and lies"
'grinning and lying' are the actions that people can do, but these properties are used for mask, so this is a personification. It also has a metaphor "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile." It means to be sad but the poet didn't say that the person is sad. The sadness is described in terms of 'torn and bleeding hearts.
The attitude/tone of the poem is frustration and sadness. The poem sounds calm but means regret when reading the poem. A example in this poem would be "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile."
In the poem there is no shift and it stays the same tone throughout it.
There's no mistaking that "We Wear the Mask" in the poem is the main point but also a way of the background. Also that Dunbar is reminding us the title and the repetition that people wear masks that may look nice with lots of smiles and singing, but they're nothing more than a series of lies that cover up painful truths.
The theme of this poem is lying in society, suffering, discrimination, and society in class. These are all themes because they are judged and hiding how they feel.
The time period of this poem is in the post civil war era. This is when the states still had slaves.
Time Period
We Wear the Mask
By: Chris Cao & Mike Valdez
Full transcript