?An Interpretation of Paul Laurence Dunbar?s Poem Sympathy and We Wear the Mask?

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Throughout African American history, African Americans have used poems as a way of describing the African American condition in America. One poet who was widely known for using poetry to describe the condition of African Americans in America was Paul Laurence Dunbar. Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the most prolific poets of his time. Paul Laurence Dunbar used vivid, descriptive and symbolic language to portray images in his poetry of the senseless prejudices and racism that African Americans faced in America. Throughout this essay I will discuss, describe and interpret Sympathy and We Wear the Mask. Both Sympathy and We Wear the Mask were written by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
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In the second stanza, Dunbar refers to the emotional and physical abuse that imprisonment and oppression puts on both the caged bird and the African Americans. Dunbar begins the second stanza with,
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling

This stanza states that the caged bird and African Americans need to be both physically and emotionally set free. The previously mention stanza suggests that the cage bird and African American will result to any means necessary to gain its freedom. The caged bird and African Americans may use extreme tactics to gain freedom, for example resulting to self-inflicted physical wounds. The self-inflicted wounds come from the battle for freedom. Dunbar describes why the caged bird beats his wing till its blood is red on the cruel bars because he must “fly back to his perch and cling when he fain would be on the bough a-swing”(African American Literature). The African Americans experienced this same kind of pain from fighting for their freedom. Lynching or being put to death by hanging was often the homicide of choice of many White Americans to inflict on African Americans. The remaining portions of the second stanza portray the self –inflicted and non self-inflicted physical wounds of the caged bird to the African American.

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