Analysis of We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

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Analysis of We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar

“We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a renowned piece of literature that has been the subject of various literary criticisms over the years. Because of the poem’s indirectness and generalized ambiguity, the interpretation of the “we” that wears the “mask” and why they do so is left unanimously undisclosed. It is up to the interpreter and the support given by the interpreter to produce a valid representation of the meaning that lies beneath the mask. One such analysis of “We Wear the Mask” is presented by Peter Revell on page 71 of his book Paul Laurence Dunbar, which was published in 1979 by G. K. Hall & Co. Unfortunately, the given argument nearly shames
the
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And because of Dunbar’s ambiguity to whom the poem’s primary audience is, it causes one to question Revell’s claim; and additionally, the purpose of Dunbar’s poem. Was it a direct focus to blacks wearing this “mask” to hide their “hearts of suffering” as
Revell suggests, or could it instead be that Dunbar was attempting to adhere to all of mankind, saying that each person, no matter their race, wears a mask? The contents of Dunbar’s poem would support the latter. “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a poem directed toward the entire human race that addresses the issue of our human tendency to hide behind a “mask” that conceals our true emotions and selves. Dunbar opens his poem with “We wear the mask,” to draw in any type of reader, not just a targeted race. It would appear contradictory for
Dunbar to use the universal term “we” while at the same time excluding everyone but blacks because even though he grew up in poverty, he was born in a time when slavery had been abolished and discrimination, though still present, was much less severe. Dunbar even excelled in a school where he was the only black student. He was continually
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