Analysis of a Poem “We wear the mask” Essay

936 WordsMar 18, 20134 Pages
Amber Davis Professor Quirk Literature 101 February 28, 2013 We Wear the Mask The lyric poem “We wear the mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a poem about the African American race, and how they had to conceal their unhappiness and anger from whites. This poem was written in 1895, which is around the era when slavery was abolished. Dunbar, living in this time period, was able to experience the gruesome effects of racism, hatred and prejudice against blacks at its worst. Using literary techniques such as: alliteration, metaphor, persona, cacophony, apostrophe and paradox, Paul Dunbar’s poem suggests blacks of his time wore masks of smiling faces to hide their true feelings.…show more content…
Essentially, the person of this poem is asking why should the world get the right to know why they are truly upset, and potentially use it against them; instead, have pride, hold your head up high, and put on your “mask.” In doing so, the literary term paradox comes into play. This poem is about the true feelings of blacks being hidden behind masks, when also the poem itself hides the fundamental issue of racism from even being mentioned – that alone is a paradox because the poem has a mask on as well. This poem can also be seen as a paradox because this so called “we” is supposed to be wearing a mask when in fact they are expressing their feelings and becoming vulnerable, aka – no more mask. Although each stanza has a bit of alliteration, the second stanza is the most dominant. Dunbar writes, “Why should the world be over-wise,/ In counting all our tears and sighs?/ Nay, let them only see us, while/ We wear our masks” (6-9). The alliteration in this stanza is used heavily with the letter “w.” With the use of this alliteration, it creates a sense of flow that helps the speaker get his point across more smoothly. Although the poem is more cacophonic, and harsh, rather than euphonic, and harmonious, the use of alliteration helps highlight the importance of this stanza’s sayings. The alliteration aspect of this stanza
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