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Emotions InSympathy, By Paul Laurence Dunbar

Decent Essays
Emotions are constantly building up inside of you. Some may be feelings of joy or pleasure, while others are emotions of sadness, pain or frustration. Typically, we relieve our emotions through writing, by talking to therapists, possibly doing yoga, or even sleeping. Well, back in 1800s, most slaves didn’t have the luxury to learn how to read or write. They were whipped for sleeping, as they worked most hours of the day and they definitely didn’t have any therapists to talk to. This made the slaves release their emotions in more unconventional ways, such as singing. This is described in the poem ”Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, which is about the imprisonment of the life of a slave and excerpt from “Narrative” (pages 8-9) by Frederick Douglass, a personal insight to Douglass’ horrid life as a slave. Both texts convey the central idea that during times of sorrow, slaves would sing to release their pain and misery. These songs they sung were not songs of joy.

“Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar depicts the idea of slaves singing for their sorrow and releasing their emotions by using an extended metaphor which carries the entire poem. The caged bird, referenced throughout the entire poem, are the slaves. Trapped up with no escape, not able to break free. The metaphor of the caged bird to represent the slaves in this poem truly carries the piece and depicts the imprisonment of slavery. Dunbar evokes imagery ,describing “...when the sun is bright on the upland slopes,
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