We Wear The Mask Analysis

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We Wear the Mask “We Wear the Mask” is a short poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1895. It is written in iambic tetrameter and has many symbols throughout its stanzas. These symbols show the struggle that black Americans have to live with in society, and the hardships they face on a daily basis. The symbols that are portrayed throughout this poem could be identified as the mask, the smile, the word we. This paper will be discussing how the use of these symbols makes this poem a relatable piece, even in this modern day, as the struggle for black Americans to live happily continues to exist. In the first stanza, lines 1-5, the mask symbol is first mentioned. Masks are often used to hide ones face and intentions from those around them,…show more content…
In line one, it is the very first word leading the sentence “We wear the mask that grins and lies,” (1), this line also contains two other possible symbols of the mask and smiling, making it a rather important introduction. The usage of we in the opening stanza could be a method by the speaker to include the reader in the general aspect of “we”, but it is more likely referring to the black community as a whole while they suffer from racism and degradation in America. In line 3, it reads “this debt we pay to human guile” (3), leads the reader to believe that the speaker is trying to include them into the struggle of wearing a mask of lies by sharing the experience of “human guile” (3) and how we pay a debt back to society. However, the debt of a black American was likely a lot more severe than that of a white American, especially in the year of 1895 when this poem was published. In line 4, we is mentioned once again, saying “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile” (4), which is a bit more specific usage of the word we. Here, the reader is likely able to relate the usage of this we to the we of black Americans, as many black Americans were left torn and bleeding with their hearts and desires destroyed. The fact that the wounds are still bleeding might hint at the possibility that the wounds are still rather fresh, and with the poem taking place before the 1900’s, the reader is able to conclude that these wounds are indeed fresh, as the lives of slaves and ownership had only just begun to die down. In line 9, “We wear the mask,” (9), is repeated once again, and then again in line 15. This line contains the other symbol, the mask, and is a crucial line to the poem. In line 10, the poem reads, “We smile, but O great Christ, our cries,” (10). In this line, much like the usage of word sing, the word we could be used to show that we, the black society in America,

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