Analysis of We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

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 profoundness of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem with its brevity and
lack of sufficient support.

In Revell’s short and weak interpretation of Dunbar’s “We Wear the
Mask,” he suggests that it is impossible for the non-black reader to
draw inspiration or admonition from the subject matter, and that it
was written from within a black experience and exclusively for a black
audience. However, this analysis can be viewed as primarily invalid
because as Revell makes this claim, he fails to provide solid evidence
from the text that would fully booster his assumption. He merely
pulls an entire stanza from the poem to illustrate his point, without
referencing specific words or phrases that would elucidate his
argument.

If Revell were to have supplied more fully the evidence of Dunbar’s
other poetry of the time, showing how it objectively displayed a black
theme and straightforwardly addressed the injustices of slavery, then
a parallel of similarity could have been drawn between the two and his...


... middle of paper ...


...s one such “mask” that profoundly affected
Dunbar personally.

Revell failed to see the possibility that “We Wear the Mask” could
represent anything but the turmoil the black slaves endured because of
Dunbar’s disposition as a descendent of slaves. However, the
interpretation that this poem speaks to all people is supported more
fully through the text as a result of Dunbar’s use of the universal
“we” in coercion with religious reference. All people wear this
“mask” and until one figures out the most appropriate way to take it
off, “the world dream otherwise” and all will continue to fool and be
fooled by the world’s countless masks.

Works Cited

Revell, Peter. Paul Luarence Dunbar. United States of America: G.K.
Hall & Co., 1979

Brawly, Benjamin. Paul Laurence Dunbar Poet of his People. New York:
The University of

North Carolina Press, 1936.

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