Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Length: 1570 words (4.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Paul Laurence Dunbar



Outline

Thesis: The major accomplishments of Paul Laurence Dunbar's life during 1872 to
1938 label him as being an American poet, short story writer, and novelist.

I. Introduction II. American poet
     A. Literary English
     B. Dialect poet
          1. "Oak and Ivy"
          2. "Majors and Minors"
          3. "Lyrics of Lowly Life"
          4. "Lyrics of the Hearthside"
          5. "Sympathy" III. Short story writer
     A. Folks from Dixie (1898)
     B. The Strength of Gideon and Other Stories (1900)
     C. The Heart of Happy Hollow (1904) IV. Novelist
     A. The Uncalled (1898)
     B. The Love of Landry (1900)
     C. The Fanatics (1901)
     D. The Sport of the Gods (1902) V. Conclusion


     Paul Laurence Dunbar attended grade schools and Central High School in
Dayton, Ohio. He was editor of the High School Times and president of
Philomathean Literary Society in his senior year. Despite Dunbar's growing
reputation in the then small town of Dayton, writing jobs were closed to black
applicants and the money to further his education was scarce. In 1891, Dunbar
graduated from Central High School and was unable to find a decent job.
Desperate for employment, he settled for a job as an elevator operator in the
Callahan Building in Dayton.
     The major accomplishments of Paul Laurence Dunbar's life during 1872 to
1938 labeled him as an American poet. Dunbar had two poetic identities. He was
first a Victorian poet writing in a comparatively formal style of literary
English. Dunbar's other identity was that of the dialect poet, writing lighter,
usually humorous or sentimental work not merely in the Negro dialect but in
other varieties as well: Irish, once in German, but very frequently in the
hoosier dialect of Indiana. There is good reason to assert, however, that the
sources of Dunbar's dialect verse were in the real language of the people. The
basic charge of this criticism can be stated in the words of a recent critic,
Jean Wagner. Dunbar's dialect is, he says, "at best a secondhand instrument,
irredeemably blemished by the degrading things imposed upon it by the enemies of
the Black people" (Revell, Paul Laurence Dunbar, pg. 84). One of the most
popular of Dunbar's dialect poems was and is "When Malindy Sings" which builds
upon the natural ability of the race in song and is acknowledged to be Dunbar's
tribute to his mother's spontaneous outbursts of singing as she worked in the
kitchen. The message of the poem is of praise for simplicity of spirit and the
love of God.
     Another of Dunbar's superb poems is entitled "Sympathy", written in
1895:

I know what the caged bird feels,
alas!
When the sun is bright on the
upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Paul Laurence Dunbar." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Sep 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=80894>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Language of the Black Condition and All Conditions: Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask”

- Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, “We Wear The Mask” cleverly talks of the black condition in a language so universal that it could apply to any race of people that tries to hide their emotions from the world in order to survive. Dunbar argues for the reality of the black man’s plight in America, the black man's struggle for equality in the world, and the struggle for peace within. These are circumstances of the poet’s life that influenced his writing of the poem. PARAGRAPH 2: Background information on your author or document....   [tags: Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask, ]

Research Papers
979 words (2.8 pages)

The Influential Work of Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

- The Influential Work of Paul Laurence Dunbar Many writers begin writing and showing literary talent when they are young. Paul Laurence Dunbar, born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, was already editor of a newspaper and had had two of his poems published in the local newspaper before he’d graduated from high school. His classmate, Orville Wright, printed The Tattler which Dunbar edited and published for the local African American community. After graduating from high school, he was forced to get a job as an elevator operator which allowed him spare time for writing....   [tags: Dunbar, Poetry]

Research Papers
1032 words (2.9 pages)

Sympathy By Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

- In “Sympathy”, by Paul Laurence Dunbar, a man can see the reflection of the subjugation he feels as he views a bird, trapped in a cage. In this lyric poem, filled with agony, grief, and painful emotion, a reader can receive a glimpse into the eyes and mind of someone who has been oppressed. This poem is designed to create a tone that gives the reader insight into and lets the reader feel the pain of the bird and the man who can sympathize with him. The poem starts by a description of a wonderful place....   [tags: Poetry, Rhyme, Sonnet, Alliteration]

Research Papers
732 words (2.1 pages)

Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

- ... He knows the pain of the small bird when nature is taking its beautiful course right outside of the window, but feeling the balmy sun on his face is impossible. The speaker uses a simile to compare the flowing river to a “stream of glass”, implanting in the mind of the reader an image of nature at its finest, but the flowing river is out of reach for the caged bird. The speaker also uses alliteration of the letter “s” when he says “the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,” In doing this, the sound of wind is embodied when the poem is read aloud, as the letter “s” sounds similar to the soft rush of wind....   [tags: poem analysis]

Research Papers
619 words (1.8 pages)

The Poet by Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

- The Poet by Paul Laurence Dunbar Before we pass on from this world it would be nice if we had left our mark, given our contribution, made our claim in the history of human civilization. Wouldn't it be wonderful to achieve such a goal. Wouldn't it be horrible to have attained that level of recognition and yet be recognized for things you deemed inferior. In the poem "The Poet", Paul Laurence Dunbar expresses his remorse at having written superior Standard English literature and yet only be known and praised for his Dialect works....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
492 words (1.4 pages)

Little Brown Baby by Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

- Little Brown Baby by Paul Laurence Dunbar Paul Laurence Dunbar is one of the most influential African American poets to gain a nationwide reputation. Dunbar the son of two former slaves; was born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. His work is truly one of a kind, known for its rich, colorful language, encompassed by the use of dialect, a conversational tune, and a brilliant rhetorical structure....   [tags: Dunbar Poetry Vernacular African American]

Free Essays
1340 words (3.8 pages)

An Annotation of Paul Laurence Dunbar's Ships That Pass In The Night Essay

- An Annotation of Paul Laurence Dunbar's Ships That Pass In The Night Laurence Dunbar's "Ship That Pass In The Night" is a cry for opportunity for all men, regardless of race. Dunbar's poem directly parallels a passage from Frederick Douglass' autobiography that gives an account of his life as a slave. Both Douglass and Dunbar look out at the ships that sail by and see hopes for societal changes. Although they both sought change, their aspirations were quite different. Frederick Douglass watched the ships from ashore, wishing for freedom and for slavery to be abolished....   [tags: Dunbar Ships Pass Night Poem Essays]

Free Essays
1086 words (3.1 pages)

Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay

- Paul Laurence Dunbar Outline Thesis: The major accomplishments of Paul Laurence Dunbar's life during 1872 to 1938 label him as being an American poet, short story writer, and novelist. I. Introduction II. American poet A. Literary English B. Dialect poet 1. "Oak and Ivy" 2. "Majors and Minors" 3. "Lyrics of Lowly Life" 4. "Lyrics of the Hearthside" 5. "Sympathy" III. Short story writer A....   [tags: essays research papers fc]

Free Essays
1570 words (4.5 pages)

Paul Laurence Dunbar Essay example

- Paul Laurence Dunbar Renowned African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar rose from a poor childhood in Dayton, Ohio to international acclaim as a writer and as an effective voice for equality and justice for African-Americans (Howard, Revell). He met and associated with other historical men such as Fredrick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and his Dayton neighbors Orville and Wilbur Wright (Harvard, Columbus). Dunbar's personal story, as well as his writings, are still an inspiration to all Americans (Poupard)....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
1090 words (3.1 pages)

Sympathy, by Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Reflection of the African American's Struggle for Freedom

- Sympathy, by Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Reflection of the African American's Struggle for Freedom I know what the caged bird feels, alas. When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, And the river flows like a stream of glass; When the first bud sings and the first bud opes, And the faint perfume from its chalice steals-- I know what the caged bird feels. "Sympathy" was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1899, right at the end of the Nineteenth Century....   [tags: Dunbar Sympathy Essays]

Research Papers
905 words (2.6 pages)

Related Searches

the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream
of glass;
When the first bird sings and
the first bud opens
And the faint perfume from its
chalice steals-
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats
his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch
and cling
When he fain would be on the
bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the
old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener
sting-
I know why he beats his wings!

I know why the caged bird sings
at me,
When his wing is bruised and
his bosom sore,-
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from
his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven
he flings-
I know why the caged bird sings!

"Sympathy" ("sym" meaning with and "pathy" meaning feeling) is a very emotional
poem about a caged bird trapped with no way to escape. "A poem like 'Sympathy'-
with its repeated line, 'I know why the caged bird feels, alas!'- can be read as
a cry against slavery, but was probably written out of the feeling that the
poet's talent was imprisoned in the conventions of his time and the exigencies
of the literary marketplace" (Revell, Paul Laurence Dunbar, 73). Dunbar's first
stanza in the poem uses the word 'alas' to mean anxiety. Throughout "Sympathy"
the caged bird is enduring distress due to his life's limitations. "And the
faint perfume from its chalice steals- I know what the caged bird feels!" These
two lines from "Sympathy" express the caged bird's thought of someone stealing
his ideas and thoughts. "I know why the caged bird beats his wing till its
blood is red on the cruel bars" expresses rage the caged bird feels and the
physical abuse the caged bird endures trying to escape. During this period in
Dunbar's life, he met George Washington Carver in Dayton, James Whitcomb Riley
in Indianapolis, and he became lifelong friends with Dr. H.A. Tobey, a Toledo
psychiatrist.
     The major accomplishments of Paul Laurence Dunbar's life during 1872 to
1906 also labeled him as being a short story writer. Although Dunbar
experienced much criticism in his early career, he also enjoyed a good deal of
success. These successes, unfortunately, did not come without some personal
sacrifices and tribulations. He encountered rifts with his closest friends and
associates, often the result of his business and artistic decisions. One such
confrontation occurred when Dunbar decided to sell certain works to George
Horace Lorimer of the Saturday Evening Post and Harrison Smith Morris of
Lippincott's, two longtime friends of Dunbar, to the dissatisfaction of his
agent. Dunbar responded by explaining:
     Both are my personal friends and I should feel myself rather niggardly
if I should withhold from them first sight of the things that are in their line
merely because now that my things are selling I could get better prices
elsewhere... I feel a sense of honor and obligation towards these men which is a
little beyond price. (Revell 108) This determination of Dunbar to have his
works printed in major literary publications showed his sincere desire to have
his more serious, non-dialect short stories to be exposed to the public.
Dunbar's short stories include the works "Folks from Dixie", "The Strength of
Gideon and Other Short Stories", "The Heart of Happy Hollow" and others.
     The last artistic accomplishment of Paul Laurence Dunbar's life was
labeled as a serious novelist. Dunbar wrote four novels between 1897 and 1901.
The first two of these works, The Uncalled (1898) and The Love of Landry (1900)
are "white" novels in which all the characters are white and no reference is
made to the presence of Black people. The other two novels, The Fanatics (1901)
and The Sport of the Gods (1902) are considered to be "black" novels. Dunbar's
first novel, The Uncalled, was written in England in 1897, and was published to
little commercial success. Critic Benjamin Brawley considers the work "only
partly a success" and remarks quite unjustly upon "the lack of local color and
the mediocre quality of the English" (qtd. in Revel p. 65). Robert Bone opines
that it is Dunbar's most successful novel and remarks misleadingly that it is
"widely regarded as his spiritual autobiography" (Bone, pg. 39). The Uncalled
is the story of the childhood and young manhood of Frederick Brent. The story
opens with the death of his mother in circumstances of poverty. She has been
abandoned by her drunken husband and sells her soul to the devil. The plot
thickens when the question arises as to who will take care of young Frederick.
     The Love of Landry, Dunbar's second novel, was a major commercial
disappointment. The writing in this book is fairly relevant to the
circumstances that brought Dunbar to Colorado and his experiences there. In The
Fanatics Dunbar tries to bring out the essential human values of brotherly love,
love between man and woman, family loyalty, tolerance, and forgiveness that
underlie and finally resolve the conflicts of fanatical devotion to a cause.
The Sport of the Gods is an attempt by Dunbar to depict Black Americans living
in social currents of his time.

     Dunbar proved to be very disheartened by the fact that his audiences and
publishers relished so heavily on his works of dialect poetry. He felt that
acceptance of his serious work- primarily his standard English poetry- faltered
because of the demand for his dialect pieces. It is commonly felt that Dunbar's
perception of the severity of plantation life for slaves was diffused and
diluted by the stories he heard from his mother as a youngster. His mother,
like his father, was a former slave, and her stories often failed to express the
more brutal aspects of plantation life. Dunbar's works have often been widely
criticized because of this "watering down" of the atrocities of slavery (Revell).
Dunbar's poems in literary English, his short stories and novels all rely more
or less on traditional forms and conventional characterization.

Works Cited

Baker, Houston A. Jr. "Paul Laurence Dunbar: An Evaluation."      Black
World. 21      Nov. 1971: 30-37.

Brawley, Benjamin. Paul Laurence Dunbar: Poet of his People.      Chapel
Hill:      University of North Carolina Press, 1936.

Cunningham, Virginia. Paul Laurence Dunbar and his Song. New      York:
Dodd, Mead,      1947.

Metcalfe, E.W.,Jr. Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Bibliography.      Metachen, N.J.:
     Scarecrow Press, 1975.

Revell, Peter. Paul Laurence Dunbar. Twayne Publishers: 1979.

Revell. Peter. Paul Laurence Dunbar. Boston, Twayne Publishers: 1979. Pg. 84.

Ibid, pg. 37.

Ibid, pg. 73.
Return to 123HelpMe.com