Essay on An Interpretation of Paul Laurence Dunbar's Poem Sympathy and We Wear the Mask

Words: 1230
Pages: 5

Throughout African American history, African Americans have used poems as a way of describing the African American condition in America. One poet who was widely known for using poetry to describe the condition of African Americans in America was Paul Laurence Dunbar. Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the most prolific poets of his time. Paul Laurence Dunbar used vivid, descriptive and symbolic language to portray images in his poetry of the senseless prejudices and racism that African Americans faced in America. Throughout this essay I will discuss, describe and interpret Sympathy and We Wear the Mask. Both Sympathy and We Wear the Mask were written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. To begin with, the poem Sympathy suggests to the reader a …show more content…
The remaining portions of the second stanza portray the self –inflicted and non self-inflicted physical wounds of the caged bird to the African American. "I know why the caged bird sings, ah me," begins the third stanza of Sympathy. The third stanza seems to represent a prayer or song. Prayer and song is usually for the most part, is though to be out of happiness and uplift. Unlike the usual sentiments that come with song and prayer, the singing and praying in the last stanza of the poem Sympathy was that of a plea for help and freedom for both African Americans and the caged bird. Paul Laurence Dunbar's Sympathy is his way of expressing the suppressed life of African Americans during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Dunbar compares an innocent creature's lifestyle to the lifestyle of the African Americans. The language chosen for this poem is that of compassion, sympathy, and understanding in the bird. This in turn allows the reader feel sympathy for the lives of the slaves. Similar to the poem Sympathy the poem We Wear the Mask speaks metaphorically. In the poem Sympathy the cage bird represents African Americans and in the poem We Wear the Mask the mask speaks of race. Dunbar also speaks in a muffled voice. In the first stanza of We Wear the Mask Dunbar speaks of hidden emotions. In the first stanza Dunbar wrote:
We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,-
This debt