Analysis of a Poem “We wear the mask” Essay

Words: 943
Pages: 4

Amber Davis
Professor Quirk
Literature 101
February 28, 2013

We Wear the Mask The lyric poem “We wear the mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a poem about the African American race, and how they had to conceal their unhappiness and anger from whites. This poem was written in 1895, which is around the era when slavery was abolished. Dunbar, living in this time period, was able to experience the gruesome effects of racism, hatred and prejudice against blacks at its worst. Using literary techniques such as: alliteration, metaphor, persona, cacophony, apostrophe and paradox, Paul Dunbar’s poem suggests blacks of his time wore masks of smiling faces to hide their true feelings.
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The final stanza is a plea to God, or in other words an apostrophe. Dunbar writes, “We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries/ To thee from tortured souls arise” (10-11). In writing this, Dunbar makes an apostrophe to the absent Christ since Christ is not currently present in the poem. This verse brings about an emotional side of the speaker that we have not seen in the play, which is the essential effect of apostrophe. In a sense, the speaker is able to take the focus from masks to addressing the fact that they are being tortured; the fact that they are being tortured is exactly why they wear the masks they do, to show they are not intimidated. Through the use of apostrophe, Dunbar is able to express the emotions of the reader, which ties into why masks need to be warn.
Overall, the speaker’s awareness of putting on a fake façade to avoid trouble is apparent through literary devices such as alliteration, metaphors, and apostrophe. Author Dunbar creates a somewhat cacophonic feel to the poem to portray the hurt of these people who must wear masks. Dunbar also uses end rhyme in all of his versus. The first and second, and also the third and fourth of each line use the long I sound for end rhyme except for the last lines of each stanza. Through the use of many literary devices Dunbar is able to capture the true meaning behind the mask, which is a disguise that camouflages the actual emotions of the mask wearer. Even though the mask is a grinning mask, the face