The poet says that the oppressed are paying a debt by wearing a mask and hiding their true feelings. Thus these lines hint towards the poet’s mocking intention. Subscribe to our mailing list and get new poetry analysis updates straight to your inbox. Dunbar was likely referring to the struggle to achieve equal rights, overcome segregation and racial violence. Paul Laurence Dunbar writes these two very different in meaning poems. The word ‘clay’ perhaps refers to the world, the earth, our home. The use of the word “counting” emphasizes this fact. The poem begins with the speaker stating that “We,” a reference to all of humankind, but specifically black Americans, put on masks. But at the end of the day, when they prayed to the Lord, they know that He alone can see their tears behind the smile. They were left to their fate, unattended, left to suffer to the extreme, alone for centuries, with no one to cease the pain. 1. The Meaning "We Wear the Mask" focuses mainly on the issue of racism faced by many African-Americans like the poet himself. ‘Face is the index of mind’, goes the saying. Positivity and optimism can only last so long on a faulty foundation. Ha! The Afro-Americans were the slaves and therefore expected to be overtly respectful towards the former, failing which called for stern punishment. It is also the line which later became the title of the poem. They fooled the world about their true feelings by smiling at all times. It also creates hype over trivialities and brags about it. “We Wear the Mask” is a rondeau, a verse form typical of medieval and Renaissance French poetry. The poet ultimately conveys that since we cannot be true to ourselves we can’t expect the more from the world than lies. Ha! It's an amazing poem. Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. The words ‘torn’ and ‘bleeding’ are referring to the ample pain that they are living every moment. In other words, he kind of took a step back and looked at things in a less personal, less emotional way, making "We Wear the Mask" applicable to all sorts of people and circumstances. It very well used the concept of symbolic inferences, in its usage of the ‘mask’ as a symbol of scripted reality. We may pose many different things to the world, but we can’t hide anything from the divine. So, essentially, it hides the truth. Let’s understand the lines in the light of the Afro-Americans. They in the true nature of deceiving are wearing a deceitful smile, hiding the extremely agonized heart behind it. But let the world dream otherwise, We wear the mask! These symbols show the struggle that black Americans have to live with in society, and the hardships they face on a daily basis. In “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” Paul Laurence Dunbar depicts the harmful effects of racism through the use of symbolism, violent imagery, and a gloomy mood to develop the theme that oppression by society causes a desire for freedom among minorities. It poses a mask over reality. Translation of 'We Wear the Mask' by Paul Laurence Dunbar from English to German (Version #2) This website uses cookies to improve your experience. It becomes a strain on those who do not have to deal with them in their everyday lives. It spoke for itself. They were conferred with the American citizenship after staying there for centuries. This poem shows great wisdom and insight on many levels especially given the time period that it was written. What's your thoughts? The title itself is the opening line of the poem, and also forms the concluding line of the second and the third stanzas respectively. He mocks the world to remain blindfolded as the blacks suffer without a complaint, in silence and deceit. He concludes by utilizing another sarcastic statement. Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” is a well-known work that highlights his ability to create emotionally moving standard English poems. Victoria Thomas, of Saint Pauls High School, recites "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This Penlighten article summarizes and analyzes the poem in detail. It sees only the things it wants to see. Translation of 'We Wear the Mask' by Paul Laurence Dunbar from English to German Deutsch English Español Français Hungarian Italiano Nederlands Polski Português (Brasil) Română Svenska Türkçe Ελληνικά Български Русский Српски العربية 日本語 한국어 These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. The poem “ We Wear the Mask” was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar .The poem is about the mask, humans wear to disguise pain, sadness, or turmoil when in the company of others. It is also one’s own emotional or moral state that changes from situation to situation. Who Are The Most Romantic Literary Figures of All Time? Here the words that hold significance are ‘mouth’, ‘myriad’ and ‘subtleties’. The title is self-explanatory in the sense that ‘we’ refers to mankind, thus suggesting that people wear masks. They appeared content and satisfied with their state of slavery, with their fateful existence. Paul Laurence Dunbars We Wear the Mask combines salient features of verse essay and poetic meditation as it examines the need for a special kind of social dissembling in the world in which the author lived at the end of the nineteenth century. The word ‘vile’ refers to something that is ugly and bad. The word ‘myriad’ means many or infinite. The first stanza holds up the myriad feelings that humans feel simultaneously. This clearly indicates that the speaker should be regarded as representing a particular or special segment of society. He sets up a second contrast in the next lines with a comparison between the “sing[ing]” that “We” participate in and the ground on which “We” stand. It hides the teary eyes and also the tears flowing from the cheeks. His parents separated shortly after his birth, but Dunbar … The end sounds repeat throughout this piece, with the refrain, “We wear the mask” appearing at the end of the second and third stanza. But, giving in to their conditions, they accepted things as they were without qualms. This means that the poet has affirmed the fact that mankind is double-faced. His parents Joshua and Matilda Murphy Dunbar were freed slaves from Kentucky. After logging in you can close it and return to this page. The rhyme scheme of this piece is repetitive, oriented around a refrain. He asks why the “world be over-wise” in its counting of “all our tears and sighs?” While this is a very serious question, it is clear the speaker finds something ironic about it. The tone used in the description is certainly sarcastic and melancholic. It’s an art to fake happiness at the times of hardship. 'We Wear the Mask' happens to be one of the most critically appreciated poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, and is studied in different educational domains. This is truly an enthralling question which still seeks for an answer. This Penlighten article summarizes and analyzes the poem in detail. The meaning of the poem "Sympathy" by Paul Laurence Dunbar is that, as an African American man, the poet empathizes with the bird locked in a cage and the lack of freedom he feels as he views the outside world. We wear them and others use them to ignore the problems that exist in modern society. MayaAngelou.com. The mask is expanded from one’s face to their heart in the last two lines. On one hand, we have "Douglass," which is a poem about Dunbar calling on to Frederick Douglass, a prominent figure in the freeing of the slaves, asking for him to come and save them … The opening stanza of the poem indicates th… Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analysing poetry on Poem Analysis. In the final line the speaker brings back in the title of the poem, “We wear the mask.” This line is used as a reminder that not only are the troubles of the world obscured, they are purposefully hidden, at least to some extent. To a Captious Critic by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Harriet Beecher Stowe by Paul Laurence Dunbar. We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website. Every single person that visits PoemAnalysis.com has helped contribute, so thank you for your support. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. Paul Laurence Dunbar [1872-1906] was the first African-American poet to garner national critical acclaim. Anyone living in the world can see that these things are present and deeply problematic, even if they are obscured by masks. Paul Laurence Dunbar was an Afro-American poet who held humanity above all societal dogmas.