We wear the mask-O’Donnell

Poppi O’Donnell
Ms. Nelson
English 3rd Period
February 28, 2012

We wear the mask

In this world we are limited to what we are able to do, for example: living forever and or buying everything in the world because those things are not real and naive which is why people usually don’t really think they can do that! There are other more realistic examples though: like when you see a person always wearing one piece of clothing or similar clothing you could say that person is homeless or if that clothing is similar like booty shorts and half tops you say that person is a hoar! Most people not want to do whatever in fear of being judged by others. What you do, how you look, and feel makes it easy to pass judgment. It’s a cruel part of life that no one really likes, we fear judgment, of not being accepted by others but maybe there could be a solution…maybe we can just put on a mask. In the poem “We wear the mask “by Paul Laurence Dunbar, the poet uses imagery, hyperboles and metaphors to create the theme that judgment can cause people “us” to hide or be fake.

To begin, Dunbar uses imagery to create a suspicious and creepy mood in the poem. In the first stanza, the poem reads “we wear the mask that grins and lies/ it hide our cheeks and shades ours eyes” the lines are both examples of imagery. The secondary imagery “it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes” gives you the picture of a person wearing a mask without really saying it. The tone here is mysterious, like a villain wearing his mask hiding more than just his face… feelings possibly or something else not just the identity of himself. The main imagery in the firsts line says “we wear the masks that grins and lies” it suggests that feelings are involved and like mentioned before that those feelings are hidden.

Secondly, Dunbar uses a hyperbole to make the poem about torture and indecision. The following lines have a hyperbole “this debt we pay to human guile; with torn and bleeding hearts we smile, and mouth with myriad subtleties” Dunbar  uses this extreme exaggeration  to show how ruined this person is or could be but how on the outside he/she may look perfectly happy. If this person were really wearing a mask they would not be ruined because when you think mask what usually comes to mind is superhero or villain or masquerade! No debt, No heartbreak, No subtleness and that there proves that this is clearly a hyperbole and exaggeration of the persons feelings behind the mask. The person behind the mask isn’t really happy but sad or aggrieved “and mouth with myriad subtleties” it makes the tone obvious the suspicion there is exact and now you wonder what indications he/she might be showing if cannot see his face. This figurative language not only shows the theme of judgment but shows its impact.

Lastly, I will conclude this essay by using two metaphoric stanzas from the poem! Dunbar uses a metaphor to prove my point being about feelings and not just hiding or being fake! I think the fear of judgment is why people are not always who they appear to be, why they are cowards and are afraid to be themselves, like I said before with the villain he puts on his mask to hide more … more being his true feelings, possibly fear or resentment. The third stanza describes how judgment and criticism can lead up to these feelings with negative turnouts like self hate or being overly self conscious which may cause you to hurt yourself or commit suicide! In that case pretending would seem the right way to go and even if you feel differently why make yourself an open book. “Why should the world be over wise in counting tears and sighs?  Nay let them only see us while we wear the mask” The mood here is in perspective with what the message is, we should not let others make us suffer and that if we do judge that we may need to know the person first. The second line “We smile, but o’ great Christ, our cries to thee from tortured souls arise. We sing but o’, Clay is vile beneath our feet and long the world dream otherwise we wear the mask.” The mood here is different than before it is more urgent like the author is trying to say that we may do things to make you judge us but that isn’t who we are …that we can look happy but feel terrible. A mask can hide your identity, it can make you seem different to others and in the end I guess we all can put on a pretty good mask!

In conclusion, through figurative language, mood and rhythm and rhyme Dunbar makes a sort of mysterious, suspicious and surprisingly urgent poem. Reading this poem you will have to carefully analyze to get the theme of judgment using the mask to show the fear of being judged or criticized or rejected because of who you are. Let us all just put on a mask!!!


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