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Paul Laurence Dunbar. WE WEAR THE MASKS Mikey M eacham . Paul Laurence Dunbar. Born on June 27, 1872, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African-American poets to gain national recognition His parents were freed slaves from Kentucky

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Paul laurence dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar



Paul laurence dunbar1
Paul Laurence Dunbar

  • Born on June 27, 1872, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African-American poets to gain national recognition

  • His parents were freed slaves from Kentucky

  • He was a fine student but financially he was unable to attend college and got a job as a elevator operator

  • In 1892, a former teacher invited him to read his poems at a meeting of the Western Association of Writers; his work impressed his audience to such a degree that the popular poet James Whitcomb Riley wrote him a letter of encouragement

  • In 1895 Dunbar’s poems started to appear in major national newspapers and magazines, such as The New York Times


  • The poem is about slaves working for land owners and how hard they work and how there is always work to do and no break.

  • The poem talks about oppressed black Americans forced to hide their pain and frustration behind masks

  • This poem also talks about blacks wearing masks not to show their true feelings towards their owners.

  • Also the poem is about slaves dreaming of slavery finally being abolished.

Poetic devices
Poetic devices

An example of apostrophe- “We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries too thee from tortured souls.

An example of personification- “with torn and bleeding hearts we smile”, “Too thee tortured souls arise

Example of alliteration- “ With torn and bleeding hearts We smile and Mouth With Myriad subtleties”.

Paradox- the poem wears a mask because it does not mention racial prejudice but the poem is about it

Speaker and tone
Speaker and tone

  • The speaker is a slave living on a plantation that has been beaten down and wears a masks to hide his pain.

  • The attitude of the poem is helpless and depressed that the slaves will never get out of being worked to death.

  • He shows helplessness by using the verbs tears. Sighs, bleeding, hides

We wear the masks
We Wear The Masks

  • WE wear the mask that grins and lies,

  • It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— Alliteration

  • This debt we pay to human guile;

  • With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, Personification

  • And mouth with myriad subtleties.

  • Why should the world be over-wise, Apostrophe- lines 1 and 2 stanza 3

  • In counting all our tears and sighs?

  • Nay, let them only see us, while Metaphor

  • We wear the mask.

  • We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

  • To thee from tortured souls arise.

  • We sing, but oh the clay is vile

  • Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

  • But let the world dream otherwise,

  • We wear the mask!