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Sybico 1 Sybico Melissa Mr.

Chesser AP Literature 6 18 March 2013 The Masks We Wear Under certain situations, people often find themselves acting in a way that is unusual compared to their normal personality. For example, with one group of friends, a high school girl may be funny and outgoing, but when she is with another group, she acts more reserved and serious. This could be viewed as a changing of personalities or “wearing a mask” to fit into society’s accepted personas. Using literary devices such as hyperbole, first-person-plural point of view, and personification, Paul Laurence Dunbar, in his poem “We Wear the Mask,” is able to effectively criticize the metaphorical mask that people wear in different situations. In the beginning of “We Wear the Mask,” Dunbar exaggerates the pain that the heart feels when “We wear the mask that…hides our cheeks and shades our eyes.” He states that while hiding true feelings, hearts become “torn and bleeding.” Using this hyperbole, Dunbar creates catharsis in the reader, evoking strong feelings that make them empathize with the mask wearer. Dunbar questions the need to hide the truth in order to be accepted in to society’s happiness. Ironically the speaker asks “why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs?” But in essence, he is insulting the way society believes that the world should not see a person’s troubles. What is intriguing and alluring about Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask” is that it is written in first-person-plural point of view. Dunbar is constantly using the words “we” and “our” in the poem, thus creating a sense of familiarity that entices the reader to agree with Dunbar’s point

first-person-plural point of view. Although a person may be being tortured on the inside. . Only with the help of heavy machinery can one break the concrete that is society’s views. society makes everyone believe that that is their own problem and that they should hide it in order not to burden others. Dunbar is able to easier explain to the reader about society’s ridiculous expectations of human personas: that they should hide their true selves from the public view. thus making them feel the need to rebuke the masks that torture their minds and spirits. and personification. making the problem worse than it already was. the world cannot learn. “We” and “our” force the reader to imagine that they themselves are wearing the masks given to them by society’s standards.Sybico 2 that society should not define how a person acts nor decide whether or not one should wear a metaphorical mask. but a mask cannot lie. Paul Laurence Dunbar is able to indeed make a crack in the concrete of society. but what does that do? It causes thoughts to build up and in the end burst out in an escalated version.” But by giving these inanimate objects a human quality of lying and learning. criticizing the need of people to “wear masks” that hide their true feelings. But society is already set in concrete. Lastly. ergo cannot “be over-wise. Using machines like hyperbole.” A mask can be made to grin. Also. the speaker uses personification to easier teach the reader about these metaphorical “masks.