The Mask Essay Research Paper What is

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The Mask Essay, Research Paper What is Behind Your Mask? Every minute of every day people wear a mask. A mask to hide the true identity of their feelings. The 1896 poem “We Wear the Mask”, Paul Laurence Dunbar illustrates this theory. People wear mask for many different reasons but mostly to hide their true self from society. The message portrayed by Dunbar is that it is one’s self right to wear a mask as they so choose. The first couplet clearly states how strongly Dunbar feels about the mask that we wear. According to him the mask allows us to “grin[s] and lie[s]” while on the inside we are hiding how we truly feel. By hiding our cheeks and shading our eyes we jade reality. In the following line Dunbar explains one of the ways we use our mask is to be “guile”.

Guile means that we are deceitful to others in our daily quest. The fourth line of the stanza explains that we may hurt deeply on the inside but because we are wearing our mask we still smile. So no matter how bad we do hurt, out of habit we feel obligated to put on a mask for everyone else. Dunbar ends the stanza by implying that not only do we lie with our smiles but our mouth lies through the smile with “myriad and subtle” words. The next stanza illustrates the fact that Dunbar believes we have every right to wear our mask. At the same time he seems to be saying that we should wear our mask everyday and take it off for no one. Dunbar believes that we should not have to let the world know “all our tears and sighs”. Why should the world be “over-wise” to our true

feelings. Perhaps we are not harming a soul by the mask we wear. Dunbar states “Nay let them only see us, while/ We wear the mask” to prove this point. I believe he might feel this way because in his personal life he may have had something to hide from the world. Authors seem to draw their works from true experience. In the final stanza Dunbars says that the ultimate price we pay for wearing our mask is when our “tortured” souls cry out to God. With agony Dunbar cries out “oh Great Christ” as if he has experienced such a profound amount of pain. Perhaps some people feel that God is the only one to talk to because he never passes judgement on us. No matter how hard we try we can never hold a mask to God because he always sees our true being. The third and fourth line

of the final stanza Dunbar says “We sing, but oh the clay is vile beneath our feet..” which could mean many things. When he says clay he could be referring to us humans, and that we as people are ,vile, very repulsive and wicked. I think that he alludes to Isaiah 64:8 in which it states ” …We are the clay and you[God] are the potter; we are the work of your hands”. Our mask of lies and secrets keeps God from molding us the way he desires, which in turn makes mankind vile. In the last line “let the world dream otherwise” it seems that Dunbar wants us to keep wearing our mask so that we, humankind, can live harmoniously. This poem goes deeper than just the words on the page. When reading the words over and over the meaning seems to go deeper and deeper. No one can

ever be sure of the message that Dunbar is trying to relay to us. Everyone should develop their own opinion and take this poem to heart. From my own personal experience I don’t agree solely with what Dunbar says because people should not be content with wearing their mask. It is not always healthy to hide ones true self and feelings, especially if they are painful. I also feel that if you continually ware you mask you will soon lose touch of who you really are. It is more accepted now than when the poem was written to share or seek help, counsel, from one. I strongly suggest that if you have spent a lifetime behind your mask and are full of intense feelings and emotions that you do swallow you pride and seek professional help.