We Wear the Mask essay

Masks have always been known as the most crucial part of a superhero’s uniform since the mask hides the superhero’s identity. This allows the superhero to be able to live a normal life and protect those close to him or her such as a lover or a family member. Masks have also been referred to in various forms of literature as a means of hiding one’s feelings or own identity. Such was the case here in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask. ” This poem describes in details how people wear masks to appear as if they are smiling and are happy despite the fact that they are hurting deep down inside.

The poem then questions on how the world is blind and easily fooled by the masks that hid the true feelings that the author is feeling deep down inside. It ends with a cry to Christ to whom the author turned to and cried out to regarding their sorry predicament on how while they show themselves as happy in society yet remained as “tortured souls” (“We Wear the Mask” 2002). Analysis Paul Laurence Dunbar published the poem “We Wear the Mask” in the year 1896. During this period, the Civil War in America had ended and the African-Americans were, as far as the government was concerned, given equal rights as those of Caucasian Americans.

However, African-Americans continued to be victims of racist activities such as segregation of establishments, beatings and killings. Despite these activities being done publicly, many Americans turned a blind eye on what was going on within the society. Because these Americans included law-enforcement officers and politicians, African-Americans realized that for them to survive and go through life is to wear a mask to hide their true feelings of hate, anger, fear and pain. Instead, they would portray themselves as contented, free and happy members of society (Cummings 2007).

The poem purely discusses on the feelings of an individual who hides behind a mask in order for society not to pity them and feel sorry for them. Although Dunbar’s poem initially was created to address the feelings of African-Americans during his period, his poem extends to today’s society. Individuals of all ages and genders wear masks in order to remain accepted within their family as well as in society. For example, homosexuals in various cultures still find it difficult to express their feelings towards each other since there are still cultures and societies that do not accept them for their sexual preference.

Individuals who have been exonerated from the crimes that they were previously charged with still have to deal with the prejudice that many people still consider them as convicts despite being able to present substantial evidence that proved their innocence. These individuals and many others suffer deep down inside. Yet, they are also afraid to show their true feelings since they know that even if they show how they feel with regards to how society perceive and treat them, these feelings will just be shunted by those to whom they address these feelings to.

As a result, they pretend that they are happy and doing fine through wearing their own masks to hide what they are truly feeling deep down inside.


Cummings, M. J. (2007). We wear the mask. Retrieved on 08 April 2008, from http://www. cummingsstudyguides. net/Guides4/Dunbar. html. We wear the mask. (2002). Retrieved on 08 April 2008, from http://www. poetry- archive. com/d/we_wear_the_mask. html.