"We Wear the Mask" by Dunbar is a poem about slaves who have been discouraged and who have to live very hard lives while working in fields and also while they get little to no pay and have no rights(Dunbar "We Wear the Mask" 571). The poem describes how the world thinks that they are happy working in fields for a living and that they are perfectly content without rights, but no. They are not. They truly are not at all(Dunbar "We Wear the Mask" 571). This poem reflects many aspects of realism. First of all, it reflects realism by the way it "shows life by how it truly exists(Werlock)." For example, according to the tone of the author, Dunbar, within the poem, everyone thinks that slaves are perfectly happy being slaves and not having rights and things such as those. This reflects realism because the author finally stops the pretending and comes out and says that all slaves are truly unhappy with what they do and that they only seem content because they must "wear a mask" and hide behind the pain that they truly feel(Dunbar "We Wear the Mask" 571). Another that this poem reflects realism is by the way the poet uses similes to make his language much more descriptive and to make the purpose of his writing much more clear. For example, in the poem, the term "wear a mask" does not mean that while slaves were out in the fields, doing their jobs, they literally wore masks. This means that they had to act differently when working to cover up the pain and unhappiness that they truly felt by being a slave(Dunbar "We Wear the Mask" 571). A topic that comes up in this poem that reflects realism is the American Dream. During the times of the Civil War and right before the Civil War, this idea became extremely popular with slaves and people who were immigrating to the United States(Werlock). This was the idea that everyone in the land had the right to be free and also had Civil Rights. This obviously was not true because slaves did not have rights. This idea comes up in the poem because the slaves that are being referred to all have the dream to one day be free and to also one day have civil rights. The poem "Douglass" also by Dunbar reflects realism in many ways. In this poem, Dunbar describes a letter that he has written to Douglass about the fear he has for his nation going into the Civil War(Dunbar "Douglass" 570). This very topic in itself relates directly to realism by the way it reflects life "as it truly is(Werlock)." For example, when going into the Civil War, people were not pretending to not be worried about what was going to happen to their family, their government, and their nation. If so then, this poem would not make any sense at all people the fact of the matter was that people were extremely scared when it came to think about the Civil War. Therefore, this poem reflects realism because of the way that almost everyone in the nation at the time could relate to it and could understand its purpose.
Dunbar, Paul Laurence. "Douglass." Glencoe American Literature. comp. Wilhelm, Jeffery. McGraw Hill. Columbus, OH. 2009. 570. Print. (Werlock)
Dunbar, Paul Laurence. "We Wear the Mask." Glencoe American Literature. comp. Wilhelm, Jeffery. McGraw Hill. Columbus, OH. 2009. 571. Print.
Werlock, Abby H. P. "realism." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Feb 15, 2011.