Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes were considered to be early black poets during the twentieth century around the period of civil right movement. “We wear the mask” and “Theme for English B” were written in 1895 and 1951 respectively. Even there is approximately 50 years gap between these two poems, the theme that these two poems address is somewhat similar. Even though Dunbar uses symbols as figurative devices while Hughes uses Irony, they both have the same goal, which is to point out the racial issues within American society.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first black poets in his time to confront the hypocrisy he saw around him. “We wear the mask” was one of his outstanding works that addressed racial injustices in American society. This poem was all about the assertion that “we wear the masks” to hide their true feeling. Yet, he goes on to emphasize that the ruthlessness of suffering and pain that these masks try to cover up because they had to keep all the pains by themselves without expressing. According to William Carroll, “The poem closes with a repetition of a sentiment stated earlier: ‘But let the world dream otherwise, / we wear the mask!’ The people show a dogged determination to keep the true nature of their sufferings to themselves and to present to others an outward show of happiness and lack of care. Surely, such insistence on deception must be motivated by powerful feelings resulting from terrifying experiences. Such were the experiences of many people enslaved in the United States before the birth of this poet” (1-2). Because of their racial appearance and experience in injustice society, they have to hide their feeling.
Similarly, Langston Hughes was an American poet whose African-American themes made him a primary contributor to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. The Harlem Renaissance (c. 1918–1935) was a blossoming of African American creative arts associated with the larger New Negro movement, a multifaceted phenomenon that helped set the directions African American writers and artists would pursue throughout the twentieth century. He claimed that Paul Laurence Dunbar as his primary influential poet; therefore, most of his poem focused on the same theme, racial issues, as Dunbar. “Theme for English B” is about a page of writing that character who is a black student dominated by white students and professor, had to write for his professor. He also tells the reader about his early life in Harlem. He is a regular twenty-two years old guy, who likes to do what normal twenty-two year-olds do. The poem goes on with a sense of irony that states: “Will my paper be colored that I write?” (Hughes, 405). In the period of racial discrimination, he wonders how a page of writing could be meaningful for both black student and white professor. The poem points out how racial appearance affects one’s identity in the society.
Dunbar mainly uses symbols as figurative devices in “We wear the Mask”. In the poem, he uses “We”...