Oppression Between Paul Laurence Dunbar And Alice Dunbar Nelson

776 words - 4 pages

Poetry is a way of expressing feelings and thoughts on paper. Paul Laurence Dunbar and his former wife, Alice Dunbar-Nelson both wrote poetry in order to express their thoughts and feelings toward different subjects. This essay presents a discussion of the comparisons and contrasts of the poems “I sit and sew” and “We wear the mask”. “We wear the mask” was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar and in many ways, it sheds some light of what it is like to experience the physical, mental and spiritual oppression of being black in a predominately white society. The poem “I sit and sew” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson discusses the torment and worthlessness felt by a woman in a predominately male society. One mutual similarity in the two poems is the discussion of suffering oppression. “We wear the mask” deals with racial oppression while “I sit and sew” deals with gender oppression. Each poem has its own way of dealing with the oppression.
Paul L. Dunbar chooses to “wear a mask.” The mask is a construct designed to camouflage our true selves. Instead of revealing frowns and tears, the mask project grins and smiles, signs that everything is going well. Facial expressions provide insight into a person’s feelings; however, a mask takes away the ability to determine a person’s true feelings. It even shades our eyes. It has been known that eyes are a window into the soul. The mask closes this window, providing privacy between one’s inner self and outward self. This method of coping with reality by hiding our true feeling is something that blacks have done for quite some time. WEB Dubois called this practice a double consciousness: "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity."

In “I sit and sew”, Alice Nelson-Dunbar deals with oppression in a different way. This poem is about gender oppression and how she wants to help, but is unable to because she is a woman. This poem was written during World War 1, and describes women during this time period, women were expected to run the house, not part take...

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