Survival in Slavery Analytical Essay by Nicky

An analysis of Paul Dunbar's poem "We Wear the Mask" and Phillis Wheatley's poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America."
# 145872 | 781 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2010 | US
Published on Dec 01, 2010 in Literature (Poetry) , African-American Studies (Slavery)

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The papper examines both Paul Dunbar's poem, "We Wear the Mask" and Phillis Wheatley's poem, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" to reveal the coping mechanisms of African-Americans caught in the trap of slavery. The paper explains how Dunbar's poem utilizes the metaphor of a mask as a means of survival while Wheatley's poem looks at the positive aspects of being brought to a foreign country.

From the Paper:

"In "We Wear the Mask" The mask becomes an emotional pretense that African-Americans "wore" to avoid any trouble with their owners. This mask becomes their survival mechanism as they simply try to get through another day. The first line allows us to see just how important the mask is in that the grin "hides our cheeks and shades our eyes" (2). The poet also admits, "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile" (4), admitting that the smiles are fake and are only to cover the anguish of living as slaves. The poet also admits that while he sings, the "clay is vile" (12). The mask is a metaphor for the counterfeit happiness these people felt. The poet speaks of smiles but the mask simply hides pain from "tortured souls" (11). The mask hides pain and lies and helps the poet make it through another day. It is important to note that the poet interjects a sense of pride in the poem. He does not want the world to see him suffering; he would rather the world see the mask."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Dunbar, Paul. "We Wear the Mask." Dayton University Online. Information Retrieved February 27, 2009. <>
  • Wheatley, Phillis. "On Being Brought from Africa to America." Old Poetry Online Database. Information Retrieved February 27, 2009.< Wheatley-On-Being-Brought-from-Africa-to-America>

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Survival in Slavery (2010, December 01) Retrieved May 18, 2021, from

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"Survival in Slavery" 01 December 2010. Web. 18 May. 2021. <>