We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem We Wear the Mask


  1. Edward Jackson says:

    I first heard about this poem in college. We analyzed it and we came to the conclusion it could speak to a lot of oppressed people: especially gays. Imagine beng black and gay. What a mask we have to wear! I immediately adopted this poem as my favorite because it spoke to my situation.

  2. rae'ven says:

    woow!!! this poem really tuched me.It has been said many times that “you can not judge a book by it’s cover” and “do not judge a man untill you have walkd a mile in his shoes.” A person may appear one way on the out side but is feeling the opposite on the inside. We waer diffrent mask every day and don’t relize it. “We Wear the Mask” is a lyric pem that oppressed black faced to hidel their pain and frustrations. In this poem many lasn’s can be learn. And i two wear the mask.
    Paul L. Dumbar writes about hides and separates the viewer from the viewed just like actor. They wear mask when they are performing.Slaves as well. Enslaved people wear mask every day. They were treated with such disrespect and humiliation.

  3. Rochelle says:

    How fitting that Paul Lawrence Dunbar wrote about wearing a mask. He wore a mask and he was a tortured soul. He raped his wife before marrying her and they separated because he almost beat her to death and then left her for dead. He was a wife beater, alcoholic, a rapist and possibly bi-polar. He may have died of tuberculosis but I am sure his soul was tortured because of his unchristian like behavior.

  4. gabby says:

    this poem was so totally awsome!!
    touches my heart

  5. Datravius Capers says:

    i am doing a report on Paul Laurence Dunbar and this is by far one of the best poems of his. because we do wear the mask and hide our deepest feelings and we dont really show our potential.

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