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What are some assumptions in Deb Westbury's poem "Masque?"

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brookebryant | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 26, 2013 at 5:11 AM via web

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What are some assumptions in Deb Westbury's poem "Masque?"

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kipling2448 | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 26, 2013 at 6:59 PM (Answer #1)

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Deb Westbury's "Masque" would appear to assume a world in which nobody is genuine, and everybody is hiding behind a facade intended to help them assimilate into the broader society in which the action occurs.  The narrator appears to be walking along busy city streets, observing his or her (probably "her" given the author's gender) world from an increasingly remote perspective.  The following passages seem to suggest such a motive in writing this particular poem:

"I'm standing back, now,/looking back/at last/on all those crowded/days and nights/relentlessly erupting/on face and street.

"each face, voice, mannerism/meticulously chosen and applied/for fear/that yours would be the one,/the one that slipped,/or didn't fit."

The narrator seems to feel a sense of acute alienation from the rest of society, and trusts in the sincerity of no one.  And her fear that she, alone, would be revealed as her true self, would be her undoing:

"the one the rest saw/over their shoulders/as they shrank away from you."

The narrator's expressions of concern -- bordering on paranoia -- that she stands exposed and rejected, her facade having fallen away, indicate a scene of intense social alienation.

The word "masque," of course, is a reference to the elaborate decorative masks worn by the wealthy at costume balls in earlier centuries.  The use of that spelling could be a reflection of Westbury's rejection of the pretensions associated with both the elitism that particular word evokes and with the phoniness she sees as she observes the rest of society.  

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