In "Douglass" and "We Wear the Mask," explain at least one metaphor and its meaning from each poem.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dunbar's poetry is filled with metaphors that are vehicles of the truth within the African- American predicament.  in "We Wear the Mask," Dunbar's metaphor of "the mask" itself reflects an image that carries much in the way of relevance in discussing the identity of African- Americans and how the role of color has created so much distortion within society and self.  The connotation of the mask as something that "hides" and "smiles" while "torn and bleeding hearts" result create the understanding of the level of concealment in the pain that lies within social discrimination and an external order that preaches possibility and hope and gives nothing of its nature if one is a person of color.  The idea of difficulty and challenge in being "the other" in American society is also revealed in the poem "Douglass."  The closing lines of the first stanza invokes the metaphor of the sea in creating the image of turbulent challenge.  The "the passionate ebb and flow,/The awful tide that battled to and fro; We ride amid a tempest of dispraise" are images that utilize the sea metaphor to create the idea of discomfort and disquietude in being of color in a society that has little idea on how to appropriate the challenges of racial and ethnic identity.