In "We Wear the Mask" ...Why doesn’t the speaker want the world to see “our tears and sighs”?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, Dunbar is talking about why (in his opinion) black people acted the way they did -- why they did not show their displeasure and unhappiness when they were being oppressed.  I think that there are two reasons why they did not want the world to see their true feelings.

  1. If a black person complained a lot or tried to show anger, things would likely get worse for that person in those days.  The best way to get by was by pretending to be contended with one's situation.
  2. I think there is pride involved.  If you show that someone is getting to you, that their oppression is bothering you, you have let them win.  You have admitted that they have defeated you.  But if you hide your pain, you do not admit that -- you can have pride in yourself and feel like you are not beaten.