Paul Laurence Dunbar

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What is the message of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem “The Sparrow”?

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Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "The Sparrow" communicates that contemporary society is often too preoccupied to appreciate the beauty of nature. Dunbar uses the symbol of a sparrow to illustrate how people ignore the simple wonders around them, such as the song of a bird, due to their distractions. His message is a call for individuals to reflect on their neglect of nature's beauty before it's too late and these wonders are gone.

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In “The Sparrow,” poet Paul Laurence Dunbar attempts to convey how people in contemporary society are too distracted to notice the beauty of the natural world.

He begins the poem with the speaker describing how a sparrow taps on his window and sings a song, seemingly to him to get his attention. “But I work on,” he says, which means that he is too distracted to notice and ignores the bird. Eventually it flies away. He goes on to write about birds in general and how they are peaceful creatures who fly around us bringing hope and love. Although such mysterious and beautiful parts of nature are everywhere, people do not seem to notice. The poet describes this by saying:

But we, in traffic’s rush and din

Too deep engaged to let them in,

With deadened heart and sense plod on,

Nor know our loss till they are gone.

Here Dunbar suggests that it is not until the wonders of nature are gone that we realize how beautiful they were. He is prompting the reader to reflect upon their neglect of the simple wonders of the natural world.

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