What figures of speech are used in "We Wear the Mask"?

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Figures of speech used in “We Wear the Mask” include personification, metaphor, and alliteration.

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We Wear the Mask” is a poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. In this poem, the poet does indeed use a variety of figures of speech. Let me highlight some examples of this for you.

The first figure of speech you might want to focus on is personification. Personification means that a writer gives human qualities, such as emotions or certain actions, to an inanimate object. In this poem, personification can be observed right at the beginning of the poem in the first line of the first stanza: “the mask that grins and lies.” Another example of personification can be seen when the poet refers to the “world” as if it was a person:

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?

Obviously, the “world” has been personified in this instance in order to represent the people of the world.

Another example of figures of speech used in this poem is the use of metaphors. Indeed, the “mask” itself could be interpreted as a metaphor for the fact that the speaker and his people have to hide their true feelings. The line “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile” tells us that the speaker feels that he and his peers cannot reveal how they really feel. While being upset and suffering, they have to smile and pretend that everything is fine. Just like a person hiding behind a mask, the speaker feels that he is hiding his true feelings, too.

Lastly, you might want to look at the use of alliteration in this poem. For example, the poet uses the letter w frequently in the line “Why should the world be over-wise,” thus lending more emphasis to the word “why.”

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