How Does Dunbar Present The Speaker In 'The Mystery'?

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Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "The Mystery," published in 1896, presents a contemplation of the speaker's existence. Through the masterful utilization of literary elements and techniques, Dunbar portrays the complexity of the speaker's introspection and his conclusions about the mysteries of life. In this essay, I will analyze how Dunbar employs imagery, metaphor, symbolism, and tone to convey the speaker's contemplation of existence.

Dunbar employs vivid sensory imagery to depict the mysterious and ephemeral nature of life. For example, he evokes the reader's senses through the following lines: "We are but bubbles on a sea of doubt, / We rise, we break, and then are heard no more." These lines evoke a sense of wonder and mystery by describing …show more content…

For instance, he employs the following metaphor to represent the passage of time: "Why all things change, nor why we come or go." The symbolism of summer fading to snow emphasizes the ephemeral nature of life and the uncertainty of human existence.

In addition, Dunbar's intentional manipulation of tone emphasizes the speaker's contemplation of existence. The poem's somber and introspective tone conveys a sense of uncertainty and doubt. For instance, the following lines underscore the limitations of human understanding: "We cannot tell what comes or what may go, / We cannot say why joy or sorrow flows." This tone creates a sense of existential pondering that permeates the poem.

Moreover, Dunbar's utilization of alternative interpretations adds depth to the poem's meaning. The poem can be read as a reflection on the limitations of human knowledge and the inherent mysteries of existence. Alternatively, the poem can be interpreted as an affirmation of the human spirit in the face of uncertainty. Despite the unknowns, the speaker expresses a resolute determination to live, hope, and cling to light and love. This alternative interpretation adds complexity to the poem's meaning by presenting a dual perspective on the speaker's contemplation of

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