Paul Laurence Dunbar Poem

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Paul Laurence Dunbar is known as one of America’s early and most well-known African American writers. He not only has many published poems, but also short stories, essays, and novels as well. He began writing early in his life, and in 1889 was editor of the Dayton Tattler, a newspaper published by the famed Orville Wright who, with his brother, invented the airplane. Though the newspaper was short lived, for Dunbar to be in such a position as a young African American during this time was a clear sign of his intelligence and talent. In 1899, Dunbar wrote a poem titled Sympathy. This poem, which was clearly influential in the literary world, even inspired one of Maya Angelou’s famous works “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. The structure of the poem is concise and even. There are three stanzas, each containing seven lines, and repetition of the idea in the first line of the stanza in the last line of the stanza. For example, in stanza three the first line reads, “I know why the caged bird sings, ah me” (15) and the last line reads, “I know why the caged bird…show more content…
If we look at the time period Dunbar grew up in, there are parallels to be drawn in terms of the poem and his life. The idea of a caged bird, something meant to fly and be free but held captive is similar to what it would have most definitely felt like to grow up during this time as an African American. In fact, Dunbar himself can be viewed as this caged bird, which explains why he knows the things the bird experiences all too well. It would have been extremely hard, even for someone as talented and intelligent as Dunbar to rise up within a community during this time period if they were African American. They were restricted and held back by society and discrimination, much like the bird was held by the cage. Only by writing and expressing himself on the page he touched, unlike the bird, Dunbar was able to break free of his
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