African American Literature

1908 Words8 Pages
What is the role of literature? Literature is important in everyday life because it forms a connection with the individual. Literature allows the reader to visit places, experience events, and create and expand upon new ideas. It creates a way for individuals to document their thoughts and experiences in a way that is accessible to others through fictional and non-fictionalized accounts of an experience. “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Underground Airlines by Ben Winters are separated by 120 years. Yet, both create a story based on similar issues that the African American goes through. These issues along with the fictional events, create a newfound empathy for the African American. As their literature has been categorized as…show more content…
During this time, the black body of African Americans, was able to live within a society that prohibited them for 100 years. Dunbar though legally a free man, created a poem that displayed the chains of the society a black body lived within. These issues exhibit that the cruel reality of the black experience is hidden behind a false face. The first line of the poem states, “We wear the mask that grins and lies”. The central voice makes it clear that they are not the only one who wears the mask, but that it is the mask of many individuals. This figurative mask fails to accurately present the issues of the black community to their society. However, the mask also hides the issues of the black community to itself as well. This idea is evident through the mask as it “grins and lies”, creating a false and distorted perception of the reality the black body dwells within. The “grins” the mask portrays is that of the white communities face, as it displays a false sense of friendship and understanding to the black community. Yet, this perception is one based on “lies” as it is just a…show more content…
Victor states, “I do it even now, you see? I play false, I dance and dance. I murmur the stories in shadow or half shadow; I pretend to myself that I don't remember the names, the details, when in fact I do”. Again, Victor cannot escape the reality of his situation and the suffering of the mask he wears. His dancing is similar to the grins of the central voice’s mask, yet they have the same result of falsity. The presentation of their masks and its routine, hides the overwhelming sense of insanity. This is a temporary happiness, which is not for them but is instead for the society that they dwell within, destroying their feeling of balance and place. This mask is similar to what Victor comes to believe earlier in Underground Airlines. Victor states, “It is remarkable, when you consider it, all the complicated worlds we construct to avoid anything that might disturb us or cause us pain.” (Winters 22). Victor understands to a certain extent that his mask is constructed of others fear, pain, and disturbance, which he can not control as this is part of human nature. However, towards the end of the book, he has a realization that the mask constructed, is one that he is also a part of. As Victor ventures into the South, he believes the world around him would also change. He states, “I waited for the sky to darken... But it
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