The Pain of Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Pain, the “physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury”. Everyone in their lives have experienced pain whether its physical, mental, or both. For Dunbar, he experienced a little bit of both throughout his life. One major thing includes his job experiences. Since he couldn’t afford to go to law school he had decided to set his career in business, which he later on became rejected because of his race. These experiences had continued to become a constant occurrence in Dunbar’s life, but one could say that the hard times in Dunbar’s life worked towards what really brought his true self into his work. One of his most famous poems Sympathy, which showcases the life of a bird stuck in a cage, and also showing that his ways of coping with feeling trapped weren’t because of the birds happiness. But because the bird felt held back and trapped. Given that, Dunbar used his ability to show pain and lack of freedom from this bird by using imagery, repetition, and other examples throughout the poem.

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First, looking at imagery which gives the reader an experience based on the text. Or just puts similar ideas into a reader’s mind. In this case, the imagery describing the red blood on the bars of the cage helps determine what Dunbar has actually experienced in his life. Dunbar contisitenly shows how this poem expresses the pain he’s had to go through. He’s been living his life in a world of “blood” and behind “cruel bars”. That keeps holding him back from what he desires. As he gives detail on what he’s experienced , this indicates that these “bars” represented the discriminators that jeopardized his future. Which ruined what Dunbar most wanted, a better life. This has really affected how Dunbar has looked upon the world. Like he’s held back from what’s really out there for him. In fact, the repetition of Dunbar knowing the actions behind the bird in the cage indicates to the reader that the racism towards him creates a more hands on kind of pain for Dunbar. When the caged bird “beats its wing”, it’s doing this for mainly stuck in a miserable state. As if it’s getting to a point where there’s almost no way out. In other words, the caged bird that beats its wings, not to represent the bird, but mainly Dunbar and showcasing the physical pain that he’s going through affects not only his mental state but his life as a whole. As well as the amount of opportunities that became ruined. Just because he’s taken advantage of by others for what people want to see him as, and not having the respect to let the world know what he wants for his future.

Next, the poet uses more repetition to put together a connection or compare the text or to the reader’s mind. Such as the repetition used of sureness for why the caged bird sings. Or for this scenario knowing why the caged bird sings. Dunbar has used many examples in the poem signifying the birds actions and the birds feelings. When the bird “sings” one can infer that the bird’s begging for release.The bird in this case represents Dunbar, and he’s asking for escape out of the cage. More specifically he’s begging for freedom, for something bigger than what his life has put him through so far. He knows that he’s suffering just like how he knows the bird’s suffering. So because of that he wants to create himself a life worth living. With this in mind, Dunbar gives a more real experience for the reader using imagery. He does this by showing the reader more examples physical pain for Dunbar through more vivid details and examples. Everytime Dunbar puts harm upon himself, he continues to have these figurative scars that “pulse” and “sting” even more. Which exhibits a more common pain. To put it differently, freedom became what Dunbar has longed for the most and to have a better life for himself. But the hits he’s had to take had made him weaker and more of a pawn to others. From all that trauma it had really caused him lots of build-up, and all that build-up had made his pain a never ending tunnel. So because of that, it helped to make Dunbar become more desperate therefore this tells the reader that getting that freedom one would have to receive it by going through a difficult path, or for the writer his life.

Looking back again, one can realize that Dunbar’s use of literary devices like imagery and repetition made what really set the mood for this poem, and to add to that tell the reader that the way pains dealt with will determine what’s made of it in the end. In today’s world individuals seem to experience pain often. It can occur from the smallest things. But pain can also teach people how to deal with certain situations better. Which makes pain a very vital component in ones life. Especially when pains brought up or experienced. Depending on where life goes, it’s important to always control that pain. So that it’s something to get through efficiently rather than suffer for it. Especially in today’s society. Where there’s a lot of gossip and hatred towards others. It gives people barely any options on how to cope with it, which led to what direction Dunbar started to head for. But, dealing with pain can really help. If it’s deal with it in a more respectable manner it can lead one in the right direction.

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