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Paper Topic:

Imagery in the poem `Sympathy`

The Use of Symbolism in Paul Laurence Dunbar 's Poem Sympathy

When Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote Sympathy ' over one hundred years ago he resorted to one of the strongest devices available to any writer . In to write about the oppression of his race as a man of color , and the son of freed Kentucky slaves , it was a revolutionary piece that relied heavily on the tool of symbolism . The potent use of these symbols , a secret code for speaking under the guise of polite literature , was so powerful that is continues to influence

the work of notable today . Maya Angelou 's autobiography I know Why the Caged Bird Sings ' and the hit son Caged Bird ' by Alicia Keys are two examples in testament to the lasting impact of his work (SS , 18

Just as in his many works of prose , Dunbar avoids tackling the issues of racism , classism and injustice head long in his poetry (Simon , 60 The hook is set by drawing the reader in through the illusions of beauty , and then revealing the painful matter beneath one layer at a time . The poem Sympathy ' demonstrates this technique with the opening of a visual scene that is beatifically serene , moving into a visual of the battered wings and scars , and finally into a final cry to the heavens for mercy

With careful and attentive inspection , the reader can grasp the truth of the matter within the very first line of the poem . In the first line there are two immediate visuals , a bird and a cage . The bird has been a harbinger of many things through the ages . They have symbolized peace freedom , beauty , death , afterlife , or even angelic or demonic creatures By not disclosing the type of bird , only giving it song , Dunbar places the importance of the harbinger 's message on the reader . There can be no doubt that in the late 1800 's as this poem began to circulate , a wealthy white man and a poor colored woman would read entirely different tunes into the poem

The cage has likewise been a symbol utilized for ages by though with far less room for interpretation . The cage is almost universally used as a means to describe a situation from which a person or in the case of this poem as entire people , can not escape . The use of the bars in a cage are an important choice over a box , as the trapped `bird ' in the poem is capable of seeing outside of his situation . He is capable of reacting to the world around him but incapable of interacting with it , therefore , with the exception of his voice , incapable of changing the circumstance . It is clear that voice , no matter the volume or tone , is not going to unlock the door of the cage as if by magic

The bars of the cage themselves become more that simply a part of the scenery by stanza two line two . The bars develop the quality of...

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