‘We Wear The Mask’ Poem Question & Answers Class 7 English

‘We Wear the Mask’ Poem Summary, Question & Answers are given here. “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a poignant exploration of the masks people wear to navigate societal expectations while concealing their true emotions. The poem highlights the dichotomy between the presented facade and the internal struggles faced by individuals.
Click here to see explanation of the poem ‘We Wear The Mask’


In the poem ‘We Wear the Mask’, the poet talks about the great pain that black people go through and how they have to pretend to be happy to survive. The poet, Dunbar, questions the old ways of plantation life that he was a part of. He says that even though slaves might have looked happy and calm, they were actually examples of suffering and bravery.

The word ‘we’ in the title is about African-Americans who have to ‘smile’ because society expects them to look happy with their lives. They are part of a game that everyone in society agrees to play – pretending that African-Americans are happy when they really have no reason to be. The phrase ‘torn and bleeding hearts’ shows that this game is very emotionally painful.

The line ‘mouth with myriad subtleties’ means that African-Americans play the game with their actions and their words, telling people what they want to hear. The poet asks a question: why should the world know what African-Americans are going through? The sad truth is that the world should care, but it doesn’t. So, the poet says that African-Americans should just show the world what it wants to see.

The poet then says that behind the mask’s smile is someone crying out to God. The happy sound of their singing doesn’t mean they’re happy; it’s just another way to survive the long journey ahead until the day they can take off the mask. Until then, the rest of the world can believe that the mask is the real person. And they will keep wearing it.

Textbook Exercise Answers

  1. We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

    a. Whom does ‘we’ refer to?
    b. What kind of lies do we tell?
    c. To whom do ‘we’ tell lies?
    d. What does ‘shades our eyes’ mean?
  2. …to thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile…

    a. Who is ‘thee’ in these lines?
    b. What ‘arises’?
    c. What does the term ‘tortured souls’ mean?
    d. Which clay is referred to in these lines?
  3. But let the world dream otherwise,
    We wear the mask!

    a. Why has the poet used the word ‘but’ in these lines?
    b. What does ‘otherwise’ mean in this context?
    c. What would happen if we didn’t wear the mask?
    d. Why does the poet sound bitter here? Give reasons for your answer.


  1. We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

    a. We’ refer to all the people. It refers to the poet’s brethren here. refers to African Americans living in the post-Reconstruction South, facing continued racial prejudice and discrimination.
    b. We lie by hiding our true face, feelings and emotions behind the mask we wear.
    c. ‘We’ tell lies to ourselves and our fellows.
    d. Here ‘shade our eyes’ means that wearing mask camouflages the truth in our eyes
  2. …to thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile…

    a. “Thee” refers to God (here Christ) in whom the speaker seeks solace and understanding beyond the earthly struggles they face.
    b. The cries of the tortured soul arise.
    c. It means that people are bruised and injured. They are sad, frustrated and full of grief from the fake pretense.
    d. The clay refers to the Earth, the origins of mankind.
  3. But let the world dream otherwise,
    We wear the mask!

    a. The poet uses “but” to mark a stark contrast between the outward performance and the inner reality. It highlights the disconnect between the mask they wear and the true emotions stirring within them.
    b. Otherwise means that despite all the wrongdoings and people wearing the maks, the world should still dream and be hopeful.
    c. If we didn’t wear the mask, the world would see our true emotions, vulnerabilities, and struggles. There might be a loss of the protective layer that the mask provides, exposing the raw and genuine aspects of our existence.
    d. The poet may sound bitter because of the implied necessity to wear the mask. The use of the word ‘but’ suggests a contrast between the external facade (front face) and internal reality, hinting at the bitterness of having to hide one’s true self due to societal expectations or norms. The bitterness could stem from the internal conflict and the feeling of being compelled to conceal authentic emotions.
  1. How does a mask ‘grin and lie’?
  2. What kind of people wear masks?
  3. Why do people want to hide their tears, according to the poet?
  4. What does the poet say to Christ?
  5. When do people think of Christ?
  6. Do people show Christ their masks? How do you know?
  7. Which words are used by the poet to express his feelings in the first stanza?
  8. What is the tone of the first two stanzas? Support you answer with specific evidence from the text.
  9. Does the tone of the poem remain the same or change at the end?
  10. Explain the line: With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.


1. How does a mask “grin and lie”?

Ans. The mask doesn’t literally grin or lie; it’s a metaphor for the facade people put on to hide their true emotions. The “grin” represents an outward display of happiness or contentment, while the “lie” signifies the suppression of inner pain, sorrow, and frustration. It’s a deceptive performance, projecting a false image to the world.

2. What kind of people wear masks?

Ans. While the poem specifically addresses the experience of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South who felt pressured to conform to white expectations, the concept of mask-wearing is universal. Anyone who feels the need to hide their true emotions for any reason, whether societal pressure, fear of judgment, or internal conflict, can be seen as wearing a mask.

3. Why do people want to hide their tears, according to the poet?

Ans. The speaker suggests people hide their tears for self-protection and survival. Tears are a sign of vulnerability, and exposing them could invite further discrimination or rejection from the dominant society. They may also choose to hide their tears to shield themselves from the overwhelming pain of their circumstances.

4. What does the poet say to Christ?

Ans. The speaker cries out to “O great Christ,” a direct appeal to God for solace and understanding. It’s a plea for relief from the suffering and injustice they endure, seeking comfort and hope beyond the earthly struggles.

5. When do people think of Christ?

Ans. People might turn to Christ in times of despair, hardship, and spiritual need. When seeking strength, guidance, or hope in the face of adversity, they may find solace in faith and belief.

6. Do people show Christ their masks? How do you know?

Ans. The poem suggests that even when praying to Christ, people might still wear their masks. The repeated refrain, “We wear the mask,” emphasizes the constant presence of this facade, even in moments of seeking spiritual connection. The speaker acknowledging their “torn and bleeding hearts” while smiling hints at this continued masking, even before God.

7. Words expressing feelings in the first stanza:

Ans. Words expressing feelings in the first stanza are given below:

  • “Grin” and “lies” indicate deception and suppressed emotions.
  • “Torn and bleeding hearts” are vivid metaphors for deep pain and suffering.
  • “Myriad subtleties” suggest a complex network of hidden feelings and nuances.

8. Tone of the first two stanzas:

Ans. The tone is bittersweet and melancholic. There’s a sense of resignation and weary acceptance of the need to wear a mask, interspersed with glimpses of the raw pain and anger bubbling beneath the surface. Phrases like “debt we pay” and “cries arise” hint at the burden and injustice, while “torn and bleeding hearts” and “vile clay” convey the emotional and physical toll.

9. Does the tone change at the end?

Ans. There’s a subtle shift in tone at the end. The repetition of “But let the world dream otherwise” and the final “We wear the mask!” become more defiant and assertive. While the speaker acknowledges the need to maintain the facade, there’s a hint of bitterness and resistance in the unwavering insistence on wearing the mask, suggesting a deeper strength and resilience under the surface.

10. “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile”:

Ans. This line is a powerful paradox, illustrating the disconnect between outward appearance and inner reality. The smile is the false front, the mask worn to appease society, while the torn and bleeding hearts represent the speaker’s true emotional state. It’s a poignant image of emotional suppression and the internal cost of navigating a world that forces them to hide their true selves.

Another Set of Answers:

  1. The metaphorical mask is said to “grin and lie” because it conceals true emotions behind a false, cheerful appearance. The ‘grinning’ refers to the outward smile presented to the world, while the ‘lying’ signifies the deception of hiding the speaker’s actual feelings.
  2. The speaker suggests that everyone wears masks. The use of the pronoun “we” implies a collective experience, indicating that individuals in general, regardless of specific characteristics, wear masks to navigate social interactions.
  3. The poet implies that people want to hide their tears because of societal expectations. The world, as mentioned in the poem, may not be understanding or compassionate, and individuals may feel compelled to present a cheerful facade rather than reveal their vulnerability.
  4. The poet addresses Christ with a cry or plea, expressing the internal struggles and emotional pain that individuals face. The specific words addressed to Christ are not explicitly mentioned in the poem but are implied in lines such as “To thee from tortured souls arise.”
  5. People may think of Christ in moments of distress, when they are grappling with internal torment and seeking solace or understanding from a higher power. The poem suggests that individuals turn to Christ in times of emotional turmoil.
  6. The poem does not explicitly state whether people show Christ their masks. However, the speaker’s plea to Christ implies a desire for understanding and empathy from a divine figure, suggesting that the speaker wishes to reveal their true self to Christ, unmasked and unhidden.
  7. In the first stanza, the poet uses words such as “torn,” “bleeding hearts,” and “myriad subtleties” to express the internal conflict, pain, and complexity of emotions that individuals experience while wearing the mask.
  8. The tone in the first two stanzas is one of resignation and internal conflict. Evidence can be found in lines such as “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,” which reflects the inner suffering masked by outward smiles. The use of the word “guile” in the first stanza implies a sense of deception, contributing to a tone of resignation in conforming to societal expectations.
  9. The tone of the poem shifts towards defiance and bitterness at the end. The use of the word “but” in the last stanza signals a contrast, indicating a departure from the resigned tone in the earlier stanzas. The poet challenges the world’s perception with a sense of bitterness, suggesting a resistance to the societal pressure to wear the mask.
  10. This line encapsulates the core theme of the poem, emphasizing the internal conflict experienced by individuals who, despite suffering and emotional pain (“torn and bleeding hearts”), put on a false, cheerful facade by smiling. It suggests the inner turmoil hidden behind a deceptive exterior, highlighting the emotional toll of conforming to societal expectations.

Ans. The line ‘We wear the mask’ is repeated because the poet wants to emphasize the fact that people are always wearing a mask and such is the frequency and habit that they have internalised the fact that they wear the mask. The repetition ‘We wear the mask,’ the second time exclamatory, suggests that the delusion has only become more entrenched by repeating it. This poem is sad, self-mocking, and brutally honest all at once.

  • a. They were extremely happy to see their parents.
  • b. It was so hot; I could have fried an egg on the windowsill.
  • c. They will arrive tomorrow.
  • d. He was so hungry he could have eaten a horse.
  • e. I have a million books to read today.
  • f. I had to whisper

Ans. b, d and e

Ans. Personification is in the title of the poem, ‘ We Wear the Mask,’ which suggest that he is personifying the mask because people wear it like it is a second face or alive. Dunbar gives the mask human characteristics because the people have allowed the mask to go from being temporarily on their face to permanent. It is ironic that they wear the mask to conceal their suffering, but it causes them to suffer more.

Long Answer:

Personification might be inferred in the following line:

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,”

In this line, the mask is described as “grinning,” which, in a loose interpretation, could be seen as a personification of the mask, endowing it with human-like qualities. While it’s not a strict personification, the attribution of a facial expression to the mask gives it a semblance of human characteristics, emphasizing its role in deception.

  1. How does the poet prove that people are hypocritical? Suggest lines from the poem to support your answer.
  2. How do masks protect people? Can you think of some benefits as well as some disadvantages of wearing a mask?


1. How does the poet prove that people are hypocritical? Suggest lines from the poem to support your answer.

The poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, suggests the hypocritical nature of people by highlighting the contrast between the outward appearance presented to the world and the hidden internal struggles. Lines from the poem that support this idea include:

  • Stanza 1:
    • “We wear the mask that grins and lies, / It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—”
      • These lines emphasize the deceptive nature of the mask, where individuals present a smiling facade while concealing their true emotions.
  • Stanza 2:
    • “Why should the world be over-wise, / In counting all our tears and sighs? / Nay, let them only see us, while / We wear the mask.”
      • These lines suggest a desire to avoid judgment from the world by presenting only the external mask, implying that people may not want others to perceive their vulnerabilities and genuine emotions.
  • Stanza 3:
    • “But let the world dream otherwise, / We wear the mask!”
      • The word “dream” here suggests that the world’s perception may be illusory or misguided, reinforcing the idea that individuals wear a mask to create a false impression.

Overall, the poet proves the hypocritical nature of people by illustrating the discrepancy between the outward appearance (the mask) and the concealed reality of inner struggles and suffering.

2. How do masks protect people? Can you think of some benefits as well as some disadvantages of wearing a mask?

Ans. The following answer is based on regarding masks as literal objects:

  • Benefits:
    • Masks can protect people from airborne illnesses, viruses, and pollutants, promoting health and safety in certain situations.
    • They can offer anonymity and privacy, allowing individuals to express themselves differently or participate in activities without being readily identified.
    • In artistic or cultural contexts, masks can be used for creative expression and storytelling, adding depth and symbolism to performances.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Masks can impede communication by muffling voices and making facial expressions harder to read, potentially impacting social interactions.
    • They can feel uncomfortable to wear for extended periods, causing breathing difficulties or irritation.
    • Depending on the type of mask, they might restrict vision or peripheral awareness, posing safety concerns in certain situations.

The overall impact of masks depends on the context, purpose, and individual experience. Both the poem and the concept of masks themselves invite us to consider the complexities of self-presentation, the consequences of masking emotions, and the nuanced benefits and drawbacks of wearing masks in the literal sense.

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