Dunbar Analysis Prompts

  • Directions: Use MLA page layout to set up your paper. Write a full response to the prompt. Quote at least once from each poem, and cite those quotations in MLA format, and then analyze the quotation. Quotations must be evidence to support points and opinions about the poems. You may incorporate information from other sources; that information must be cited correctly in MLA format. Double-space!

To analyze quotations:

  • consider the words used in the quotation,
  • explain how the quotation relates to your topic sentence,
  • offer what’s good or bad or effective or relevant about the content or implications of the quotation.

Do not use the pronoun you.  Do not write I think, I feel, or I believe. If you use the pronoun I, make sure you are specifically relating something about the poem to your life or experience. Do not write _____wants readers to________.

Mention the writer’s strategy, world view, and/or word choice to help you analyze. Avoid sweeping obvious generalizations. Make a point. Be creative.

At the end of the analysis, include a Works Cited.  Here is an example of a citation for the Works Cited page. The first example is from the course textbook, and the second example is of a poem from a website/link:

Works Cited

Dickinson, Emily. “I stepped from Plank to Plank.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. 13th ed, edited by Kelly J. Mays, 2019, Norton, 2019, pp. 1025.

Dickinson, Emily. “This is my letter to the World.” The Literature Network, 2020, http://www.online-literature.com/dickinson/834/. Accessed 10 Mar. 2020.


What is Dunbar’s point or thesis or message?

In Dunbar’s “Sympathy” And “We Wear the Mask,” what voice comes from being caged/limited, forced to behave a certain way and wear a mask?

What do these poems illustrate about African American identity when they were written and/or now? 

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