158 Reading Guide Questions

  1. In your opinion, what are the similarities and differences that Dunbar is composing with his poem Sympathy and the empathy that is trying to be portrayed in Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself in section 33? What are the differences of their meanings and what each author is trying to portray?
  2. Look deeper into the text of Sympathy and speak about why he uses the extended metaphor of “the caged bird” and its singing. What impact does this have on the poem? Is there another animal or metaphor that you can think of to describe the message Dunbar is trying to portray, and how would that change the impact of the poem?
  3. In what ways do you believe people today still wear masks? Draw connections to historical moments and the tone of the poem and relate it to ways that you witness people wearing masks today. Why do you or others wear masks? Draw a connection to one or more lines within the poem and connect what Dunbar is saying to the historical moment and how you feel the world is today. How do you believe the world would be impacted if, somehow, we were able to discard our masks as a whole?


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openamlitGU by Timothy Robbins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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