Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask” beholds an interesting and emotional advocacy for physicians who feel emotionally sterilized by their position. We have discussed otherness many times in this class and one type of otherness that is often less un-discussed is that of the physician.
“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.”
This stanza in particular really seemed to show how practicing medicine can sometimes be a one way street. One question this poem begs is what does it mean to take off the mask? Physically, it would mean to offer less protection to your patients health. Can this be an extended metaphor to practicing medicine? Do physicians feel as if sharing their emotional vulnerability with others compromises their efficacy as doctors? I think this poem is essentially implicating not only physicians but the society that surrounds them in creating this barrier.