Prayer to the Masks Themes

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Relation to the Ancestors

The figure of the mask is Senghor's central image in the poem of the traditional past and the ancestors for whom it was a living reality. He uses the word "mask" as a kind of incantation to call up the ancestral spirits who in the present, implicitly, are hidden and hard to hear. The "silence" to which the poet refers suggests the need to greet the ancestors with attention and respectful awe. He also notes that the masks are the way that he can access the "breath of my fathers," that is, the living spirit of the ancestors who will inspire the poet to his song. His own face, he writes, resembles the face of the masks, because the masks bear the idealized features of the real faces of the poet's ancestors. The latter part of the poem admits that the ancestral past is in...

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This section contains 607 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Prayer to the Masks Study Guide
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Prayer to the Masks from Gale. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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