Category Archives: Dunbar-Nelson

Good vs. Evil

Throughout the play “Mine Eyes Have Seen” as an audience your exposed to so much traumatizing events. The lynching of Chris’s father and not being offered justice. That easily influences the audience to anger, mad at how another human being can be morally wrong and held with any consequences. This is why the bible states

ISAIAH 1:17 Learn to do good;

Seek justice,

Reprove the ruthless,

Defend the orphan,

Plead for the widow.

Humanity must learn to reprove these injustice and reprove what is done ruthlessly.

This play doesn’t teach virtue or piety, what it does do is it shows the he lowest strata of human behavior. Killing a man is terrible because you kill his descendant and his kids. But i would agree that its necessary to have pieces of art like this because if the unrighteous isn’t exposed to us, how we know to what to stay away from.

Mine Eyes Have Seen

In the context of moral criticism, Plato believed that art and poets in particular simply existed to poorly hold a mirror up to nature and lacked intelligence and depth, and that the arts should exist to teach piety and virtue. In the play “Mine Eyes Have Seen”, elements of both of these ideas are shown. The play primarily holds a mirror up to nature as Plato would say, in that it highlights the hardships rooted in racism that the main characters are forced to go through and it shows the condition of society at the time. However, I do not believe that the play does this poorly as Plato would suggest, as it vividly puts the reader into the circumstances of the characters invoking empathy. Nonetheless, this would mean that the play defies moral criticism

The argument can be made that through holding the mirror up to nature, particularly the racist ideals in society at the time the play is teaching virtue. Piety is not necessarily expressed in the play, however exposing the hateful nature of human beings I believe creates awareness and invokes empathy in the readers which in turn teaches virtue.


I believe it can be argued whether or not this play exemplifies moral criticism. In my opinion, the best example that adheres to piety and virtue is the main cause of one of the characters not wanting to go to war. His father was lynched, and he blames his country which was in a time period where people of his color were not respected. He takes this and uses it as his reason to not go to war and support and country that took his father away from him. This shows that the actions that were taken towards him had negative consequences that show through his demeanor in the play and that the treatment towards him was wrong, allowing his actions to be justified.

Mine Eyes Have Seen

In Alice Dunbar Nelson’s play “My Eyes Have Never Seen ,” I believe that Nelson’s play was written to depict immoral citizen behavior such as racism, crime, racism, intolerance, and corruption. They suffered from it, and that patriotism represents progress and hides corruption. It also shows the cruelty that was between people, and the reason is the color of the skin.

I think Nelson’s play shows how cruel people are to each other in societies. In this play, it shows all the corruption and facts. The play also shows that even though their lives weren’t great, he wanted his brother Chris to join the army and serve his country. He felt he shouldn’t risk himself to defend a country that have never defended him or his family.

“Mine Eyes Have Seen”

“Mine Eyes Have Seen” holds a mirror up to the injustices that minority groups have faced through history. It, however, shows characters reacting to these injustices in a virtuous way. The reaction of the characters to the news of Chris’ draft is meant to uplift society and encourage citizens to look toward a brighter future instead of the dark past. 

After finding out that his number was called, Chris laments at the past hardships that he and his people have faced in his country. He feels that he should not have to put his life on the line to defend a country that has never defended him or his family, as explained by Dan in the beginning of the play. The other characters explain that he has a duty to serve his country, regardless of if his country is serving him. Those around Chris who have been especially persecuted, Dan, Jake, and Ms. O’Neill, seem to be the loudest proponents of him fulfilling his duty to his country. I believe that, in Plato’s view, this story and its lessons would be in favor of his republic. 


Moral criticism evaluates literature and art based on their ability to teach piety and virtue. This approach to criticism was first proposed by Plato, who believed that art should be used to educate and uplift society. In his view, art should be used to teach moral lessons and promote virtuous behavior rather than depicting immoral or corrupting scenes.

One work of literature that can be evaluated using moral criticism is Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s play “Mine Eyes Have Seen.” This play is a historical drama about a group of enslaved Africans brought to the United States in the 1800s(Dunbar-Nelson). The play follows the struggles and triumphs of these characters as they navigate their new lives in the harsh and unforgiving world of slavery.

When evaluating this play using moral criticism, one might ask whether it teaches piety and virtue, as Plato envisioned. On the one hand, some might argue that the play promotes virtuous behavior. The characters in the play face numerous challenges and obstacles, but they always try to do what is right and moral, even in the face of great adversity. They show courage, compassion, and resilience in the face of unimaginable suffering and never give up hope. This is a clear example of the kind of moral instruction that Plato had in mind.

On the other hand, others might argue that the play does not exemplify moral criticism. In their view, the play does not depict virtuous behavior or teach moral lessons but shows the lowest strata of human behavior. The play’s characters are enslaved people subjected to unimaginable cruelty and violence. They are forced to work long hours in the fields and are punished harshly if they do not obey their masters. The play does not show the characters behaving virtuously but rather shows them being mistreated and oppressed.

Additionally, some might argue that the play is corrupting to its audience rather than uplifting. The play shows the brutal and degrading realities of slavery, and some might say this could damage the viewer. They might argue that the play does not promote virtuous behaviour but shows the worst aspects of human nature.

In conclusion, whether or not “Mine Eyes Have Seen” exemplifies moral criticism is a matter of interpretation. Some might argue that the play teaches piety and virtue, while others might say that it depicts the lowest strata of human behavior and is corrupting to its audience. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the play as a moral instruction tool can be debated and discussed.

dunbar nelson

There is a lack of morals in this play. All the characters are hurt people looking for validation from the same system that hurt them. They are worried about being “team players” when the team they are playing for will never honor them if they win. This play does not depict morals criticisms rather, it rattles the emotions of people who feel undervalued and appreciated. It will make ignore those feelings and bend to the command of the oppressor. 

“Mine eyes have seen” by Alice Dunbar Nelson shows how easily you can manipulate a person’s way of thinking. How you can convince someone that your way of seeing things is the right way. In the play Dan believes that America does not deserve his service and his brother Chris is trying to convince him that his fight is to make black people in America look good. But what does impressing people matter when you are looked as less than human? It shows how fragile the human brain is and how we can become delusional.  


There were times reading Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s play “Mine Eyes Have Seen” when I felt the play defied Moral Criticism. Ugly things are said, for example when Harvey says that children were crucified in the war, and Chris responds, “Well, what’s that to us? They’re little white children.” But then Dan says, “Hush, Chris, It is not for us to visit retribution. Nor to wish hatred on others…Love of humanity is above the small considerations of time or place or race or sect.”

And that teaches piety and virtue, as Plato envisioned. In fact, the whole play can be seen as uplifting, even though the subject is depressing. An African-American family is living in a tenement in the north because they were burned out of their house down south. Their father was shot and their mother died of disease. One brother, Dan, was crippled in a factory accident. Sister Lucy cares for Dan and the house. Brother Chris tries to support them all, but finds out he is drafted in WWI.

As sad as this is, the family is quite noble and uplifting. They love and care for each other. And Dan reminds the others that African-Americans have always fought in the country’s wars. “They went in 1776…Ours was the first blood shed on the altar of National liberty. We went in 1812 Our men were through the struggles of 1861..they were there in 1898.” Their pride, honor and sacrifice comes through.


The moral criticism in the story “Mine Eyes Have Seen” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson is both corrupting to citizens and it also shows morals. As Plato said “hold the mirror up to nature” depicting the lowest strata of human behavior because there are three brothers and sisters that only have each other. Dan the oldest and he is cripple, Lucy and Chris the youngest. Chris got drafted to join the army but he doesn’t want to go because of how this country treated his family. His father was murdered and his dead didn’t get no justice and his mother died right after. They were living in a nice home but the whites people drove them out of there like dogs because they are a black family. 

In the play the story shows that even though the family experiences in this country weren’t all great Dan wants his brother Chris to go to the army and serve his country. They have each other to help out one and another and support each other. Chris don’t want to go but in the end he does.