The Black Counter-Culture in We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks
2020 Words9 Pages
The Black Counter-Culture in "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks
After reading the poem "We Real Cool," by Gwendolyn Brooks, most people think that Brooks is making an ironic statement. Most will read the poem and think that Brooks is being sarcastic by using simple language and in the end asserting that the seven pool players will die soon, or more broadly that all who speak in this manner will die soon. No doubt some people will see Brooks' statement "We/Left school" as the beginning of her disapproval of a lack of an education, and that the lines of the poem represent the thoughts or statements of the pool players. I disagree. There are too many other factors in and around the poem for Brooks to merely be writing a sarcastic poem about? whom? What Brooks is saying through the speaker of the poem is that Blacks in America are at the fledgling stage of finding their own voice, and they are willing to do anything, even die, in order to be heard and noticed.
First of all, Brooks is an African-American individual. She was born in 1917 and would have been discriminated against in Topeka where she was born, and even in Chicago where she grew up and went to school. She lived to see the effects of the ever-increasing freedom of the African-American people, and experienced it firsthand. After Brown vs. The Board Of Education of Topeka Kansas and the end of World War Two, Blacks were embarking on a new journey. They had come from slavery to separate-but-equal, but now the new problem for blacks was identity. What is an ideal black man? What does an African American stand for--or against for that matter? We are, but who are we? These are only a sample of the questions expressed through the action of the poem, and its exposition in t...
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... and especially money are not given up easily.
In conclusion, the author uses other devices to help point the way to understanding. For one thing, she uses repetition in the word "We" to emphasize the separate nature of the group. But, repetition also emphasizes rhythm in the poem?s reading. When one reads the poem, the "We" should be emphasized as its own separate syllable, when it is at the end of a line. And speaking of rhythm, the poem also exhibits a unique rhythm that goes against the convention of stressed and unstressed syllables. In the poem, the words are stressed syllables and the unstressed syllables come with the periods and at the end of the lines. And so the poem itself is a statement by Brooks that the African American voice is coming into being. It is counter-culture, counter-convention, and it is steadfast to the death of all who hearken to it.