Explication Essay We Real Cool

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The Message of Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool"

"We Real Cool" is a short, yet powerful poem by Gwendolyn Brooks that sends a life learning message to its reader. The message Brooks is trying to send is that dropping out of school and roaming the streets is in fact not "cool" but in actuality a dead end street.

Brooks conveys her message in an ironic manner, which is presented in the title of the poem. Before actually reading the 10 line poem the first thing that grabs the reader's attention is the title. After reading the title "We Real Cool" one would assume that the intent of the poem is going to be about a group of people who are fortunate and live a flamboyant lifestyle. This is not the case for the "seven players" in Brooks's…show more content…

The language used coincides with the player's lack of education. This is evident in the poem when we are told they "left school." We later learn that instead of attending school the players go to a pool hall. The name of the pool hall, "Golden Shovel" contributes to the theme of the poem. The golden shovel has a deeper meaning and serves as a symbol. The so called "Golden" lifestyle of the players will eventually cost them their lives. In return they will eventually be ["shoveled"] in their grave. Several of the lines in Brooks's poem begin with words that start with the same consonant letter; this is an example of alliteration. The [l] sound in lurk-late, the [str] sound in strike-straight, and the [j] sound in jazz-June. The alliteration used allows the poem to flow smoothly.

Brooks makes great use of rhyme throughout the poem. She uses words such as "cool", "school", "sin", and "gin." These are external rhymes which appear at the end of lines. The rhyme scheme used compliments the theme, since it is the directed towards a young audience. The reason we know that Brooks is trying to attract a young crowd is because she is talking about youth who are suppose to be attending school. The poem is given an up tempo beat, almost like a rap. This rap like sound may also help attract young readers.

This poem describes the lifestyle of young rebels. They are "cool' having left "school", and "die soon." The seven

We Real Cool holds in its 8 lines the whole lives of a teenage gang, from their coolness to their demise. It could be a motto, it could be a song, a chant, a lyric rage against the powers that be.

It has end rhyme and internal rhyme which is technically full - cool/school, sin/gin and the repetitive We; this is rhyme that binds together and holds tight, suggestive of the brotherhood of the gang. The poem is not too long to induce monotony.

The tone is one of defiance and stubborn allegiance to the gang. This is a group of outsiders who prefer pool to school, dropping out to serious study; late alcoholic nights out on the street seem much more preferable to dull nights in.

Line Breaks

The line breaks - when a line reaches the end and a new one starts - are a good example of enjambment, when there is no punctuation and the sense is carried over from line to line. The reader becomes acutely aware of this special line break as the poem progresses.

  • And what about that ever present We? In the words of the poet herself she put the We at the ends of lines for emphasis 'so the reader could give them that little split-second's attention.'
  • Gwendolyn Brooks thought the boys felt unwanted (by family and society) and so formed the poem with them in absolute focus.
  • The natural pause after We does tend to make the reader's thoughts linger fractionally. This strengthens the bonds between the pool players and brings a sense of bravado and chest beating.

The mix of long and short vowels bring an intense verbal experience for the reader. Just think of the title We Real Cool which is long and drawn out, then contrast this with thin gin and sing sin for example, before the last line again reverts to long vowels, We die soon.

What is the reader to make of these pool players who seem to take pride in the fact they have left school, escaping the tedium of education, perhaps risking unemployment and the chance to earn an honest dollar?

And the alliterative lurk late has negative connotations. If a gang of youths are lurking around the implication is that they will sooner or later end up in trouble, become known to the law. They're wasting time, throwing their young lives away.

To strike straight is to hit the pool ball hard and true - innocent enough in a game of pool - but what about the strike of a fist, the direct punch, the no nonsense jab, right hook? This poem brings with it a kind of ambiguity - the lifestyle of these players is questionable to say the least.

And when they sing sin does this mean they are going against all the religious truths they were brought up with? Are they foul mouthing, undermining the christian faith?

They may be true to their own oaths and passions, they may be outsiders, not like the mass of the mainstream, but there is the notion too that they are a little pathetic.

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