We Real Cool

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Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "We Real Cool" identifies the struggle that Black American youths went through to define themselves in the late fifties and early sixties, in a society that was predominately trying to keep them oppressed. The poem portrays a group of young Black boys who hang out in a pool hall and conduct illegal activity instead of going to school with the rest of their peers. The boys are insecure about their role in society; they talk big so that they can hide behind their facade of being a tough guy or a thug. These boys feel as though they do not have a place in society outside of being a criminal, but instead of fighting the stereotype of the lazy Black man they give in and become what they are expected to become by White, upper-class society. The poem opens with the scene of seven boys at a pool hall named the Golden Shovel. Seven is a number that is typically associated with being lucky. The seven pool players can also be seen to represent a small gang, and they need luck on their side, in order to survive their various financial endeavors. The name of the pool hall, the Golden Shovel, signifies the shortness of the life of a Black youth. The golden part of the title implies that these pool players are young; they should be in school instead of in a pool hall. The shovel is an image that is commonly associated with graves. Therefore, the significance of the name of the pool hall is that the pool players who hang out there are digging their own graves by conducting illegal business. The pool players have an air of mystery around them that makes them seem cool. They defy authority, which impresses their more obedient peers; it seems to be a common occurrence among youth that they revere rebellion. In the second stanza, the narrator, who appears to be one of the pool players, says that they are cool because they left school. They are sabotaging themselves by not going to school and living up to their potential; instead of being cool they are only...
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