ENG 102/ Essay #3
14 November 2012
Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “We Real Cool”, tells the story of seven troubled teenagers. The poem focuses on what activities the teenagers participate in to make them look cool. Through its symbolism, imagery and tone, “We Real Cool” illustrates how losing one’s identity to become part of a reckless group in insolence of moral and social traditionalism will lead one to an early grave.
Brooks uses symbolism to get the readers to view the poem in an abstract nature. In the subtitle, the word golden is symbolic of summer, youth and daytime. This is an ironic name for the pool hall, because the wandering lives of the pool players seem anything but golden. By saying that the seven “Lurk late,” the poem suggests that they are sneaking around at night, which points to the likelihood that they are involved in criminal activities (line 3). Brooks uses the word we eight different times in the poem and this symbolizes “the unification of a particular group and their representation of a broader social phenomenon” (Koch 27). The continual use of we presents the seven as a group and not as individuals, which could also represent a sense of peer pressure. In the last line of the poem Brooks expresses the result of this lifestyle “We Die soon” (lines 7-8). Brooks uses the word soon to create a symbolic suspension “she enacts a sense of suspension, employing the word “soon” to suggest that the young men, for the moment, still exist” (Koch 27). The troubled teenagers will suffer an ill fate if they continue living this way.
The poem uses imagery to create a vivid world for the reader. By saying that the seven “Strike straight” creates a visual of the group picking fights (line 4). The group brags about the sins they have committed in the line “We Sing sin” (lines 4-5). This leads one to believe “the seven have neither a sense of propriety nor a sense of shame” (Sarnowski). One can also see the teenagers
Cited: Brooks, Gwendolyn. “We Real Cool.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyers. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 827. Print Koch, Matthew. “Rhythm in Gwendolyn Brook’s WE REAL COOL.” The Explicator. Vol. 69. Taylor and Francis Group. 2011. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. Sarnowski, Joe. “Critical Essay on ‘We Real Cool’.” Poetry for Students. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale Group. 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 Nov. 2012.