‘We Real Cool’ by Gwendolyn Brooks is a poem about an older adults’ observation of teenagers engaged in an adult’s lifestyle, something that ruins them. The persona talks on behalf of a group of seven teenagers to riddle their mentality. The poem’s target audience is young people, informing them about the consequences of indiscipline, ultimately death.
The poet uses various literary devices intending to relate his message correctly to young people. The poem talks about seven young people who have no value for formal education but instead decide to engage in activities that seem productive and impressive to the rest of the world with no concern whatsoever for their well-being.
Title of the Poem “We Real Cool”
The title of the poem “We Real Cool” is a metaphor for self-consolation after the seven young people feel ostracized from the rest of the society and thus create a subculture. The epigraph “The Pool Players” resembles the stage directions of a play providing a setting for the rest of the work, a frivolous lifestyle with little concern of a person’s conventional responsibilities in their society. The term “golden shovel” symbolizes the young people’s expectation of the value that young people will draw a frivolously spent youth.
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“Left school. We”
The line “Left school. We” is used metaphorically to refer to truancy or disregard for education, at the very least (Brooks, 1959, line 2). The persona also informs the audience that young people engage in illegal activities when they are out late at night. However, they eventually gain the skills necessary to thrive in that environment, as shown in the line “Strike straight. We” He also shows that the young people engage in these behaviors as a way of rebelling from the rest of society and thus engage in activities that society deems immoral.
“Sing sin. We”
The line “Sing sin. We” symbolize that the young people tend to enjoy what the rest of the society refers to as immoral or sinful. The line “Thin gin. We” is used to show that drug abuse plays an intricate role in destroying young people’s lives and thus should be kept at bay from them (Brooks, 1959, line 6). The persona claims “…We/ Jazz June…” to symbolisms the dancing, freedom, and seduction that the young people would engage in when they were out late at night (Brooks, 1959, lines 6-7). This blinded them to the reality of life, thus leading to their unfortunate demise.
Brooks, G. (1959). We real cool. Broadside Press.