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The Issue of Growing Up Too Soon in We Real Cool

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“Living fast” is something every kid wants. In the poem We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks, one main message is conveyed. One interpretation of We Real Cool is kids wanting to live fast and, sadly, end up dying at a young age. Gwendolyn Brooks was and still is, one of the most well-known poets because of her outstanding poems. Born on in Topeka, Kansas on June 7,1917, Gwendolyn Brooks wrote numerous poems which deal the everyday life of urban blacks. Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College in Chicago in 1936. After, Brooks soon began writing her own literature. Some of her earliest versus were shown in a public newspaper, the Chicago Defender. This newspaper focused on Chicago’s African American community. African American herself, Brooks was the first black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 on her series of poems known as Annie Allen. Later on in 1985, Brooks worked for Library of Congress consultant in the subject of poetry. In 1889, Gwendolyn Brooks received the prestigious achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Further pursing her love for poetry and literature career, Brooks became a professor of English in 1990, at Chicago State University; the same friendly city she grew up in. Gwendolyn Brooks happily retained this job until her death on December 3, 2000, in Chicago. Brooks was a very inspiring role model and leader to the African American people during that specific time period. She created many works of literature that the entire urban African American society could relate and look up to. Some of Brook’s most famous stories and poems include: Maud Martha (1953), The Bean Eaters (1960), In The Mecca (1968), Primer for Blacks (1980), Young Poet’s Primer (1980), To Disembark (1981), The Near-Johannesburg Boy, and Other Poems, and many, many more.

The poem We Real Cool conveys the message of young kids living their life fast an end up dying early. In the first line of the poem, Brooks writes, “SEVEN POOL PLAYERS.” This indicates that the poem is about seven teenage pool players. Brooks also wrote all her poems about African Americans, so the teenagers in We Real Cool are most likely African American. The teenagers that are described in the poem are just like modern teenagers today: daring and risk-taking. The pool players believe that they are cool as stated in the third line of the poem, “We real cool. We.” Many kids today just worry about fitting in, instead of caring about their responsibilities as a kid. Whether it be getting good grades and keeping up in school, or doing your job at work and getting paid, some kids do not prioritize this as much as it should be. Instead of getting good grades and keeping up with work, kids may stay out late and just purposely not work on assignments because they think it is the “cool” thing to do.

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In the fifth line of We Real Cool, Brooks states “We lurk late.” This demonstrates the kids are up to no good. I cannot really think of anything good that teenagers do when they “lurk late” at night. Dealing drugs, doing drugs, burglary, harassment, and many other criminal activities are most likely to take place at night. Most of the normal teenagers are doing homework, practicing sports, or eating dinner with their family late at night. Therefore, lurking late indicates that the teenage pool players are up to no good. Some kids even think that dropping out of school is something that classifies them as “cooler” than the kids who stay in school. Illustrated in the poem on line 4, “We left school,” signifies that the group of teenagers dropped out of school. Dropping out of high school at such an early age is almost always a sign of either laziness or rebellion. Dropping out of school is just one more indication that this group of seven teenage, pool players are up to no good in We Real Cool.

“We Strike straight,” is the sixth line in Brook’s poem. This “striking” could be translated as a few things. The most evident meaning is hitting, or abuse. Being that the teens were lurking late at night, harassment is a possible reference. Being that there is seven of the pool players, the “striking” could be a very lethal action. Large groups of rebellious teens usually tend to do more damage because of their numbers. Large numbers also tend to increase peer pressure; so, if six of the teens are doing drugs, they will heavily encourage the last one to follow them. If refused, that one kid will most likely be rejected and thrown out of the little group.

In the third stanza of We Real Cool, Brooks writes “We sing sin”. Brooks is indicating that the pool players are, once again, up to no good. Some of the most common sins include using the Lord’s name in vain, not honoring your mother and father, killing, and stealing. When picturing a group of defiant teenagers, these sins are exactly what comes to mind. Many teens use the Lord’s name in vain, usually without even realizing it. By dropping out of school, most teens have already sinned by not honoring their mother and father. Parent usually ant the best for their children and dropping out of high school is the exact opposite of their wants. Killing someone is a bit extreme in terms of just being teenagers, but depending on how the teens feel, they are inclined to do whatever the feel like; whether that be just rebelling against their parents or going to something as extreme and committing murder. Stealing is the most common sin among teenagers. Why? Because it is easy to do without getting caught or facing consequences. The risk-reward factor when it comes to stealing is usually very low risk and high reward. Depending of what is being stolen, many kids can easily steal something small and valuable, without anybody even knowing about it or who it was. In one of the last stanzas of the poem, Brooks writes “We thin gin” which is a reference to alcohol. In We Real Cool the poem is focused on teenagers, which means they are under the age of 21; and you must be at least 21 years old to drink alcohol. This is yet another reference to illegal activity. The last line of the poem states “We die soon”. This shows that Brooks knows the result if the teenagers live life like this. Instead of keeping up with their responsibilities, they rebel and do their own thing. As a result, they end up dying young because they tried to live life too fast.

In conclusion, We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks is a very meaningful work of literature. It conveys a message that was not only on popular in the 60’s, but modern day as well. One main literary device used throughout the poem is enjambment. This is when there is no punctuation and sentences carry on from one line to the next; this is illustrated well in We Real Cool. Another literary device present is alliteration. “Lurk late, strike straight, and sing sin,” are all very clear examples of Brook’s alliteration in the poem. My interpretation of We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks is that kids love living fast, but as a result, end up dying young. Instead of keeping up with their responsibilities, they choose to go their own rebellious path.


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