Help with literature question

Writing
Tutor: None Selected Time limit: 1 Day

“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks, 1917 - 2000

  • What is the theme of the poem? How do you know this is the theme?

Oct 5th, 2015

Thank you very much for the opportunity to help you with your question! I hope this answer is helpful:

Of course, bear in mind that the theme (of any poem!) is always subjective: different people can have equally valid different views, and it often depends on how you read the poem or what you focus on.

However, the most obvious answer (and the one which I would claim) is this: the theme of "We Real Cool" is how futile/pointless rebellion is.

Here's why/how I know:

- Motifs explicitly introduced in the poem. The rebellious action of leaving school happens in the 2nd line - very early in the poem - and is announced with a tone of satisfaction: this is the first example the narrators can think of to prove that they are "real cool", after all! However, after that, each example seems to be inherently less and less rewarding, and the tone seems to get less and less satisfied.

- Structure. The lines are all very short (making it seem as though rebelling against school/society isn't actually that satisfying); in addition, the poem is also very short, emphasising how short-lived and pointless the "cool" act of hanging out late to play pool really is. The enjambments (sentences crossing over line-breaks: "We / Lurk late", "We / Thin gin" etc.) at first give the poem a jazzy, offbeat, "cool" rhythm; however, they increasingly have the effect of slowing the poem down (almost as if the narrators are struggling to think of reasons why they are "real cool").

- Final line. "Die soon" makes everything else in the poem feel inherently futile, quite explicitly. In addition, the absence of an expected "We..." in this line suddenly makes everything the narrators have done so far feel empty and lost.

I hope this helps! Of course, analysing any poem is always subjective, and there are lots of interesting points to be made. I'd be delighted to help if you want to discuss anything I've written above.
Oct 5th, 2015

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