Gwendolyn Brooks’ We Real Cool: Summary, Analysis, Theme, Meaning

Born in Topeka, Kansas in 1917, Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize. Brooks had a passion for reading and writing from early childhood and, fortunately, her parents were supportive of her. She started publishing her poems in magazines from early teenage and several of her poetry books were published later on.

Brooks’ first poetry collection A Street in Bronzeville was published in 1945. Likewise, she also came out with Annie Allen (1971), In the Mecca: Poems (1968), The Bean Eaters (1960), Selected Poems (1963), to name a few. Moreover, she is also the author of a novel, Maud Martha (1953). 

Gwendolyn Brooks wrote her short poem “We Real Cool” in 1959 and it was published in her 1960 book, The Bean Eaters. Though the poem has only thirty-two words, it has five stanzas. It goes without saying that “We Real Cool” is one of Brooks’ weightiest and most succinct poems. So, what is the summary of “We Real Cool” and what analysis does the poem demand? Moreover, what is the most vivid theme of this brief poem? Let’s find answers to questions like these and more in following sections.

Gwendolyn Brooks’ Poem We Real Cool

              The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

          We real cool. We
            Left school. We
                            Lurk late. We
                            Strike straight. We
            Sing sin. We
            Thin gin. We
                       Jazz June. We
                       Die soon.

Summary of We Real Cool

In her poem, “We Real Cool”, Gwendolyn Brooks gives a brief setting and information about characters. There are seven boys playing pool at a poolhouse named Golden Shovel. Brooks has written “We Real Cool” from the perspective of the seven men although the specific speaker is unknown.

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The seven boys are students who left school to play pool. They declare themselves cool because they play pool, drink gin, listen to jazz, and talk whatever they like. After playing pool throughout the day at Golden Shovel, these boys lurk home late at night. The last stanza of “We Real Cool” says ‘We/ Die soon’.

Analysis of We Real Cool

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool” has five stanzas and they have an unusual rhyming pattern. Sentences rhyme both in the middle and at the end. So, what analysis does “We Real Cool” await?

Some critics consider the seven boys as black men; however, “We Real Cool” seems to have nothing to do with racism, except for the jazz. Instead, the poem is more about youthfulness. The youths self-proclaim that they are really cool because they are young and love merrymaking. “We/ Left school” indicates that the young boys are not serious about the future. They are rather concerned about the present happiness.

Every time they strike the ball with a stick, they do not miss the hole. “We/ Strike straight” means they are highly experienced pool players. They drink so much that they even start singing sin. They are unaware of what they say and do. The last sentence of “We Real Cool” says, “We/ Die soon.” Keeping the context in mind, we may analyze this quotation as a connotation of the act of being fast asleep. In addition, it might also refer to the ephemerality of youthfulness. When in joy, people tend to realize that time passes without their knowledge. Hence, it also suggests that the joy of these young boys do not last long.



What is the Theme of We Real Cool?

After reading the analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool,” you probably knew what theme of the poem. Regarding the themes of “We Real Cool,” it addresses issues like youth, pride, the ephemerality of joy, etc. The poem has seven youths as its central characters who are laden with unnecessary pride for the present joy. However, they are unaware of the fact that youthfulness is an ephemeral occasion. They are so proud as if they will remain happy forever and hence, they have quit going to school.

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