In “We Real Cool,” why does Brooks chose to end each line of the poem, except the last, with the word "we"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "We Real Cool," Gwendolyn Brooks uses a poetic device known an enjambment: her lines don't break at the end of a thought but in the middle, pulling readers into the next line to reach the end of the phrase or idea.

The lines repeatedly end on "we"...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In "We Real Cool," Gwendolyn Brooks uses a poetic device known an enjambment: her lines don't break at the end of a thought but in the middle, pulling readers into the next line to reach the end of the phrase or idea.

The lines repeatedly end on "we" in particular to put an emphasis on that word. The word has a triple meaning in the poem, which becomes more apparent if you listen to Brooks read the poem aloud. "We" means you and I, a plural, a group. "We" also suggests the expression "whee," which connotes an experience of fun. Finally, "we" can also carry the connotation of "wee" or small.

The first "we" emphasizes that the members of the group reinforce each other in their destructive behavior. If they did not egg each other on, they might each find a better path, one that would not lead to Brooks's final words: "Die soon." They might return to school if they were not experiencing peer pressure and the fear of not being seen as cool.

At the same time as they are on a destructive path. As long as they are playing pool, drinking, staying up late, and carousing, there is a sense of abandon, of having fun in the moment, a heedlessness about the future that is captured by the "whee" meaning of "we." Also, the word "we[e]" can imply that the world the group occupies is very small, limiting them and getting them nowhere. And in the end, there is no "we," because they will each "Die soon."

In a poem this short, the repetition of the word "we" seven times at the end of lines causes readers to pay particular attention to the layered meanings of the word.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team