In the poem "We Real Cool," what makes you who you are? How are the boys' identities constructed in the poem?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem, what you do seems to define who you are; however, you are not necessarily who you think you are. For example, the speakers stay out late, enjoy committing sins, drink, and party. These are the things that seem to make them who they are. It isn't what they think or what they dream or who or how they love: they are what they actually do. The narrators think they are "real cool," but Brooks leads readers to the conclusion that they are not, because it is not good or romantic or fun to "Die soon." The narrators think they are cool, but we know this is untrue, and this creates dramatic irony in the poem. Dramatic irony is when the reader knows more than the character. The boys' identities are revealed in their list of the things they enjoy, leading up to their tragic fate.