What literary devices/strategies are used in the poem "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks?  I mean devices/strategies such as anaphora, ellipsis, and epistrophe.  Here is a copy: "We Real Cool"...

What literary devices/strategies are used in the poem "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks?  I mean devices/strategies such as anaphora, ellipsis, and epistrophe.  Here is a copy:

"We Real Cool"

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Besides the devices you've mentioned, this poem makes incredible use of other sound devices such as alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sound), consonance (repetition of final consonant sound), assonance (repetition of vowel sound), slant rhyme (any kind of sound similarity), and rhyme (repetition of all sounds from vowel through end of word).

In line 1, the repetition of the long "e" sound is assonance.  The repetition of the "l" sound at the end of "real" and "cool" is consonance.  "Cool" and "school" rhyme, and if we add the "l" sound at the beginning of "Left" and end of "school" in line 2, we also have slant rhyme.  

In line 3, the "l" sound from "Left" in line 2 is repeated in "Lurk" and "late" for alliteration; "late" in line 3 rhymes with "straight" in line 4, and there is alliteration in line 4 in "Strike" and "straight."

This alliteration is carried to the next line in the words "Sing sin" (line 5); "sin," "Thin," and "gin" all rhyme (lines 5-6).

The "j" sound that begins the word "gin" on line 5 is repeated in the initial "j" sound of the words "Jazz" and "June" on line 7, for alliteration; and then "June" (line 7) and "soon" (line 8) rhyme.  

Obviously, the word "We" is repeated as the last word of all but one line -- epistrophe -- and so all those "We"s are connected to one another via the same sounds.  

Therefore, every single word in the poem is connected, via some sound device, to another word in either the same line, the line above, or the line below, except for the word "Die" in line 8.  This word is sort of floating in a sea of sounds that all have things in common with each other, though this word is untethered to any other nearby, making it stand out.  This line also stands out because it is the only to lack the "We" at the end.  These two major differences in sound help to draw our attention to the irony of the speaker's pride considering the ultimate effects of such a lifestyle.

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Epistrophy - "we" is the repeated word at the end of the successive clauses. It depends on how you look at it, but I see this as taking emphasis off the "we" and more emphasis on what "we" do.  This gives it somewhat of dark tone with the emphasis on play, sin, die, etc. And taking the emphasis away from the subject "we" conveys a constructed insignificance; in other words, it is as if the perception of the "we" in the poem is one of indifference; the perception of the "we" is tragic but almost nonchalant. 

You also have alliteration (sing sin).  That with the brevity of the poem gives it a kind of nursery rhyme tone. 

This may be a stretch, but it would be interesting to consider this as an enthymeme, which is an informally stated syllogism.  A syllogism would be something like this:

Living is a struggle.

All humans live. 

All humans struggle.

Brook's poem is not a direct or even an indirect syllogism or enthymeme.  But the prosody of it resembles one and if you consider the lifestyle (historical, cultural) of the pool players, you might assume that one thing leads to another (dropping out, drinking, singing sin, dying soon - young). 

danielledafgard | Student

Ooops, I'm new.

danielledafgard | Student

Antithesis-Brooks uses irony that manages to both contradict the beginning (we real cool/we die soon), and make the poem parallel.

Read the study guide:
We Real Cool

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