Form and Content
Annie Allen is a poetic sequence: Its structure is looser than that of a poem, yet more coherent than that of a collection of poems. The sources of unity in a poetic sequence may vary. In the case of Annie Allen, the principal unifying element is the pattern of childhood, girlhood, young womanhood, and mature womanhood followed in the development of the sequence’s protagonist.
The first section of the sequence, “Notes from the Childhood and the Girlhood,” consists of eleven poems. In these, Gwendolyn Brooks traces the life of Annie Allen from birth to the longings of adolescence. Annie’s parents, Maxie and Andrew, have sacrificed whatever there might have been in their lives of poetry and passion for the constrained respectabilities permitted to an African American couple of their generation. Annie herself is reared in the spirit of a denial of possibility and an acceptance of limitations and conventions. Something tells her that there is something more, but she cannot find the words to express it. For her mother, the only “something more” for a girl such as Annie is a husband. Annie tries to respond to her mother’s conventionality with an inner “no.” Yet she awaits the arrival of the man, the romantic hero, who will rescue her. Even now, she believes, her hero is making his way to her through a series of conquests of other girls whom he will abandon for her sake, when once he and Annie have met.
The heart of the sequence is “The Anniad,” the long second section (forty-three seven-line stanzas, followed by an appendix consisting of...
(The entire section is 651 words.)