Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Despite the qualities that they ostensibly share with nursery rhymes in their use of exact rhyme and regular meter, the poems of Bronzeville Boys and Girls demonstrate Brooks’s mastery of traditional poetic form, particularly the sonnet. In “Mexie and Bridie,” for instance, Brooks creates a lighthearted rhythm by rhyming the second and fourth lines of each quatrain and employing meters varying from iambic tetrameter to pentameter. The variation in metric length keeps the poem from being singsong and predictable, but the regular rhyme and consistent metrical pattern enable it to hold children’s interest. Some other poems in the collection contain rhyming couplets, and some are only one stanza, but all show Brooks’s ability to adapt and modify the form of a poem to suit its subject and tone.

These poems also evince a preoccupation with individuality and community, portraying children whose concerns—such as being afraid of storms, being good in church, or mourning a dead goldfish—could be the concerns of any child. Some poems portray the disappointment that can come from realizing that one does not have material things that other children have, but they also convey the message that people should not be judged by their appearances. The children commenting on Eldora in “Eldora, Who Is Rich,” for instance, are surprised to hear her yell, “Please play with me!” and to see her smile “Like any other little child.”


(The entire section is 441 words.)