Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

How does Gwendolyn Brooks present the poor in her works?

What is Brooks’s attitude toward the young men in “We Real Cool”?

Children appear prominently in Brooks’s poetry. How would you characterize her treatment of them?

How does Brooks treat racial differences?

What formal devices—such as rhyme, meter, figures of speech—can be discerned in Brooks’s works, including Maud Martha?

Discuss how Bronzeville becomes for Brooks a sort of microcosm, like William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.

How does Mrs. Burns-Cooper offend the narrator in chapter 30 of Maud Martha?

Chapter 25 of Maud Martha ends with the sentence “She kept on staring into Sonia Johnson’s irises.” Explain.

Brooks is superb at catching people’s personalities with a few striking phrases, as in chapter 23 of Maud Martha. Identify examples of this skill in both the poetry and the prose.