by Gwendolyn Brooks
Kitchenette Building Theme of Poverty
Poverty lives in plain sight in this poem. The title, "Kitchenette Building," practically announces it. Kitchenettes were tiny, typically one-room apartments that shared kitchens and bathrooms with several other families. Picture an eight-bedroom, five-bath mansion you saw on "MTV's Cribs" once; now try to picture its polar opposite in pretty much every way—that's the kitchenette. With poverty comes sub-par living conditions, but also a whole slew of worries: how you'll pay the rent, how you'll take care of your family, and when you'll get to use the bathroom next. And don't even get us started about roaches or bedbugs. With poverty consuming so much of these people's lives, their focus is much more on surviving than thriving.
Questions About Poverty
- What struggles do the people in this poem face because they are poor? What is the speaker's attitude toward those struggles?
- Are there any difficulties presented in this poem that would be an issue even if the people in the poem were not poor? If so, what are they?
- What, does the poem suggest, happens to the dreams of poor people? Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Do you think the poverty of the people in the poem has any bearing on their happiness? Why or why not?
Chew on This
Dreams? They may sound fun and all, but, as the poem shows, dreams are a luxury that the poor cannot afford to have.
Hold on just a second. This poem has a skewed perspective. The lives of poor people are equally as difficult as the lives of people with means.