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We Real Cool

We Real Cool

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Identity Theme

The word "We" is repeated eight times in this eight-line poem as a signal that the boys have a group identity. The boys want to be defined by their rebellious actions, which place them at odds with polite society.

Questions About Identity

  1. Why does Brooks compare the poem's use of "We" to the WWII era graffiti proclaiming "Kilroy was here"? (source) Who was Kilroy, and how are the pool players like him?
  2. How does the name of the pool hall, "The Golden Shovel," shape our views of the young men?
  3. Are these boys rebellious? Why or why not?
  4. Do the pool players remind you of certain groups of people with whom you go to (or went to) school? Are they stereotypical?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The young men in "We Real Cool" have a distinctive identity that is shaped by the jazz and blues culture in mid-20th century Chicago.

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