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We Real Cool

We Real Cool

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

A Pool Hall in the South Side of Chicago, the late 1950s

Brooks once said that she was thinking of a certain pool hall in her hometown of Chicago when she wrote this poem (source). As we read and hear "We Real Cool," our imaginations are set on fire. We close our eyes and, suddenly, we are in a neighborhood of bungalows and old, brick buildings. At the corner of the street stands "The Golden Shovel." It's hot outside and cool inside the pool hall. In the dimly lit building, we see several billiard tables. There's a bar in the back serving cheap gin, and an old-style radio plays scratchy jazz in the corner. Seven young guys are gathered around a couple of the tables. Two of them have made a bet on one of the games, and the money is down on the table, ready to be claimed by the winner. They're competitive with one another, but they also spend most of their time together, hanging out as a group. A person walks by, and they stare at her vacantly until she passes.

Is this how you imagine the setting too, or do you envision it differently?

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