Gwendolyn Brooks

Essay by John Smith1University, Master'sA+, November 1996

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Peiffer 1

Writing with uncommon strength, Gwendolyn Brooks creates haunting images of black America, and their struggle in escaping the scathing hatred of many white Americans. Her stories, such as in the 'Ballad of Rudolph Reed', portray courage and perseverance. In those like 'The Boy Died in My Alley' Brooks portrays both the weakness of black America and the unfortunate lack of care spawned from oppression. In 'The Ballad of Chocolate Mabbie' Brooks unveils another aspect of her skill by entering the domestic arena with the lingering limitations imposed by prejudice. These aspects, such as strength and finesse, are among Brooks great attributes. Worthy of exploration, Brooks powerful and haunting techniques can be separated and explored in the above mentioned poems. Each work contains a specific tactic, which effectively promotes her ideas. It is for that reason, tactics mixed with ideas, which have placed Brooks among the finest poets.

Perhaps because of Brooks' use of a stiff format, 'The Ballad of Rudolph Reed' may be her strongest work. Imbuing the poem with incredible lines and description, Brooks transforms Rudolph Reed, who is the character the poem is built around, into a storybook hero, or a tragic character whose only flaw was the love he held for his family. Brooks creates a strong, solid character who is more than another fictional martyr, but a human being. The Finesse she imbued in this work from the first stylized

Peiffer 2

stanza: 'Rudolph Reed was oaken. His wife was oaken too. And his two girls and his good little man Oakened as they grew.' (1081, 1-4) Here brooks' symbolic use of the word oakened, coupled with the use of a rhyme scheme of the second and last sentence of every stanza causes the reader to more deeply feel what the character and...