Gwendolyn Brooks- Selected Poems


Poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, on June 7, 1917. Brooks moved to Chicago at a young age. She began writing and publishing as a teenager, eventually achieving national fame for her 1945 collection A Street in Bronzeville. In 1950 Brooks became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, for her book Annie Allen. She died in her Chicago home on December 3, 2000.


Through Brooks beautiful mastery of words and of language in her collection of poetry, A Street of Bronzeville (1945) she demonstrates a version of anguish in the world, and the pain that people often suffer. Brooks created her poetry to reflect the misery of Black-American lives in a racist painted society. In 1967, Brooks felt the need to improve her inspiring art after she attended the Black Writer’s Conference at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Once she was introduced to other black writers like herself, she became strong-minded into turning her poetry towards the political aspects in black communities which she felt necessary to be known. Speaking out loud to others through her poems, she expresses the truth of real heartache and grief that sheds upon the world’s streets.

How does “The Boy Died in My Alley” serve as a kind of commentary on “Of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery” after the conference at Fisk University? Which of the two poems is more politically charged?

In both poems, Brooks seems to expose individual characters that provide a desolate story. In her first poem, the speaker is attending a funeral of a “plain black boy” named De Witt Williams looking back on his life, while in the second poem the speaker reflects on a boy who has been killed in the alley close to her home. In “of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery,” Brooks portrays memories and behaviors of the boy who recently became deceased. She includes “47th street, and underneath the L, Chicago’s rail system,” to reveal the boy’s unfortunate livelihood and his constant drinking of his “liquid joy” to ease his suffering. Basically, Brooks depicts the “plain black boy” to come from a dull community in which was obviously hard to escape from, thus, he dies in. Although the boy has passed, he is still recognized even if leaving no mark on the world. Even though his life was filled with plainness, his death conveys an ending of misery. The tone of the poem is simple, gloomy, and slow-paced.

In “The Boy Died in My Alley,” Brooks creates a strong, uprising tone that grabs the attention of the audience to focus on the death of a young boy found in the alley. We assume the young boy was murdered because of the shots the speaker has heard from the streets. The speaker acknowledges the continuous “shots I hear; shots I hear” from her day-to-day experience but can not identify the face of the boy. The police are upfront and forceful with questions but are unable to establish the truth behind the death. The boy whose blood, whose body “ornaments the alley,” remains unmentioned throughout the entire poem. Brooks depicts the boy to have died in a harsh, detested community where young boys die on a daily basis and violence is escalated.  The “knowledgeable unknowing” is the speaker’s failure to act against the intense violence presents fear and despair.

I consider “The Boy Died in My Alley” to be more politically charged because it is directed to the violence associated with African American children on the streets within the city. The poem focuses on the issue of individual transformation and finding one’s identity while tolerating their own loneliness. It is possible young children are generating violence towards one another to establish their individualities. Reality is sometimes heartbreaking, but death is worse. and I believe Brooks wrote this poem to teach us to be aware of violence and to take responsibility into eliminating it from society. She tries encourage a request in making a change for the world, especially for our future generations. If you ignore the issues at hand, the problem will persist and more tragedies will occur.




Walker Percy’s- The Moviegoer

The Search

In the epilogue to The Moviegoer, Binx returns again to the subject of his “search”: “As for my search, I have not the inclination to say much on the subject.” This seems a strange admission, especially given the central importance of the search to the rest of the novel. Do you think Binx declines to “say much” because he has resolved his search successfully, or has he failed in his quest for meaning? Either way, make sure that you support your interpretation with specific references to the book. In short, is there any evidence at the end of the novel that Binx has found what he was looking for?


Binx Bolling is quite the interesting character and one that many people can relate to. Throughout The Moviegoer, Binx is represented as a man on a “search” for life’s true meaning: “As I watched, there awoke in me an immense curiosity. I was onto something. I vowed that if I ever got out of this fix, I would pursue the search” (11). Within Percy’s novel, I felt as if Binx was on a deep quest for the real value of his own existence. He passionately expresses himself as a man who is uncertain of who he is and where he belongs. This observation of Binx basically created an atmosphere of a search more or less in “what you need.” Binx approaches his search by detaching himself from reality in which he tries to understand life by comparison of a motion picture. It’s as if Binx makes an existential sport of moviegoing which in order helps his search by looking at things from all angles, but yet, even the movies “screw it up” (22).

Binx asserts, “The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life” (21). I imagine Binx’s challenge within the novel is his constant urge to escape his everydayness because he claims his “everydayness is the enemy…” (195). He finds himself depressed and unhappy with the motions of his every day life but still can’t seem to free himself of constant despair: “Not to be on to something is to be in despair” (22). Binx seems to struggle with his search throughout the novel because of his constant failure to find his freedom from reoccurring expectations. The expectations that seem to build the malaise during his life are his Bolling family traditions, overpowering southern ideals, Aunt Emily’s lectures over the future, and even the psychological distresses with Kate; “Where there is chance of gain, there is also chance of loss. Whenever one courts great happiness, one also risks malaise.”

In the epilogue of The Moviegoer I believe Binx declines to “say much” because he has finally chosen to let go of his endless search although unsuccessful of fulfilling it (315). I think Binx realizes that his search was only holding him back from letting his life fall into place on its own rather than having failed to find the meaning. I consider Binx to be an existential man who finally came to the decision to follow the steps into his expected fate. Instead of an ongoing search for the meaning of life, Binx chooses to embrace his life which I suppose is the real key to discovery. Still quite unsure what to do with his life, Binx grows as a man with hope in his new marriage with Kate. He also journeys into medical school focusing on more important things which enable him to connect with the people around him and create more established relationships. Although Binx puts his search behind him he implies, “In this world goodness is destined to be defeated. But a man must go down fighting. That is the victory. To do anything less is to be less than a man” (76). It would appear on the outside surface that even though Binx has fallen into his everydayness that he dreaded for so long, he begins to move forward accepting what may be unknown to him.