The poem “Pool Players Seven at the Golden Shovel” discloses a bright and fashionable presentation of the main characters of the poem, namely the street boys whose fate depends upon their luck. In that regard, the poem is also a protest against the goodness of life, which came out of fashion and it is, therefore, cool to be bad and to ignore the rules established by the old-fashioned society. These seven pool players are not afraid to risk and to face extreme situations; they are reluctant to have a predictable life and want the chance to capture their existence. Here the notion of luck is rather ironical or even satirical, especially when relying on the last line of the verse running, “We soon die” (Brooks 2413). The street boys’ philosophy implies the principle to get the maximum of life as it is too short to be subjected to the limitation of society. Their misleading behavior is a kind of a call to society overwhelmed with unnecessary ethical and moral issues. As it was mentioned before, the author does not intend to approve this life but to criticize it. She highlights the bad experience those boys have and the way they treat life thus showing that such an experience will lead to a disaster. At the end of the poem, the pool players found themselves in a trap that is impossible to stay away but still, the boy seems to be ready to die to avoid the moral trap. They are ready to sacrifice their lives to follow this stylish behavior. Hence, the badness is the way of life, the mode that must be observed; it serves as a model for emulation.
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The poem discloses that violence and cultural deviation will certainly empower the boy with control and authority that gives them the possibility to manipulate other people and to subject them to their own rules. Perceiving the sweetness of badness that gives certain freedom also attracts them so that they are long to behave inappropriately again. The coolness, hence also lies in the absence of constraints and prohibitions where badness becomes an inherent part of their character. “Their “coolness” of alienation responds by dropping out, drinking, debauching, dying. It is a wasteful aggression against the self, this fragile wall of bravado that the poet mourns” (Melhern 129)
Aggressive emotions are also another way to defend themselves thus disguising their disadvantages. In this respect, badness is a kind of mask that would protect themselves from those who are morally stronger than you are. In a desperate quest for the new life deprived of the dictated rules, a malign attitude to other people serves to be the sheet from the alien environment. The badness is the only means they know to resist the constraints of life, which is explained by the lack of awareness and upbringing, or even an excessive upbringing. Hence, bad behavior is the method to set free from the extreme control of their parents. In the poem, we see the lines that manifest an outright protest against the overall manipulation of parents: “We strike straight” (Brooks 2413). This is the protest against the adults’ manipulation thus trying to protect themselves from the good impact of the senior generation.
The badness is also the call to the danger of the city and the corruptness of humanity. The pool players have nothing to do but encounter these difficulties in the way they are capable to do that. “We Strike Straight” (Brooks 2413) is also the logo against the dander of the streets. The teenagers’ rebellion is here justified, as they do not see another way than to face the reality. Their bad behavior reveals the hidden fear concerning the future; at the same time, the boys are too cool to show that. The boy’s negative attitude to life is also a kind of the author’s request to care more about the future of the American youth that is on the edge of regression and calamity. Brooks shows that they are too proud to ask for help and instead, their behavior is the answer for the indifference of the parents. The specific form of the poem where “we” is always at the end of each line is a silent scream that the boys intend to cry out. It does not necessarily express the identity of behavior. On the contrary, it is a call to stop ruining American society. The badness is not the initial position; it is the outcome of the social instability and reluctance to search for alternative solutions. In that way, the pool players’ bad fun implies the longing for dramatic changes in social and cultural life.
The line “Jazz June” (Brooks 2413) does not express some notions of sexuality or gender issues. On the contrary, the ‘jazz’ here implies its primary notion of music. In that regard, jazz dictates the swagger way of life leading to relief from the imposed obligations and rules. Instead, the youngsters live according to the rhythm of the music. For teenagers, life is too short to waste it for school; it is much more interesting to yield to other temptations and to get the most pleasure from it. It is not in vain that the author mentions jazz in the poem; it is acknowledged that jazz was forbidden music that symbolized the rebellious spirit of the national minorities who fought for human rights and freedoms. The poem, thus, interprets the rebellious spirit of the ‘street’ minorities who strive to changes and to self-expression where the expression of badness is the most effective instrument. They represent a separate class of the American society who are not afraid to be different; furthermore, they hate to work the better, as they consider it useless. Brooks calls for the elimination of deviations to the frustration of the youth.
Jazz could also mean having a good time or enjoying time in summer, the period, which is free of school. In this poem, it also constitutes that the players’ ignorance allows him to avoid the hardships of life. However, Brooks attaches here a more profound meaning; it is a kind of warning to those boys who do not express the desire to obey. Therefore, she sharply opposes this line to the last one, “We Die soon” (Brooks 2414).
The poem “Pool Players Seven at the Golden Shovel” is a rather laconic and, at the same time, in-depth representation of the life of the American youth that is spoilt by the luxuries of life. The desires of the young people to trespass the edges of permissible are predetermined by the lack of awareness and education leading to cultural and social deviation. It also represents the urban youth violence that is reluctant to learn another principle of self-expression. Therefore, Brooks’ poem is a call to action for the American society and to the necessary measures that should be taken by it.
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Brooks, Gwendolyn. “We Real Cool.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Jerome Klinkowitz and Patricia B. Wallace. 7th ed. Vol E. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007. 2413-2414. Print
Melhern, D. H. Gwendolyn Brookd: Poetry and Heroic Voice. US: University Press of Kentucky, 1988.