Shane Smith Professor Samuels English 102, Section 13 18 October 2012 Compare & Contrast Essay The 1960’s was a carefree time period, a time when the “hippy” lifestyle was considered the norm. A time when the youth were often the voice, citizens were dedicated to bringing peace to the United States, the abolishment of segregation was occurring, and the Vietnam War had just begun. The poems I analyzed were both written in the early 1960’s, when segregation finally came to an end. Gwendolyn Brooks portrays the “carefree” lifestyle in her poem, “We Real Cool. Brooks being an African American woman surprised me, because her focus was not on the current major topic of segregation, whereas in contrast, Bob Dylan being Caucasian chose to focus on segregation in his poem/song, “The Times They Are a-Changin. ” The irony in the poem’s I read, is the contrast between ethnicity of the poet’s, to their chosen topics. During the time the two poems were written, is when the African American people rose against segregation. The poem “We Real Cool,” is an open form poem wrote in 1960 by an African American author, Gwendolyn Brooks.
Based on her ethnicity and the date of the poem, the reader would intend the topic to be based around the Civil Rights Movement. At the time Brooks wrote her poem she was in her early forties and the reader would believe her concern for segregation had lessened. Since 1917 Brooks had saw countless occasions of segregation, considering the fact that she had attended an all-black high school. She focused on the new occurring change, the change in attitude of teenagers at that time. Gwendolyn Brooks discovered the topic of her poem while walking by a pool hall.
She discovered seven young men playing pool, drinking, cursing and having no worries. Brooks was disgusted at the sight of the younger generation not attending school and having no ambition to move on in life. Brooks was aware that there was a drug epidemic going on at the time and she knew that this behavior and usage of drugs will keep them in the pool hall for all of their lives. Two lines from the poem that would portray this analysis to the reader are the lines that say, “We strike straight”, and “We die soon”. (Brooks 4,8).
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The term “straight” usually refers to being clean of drugs and a better person and the term “strike” usually means to be against. With the last line “We die soon,” Brooks illustrates that the young men are slowly killing themselves. She remembers the struggle of herself and the generations before her, the opportunities for education and good jobs were few and far between. As Brooks sees the times are changing she is discouraged by the lack of ambition and the push-to-side attitude of the opportunities the younger generation has before them.
In contrast, the closed form poem, “The Times They Are a-Changin” written by Bob Dylan had many similarities to Brooks’ poem, but also focused on segregation and the awareness that things were changing. In the poem, Dylan says, “Come senators, congressman Please heed the call Don’t stand in the doorway Don’t block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled/There’s a battle outside/And it is ragin’. ” (Dylan 23-30). In the first four lines from this section of the poem, Dylan is talking on a specific time in the Civil Rights Movement.
Segregation was ending, but on June 11, 1963 at the University of Alabama, Caucasian officials stood in front of the doorway to an auditorium because they believed in keeping segregation alive. (History). Bob Dylan believed in equality and is believed to be an influence that started the “hippy” generation, which came about a year or so after Dylan’s 1963 poem/song. Dylan wants to emphasize the point that African Americans were growing into society and to grasp the concept that everything is changing and there will always be change.
In comparison, these two poem’s share similarities about the youth of the 1960’s and the “carefree” lifestyle they were living. Brooks was much older than Dylan, but they were both aware of the change happening to the youth. Brooks had more of a stern way of saying these teenagers had too much freedom, that they were too blinded to realize the meaning of life, and that they were headed in the wrong direction. Brooks was older and wiser and spoke a warning to the youth of the consequences of the fast life, “We die soon”. (Brooks 8).
Dylan himself was of the younger generation and spoke directly to his peers. He said in his poem/song, “Come mother and fathers/Throughout the land/And don’t criticize/What you can’t understand/Your sons and your daughters/Are beyond your command. ” (Dylan 34-39) In comparison, Dylan had a more rebellious tone towards parents and authority. At the time these poems were written, the Vietnam War was being fought, and drugs and free love were popular among most youth. In conclusion, these two poems were both speaking to the young generation during the 1960’s, a tumultuous period in our history.
It was a time for anti-war protests, Civil Right Movements against segregation, racism and anti-government sentiment. Brooks who was older and had been on the receiving end of racism and segregation chose to speak to the youth who had chosen a reckless lifestyle and abandon opportunity. Brooks uses sarcasm by saying, “We Real Cool” to get her point across that they aren’t as “Cool” from her perspective. Dylan on the other hand speaks to himself and his generation about the changing times. He speaks about the need to keep moving forward.
He also seems to speak out against government and authority, their resistance to change mainly where segregation is concerned. Overall both poets are extremely aware of change in society during different periods in their lives and both believe change will continue on for the remainder of mankind. Work Cited Works Cited Brooks, Gwendolyn. "We Real Cool. " Cheuse, Nicholas Delbanco and Alan. Literature Craft & Voice. New York: McGraw Hill, 2012. 639. Dylan, Bob. "The Times They Are a-Changin. " Cheuse, Nicholas Delbanco and Alan. Literature Craft and Voice. New York: McGraw Hill, 2012. 22. History. "University of Alabama desegregated. " 2012. The History Channel website. 24 Oct 2012 <http://www. history. com/this-day-in-history/university-of-alabama-desegregated>. Pericles, Hamlet. Helium. 25 January 2008. 20 October 2012 <http://www. helium. com/items/818599-poetry-analysis-we-real-cool-by-gwendolyn-brooks>. http://rapgenius. com/Bob-dylan-the-times-they-are-a-changin-lyrics http://www. shmoop. com/we-real-cool/analysis. html http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=jyKF2e2CiMk http://www. english. illinois. edu/maps/poets/a_f/brooks/life. htm
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