Gwendolyn Brooks, For Every Action... Essay

1413 words - 6 pages

According to Newton’s Third Law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This concept was primarily applied to physics, but it is evident in many aspects of life. This universal law can be seen everywhere, from roller coasters in Hershey Park, to the grounding of the kid with the messy room, to the change winds before a storm, and, of course, to the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks. Spending her whole life in the poor inner-city, Brooks was surrounded not only by choices good and bad, but people living out the consequences of the choices they made. Brooks used these experiences to add depth and great lessons to her work. Much of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry centers around the concept that there are consequences for every action, and many of them are negative. Her poems, “The Mother”, “The Bean Eaters” and “Sadie and Maud” particularly feature this theme.

Gwendolyn Brooks was born to David Anderson Brooks and Keziah Wims on June 7, 1917. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to inner-city Chicago, where Brooks would stay for the rest of her life. Growing up as an african american in the mid twentieth century, Brooks battled a lot of racial discrimination. She attended three high schools in total, only two of which were even integrated schools. Not only was Brooks on the receiving end of discrimination from whites, but also from blacks with lighter skin than herself. This was very trying for Gwendolyn, as it would be for anyone. To combat the prejudice she encountered, Brooks spent many years working for the NAACP. Gwen went on to have two children, and as a family they continued living in Chicago until her death in early December, 2000.

Gwendolyn began writing at a very young age. According to Adventures in American Literature, she was interested in rhymes at the age of seven, and was first published in a children’s magazine at thirteen (Adventures 842). “Very early in life I became fascinated with the wonders that language can achieve. And I began playing with words,” says Brooks (qt. in Brainy Quote). Since her early days of writing, Gwendolyn has received many honors including Guggenheim Fellowships, the Eunice Tietjens Memorial Award, The United States Poet Laureate, Poetry Workshop Awards from the Midwest Writers’ Conference, and many more. Brooks was also the first ever african american to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Brooks went on to teach at many prestigious colleges and universities.

In her poem, “The Bean Eaters”, Brooks describes the seemingly unspectacular life of a poor, elderly, black couple as they go through their daily routine. According to Bloom, the main focus of this poem is the survival of the couple. They’re just scraping by (Bloom: Eaters). They can only eat beans because that is all they can afford, a consequence of not working harder before retirement. The last stanza of the poem shows the couple reflecting on their life. They have many common memories, consistent with the times, as we can tell from the...

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