Compare Themes and Analyze Literary Works of Gwendolyn Brooks and Phillis Wheatley


Gwendolyn Brooks and Phillis Wheatley are some of the African American who lived at a time when the world was changing, thanks to civil rights and slavery. However, their works both seem to focus on the same issues affecting the African American. This paper posits that Gwendolyn Brooks and Phillis Wheatley may have lived at different times in America but progressivism and African American rights drove their literary works.

The theme of African American Civil rights

This book takes a unique perspective at analyzing the life and times of an African American, and feminism. The book mainly focuses on the social themes in Gwendolyn Brooks especially when she wrote about the civil, social and economic movements in the US as at her time. For example while she discusses descanters, an civil right movement during her time, social injustices take c entre stage as she reminisces how color was used in the US as the main deciding factor in allocation of jobs, resources and other rights (Brooks 32; Shaw 45)

On the other hand, Phillis Wheatley mainly focuses on racism and slavery. However, she is not passionate a about broader social problems facing America as Gwendolyn Brooks. For example, in as much as she tries to discuss slavery in America in The poems of Phillis Wheatley, she takes a lighter note. However, her work is also balanced in praise of good deeds done by the unjust while slave masters. For example, in praise of the “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty for the Stamp Act.” Additionally, she also takes an open approach while discussing slavery because to her, slavery was both good and bad (Wheatley 132). For one, she reconsiders her early life to be a mix of fortune and suffering, but it is not the fortune and suffering, but the outlook the white people have on African American for their color “color is a diabolic dye." Her poems are noted for her role in religious and moral teaching, but more so for her stand in slavery because she was once s slave. She noted in her poem, “On being brought from Africa to America” that:

“”Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,”

Wrong decision amongst the women and the youth

Abortion is also another major theme that Gwendolyn Brooks was interested in. she discusses abortion as if she has had a direct experience with the same. She has used a number of stylistic devices to analyze how wrong decision made by women to procure abortion affects the mother and goes on to use an accusatory tone t make a strong statement against abortion. She finds women who procure abortion as guilty for their act. For example, in line two of stanza one, she accuses the women who procure abortion saying, “You remember the children you got that you did not get” here she uses paradox has to mean born, and uses get to mean receive. For examples, states that the women will remember their children that they gave birth to, but did not receive. She uses, "not… forget" and "got" and "not get" to explain her point to the mother. However, her use of colloquial expression is also beautiful as she states that abortionist will re-member but abortion only dismembers because it does not let one forget (Brooks 95). Her first line in the poem is “Abortions will not let you forget” the use of Personification and accusatory sentence as she uses” you” which is a strong term.

Brooks uses her poetic knowledge in “We Real Cool” to warn the youths of a possible future in which they die young for leading the “culture of cool” for example while she notes that the youth are likely to make bad decision only to effected by their decision in life. For example as the children leave school, and strike straight thinking they are cool, they sing sin, they thing gin and jazz June, only to die young in life. She warns the youth that what matters after school the decision one makes have consequences. She may not have meant deadly consequences, but warns about the nature of decision, as the consequences may be dire (Brooks 114). This is so Gwendolyn as she looks at life as too complex for bad decision.


While both Gwendolyn Brooks and Phillis Wheatley had varying perspective about life and for one, Phillis Wheatley was focusing on morality and religion, but touching on civil rights. Gwendolyn Brooks was like a dissenter who was more inclined to the African American rights. This paper argues that both literary artists were outspoken about the rights of the African American and could have worked together had they lived at the same time

Works cited

Wheatley, Phillis, and John C. Shields. The collected works of Phillis Wheatley. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print.

Wheatley, Phillis, and Margaretta Matilda Odell. The poems of Phillis Wheatley: with letters and a memoir.. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2010. Print.

Brooks, Gwendolyn. The world of Gwendolyn Brooks. [1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Print.

Brooks, Gwendolyn. The mother. Brockport, N.Y.: State University of New York College at Brockport, 1978. Print.

Shaw, Harry B.. Gwendolyn Brooks. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980. Print.


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