Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews March 3, 2024
February 25, 2024
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Gwendolyn Brooks wrote “We Real Cool” in 1959, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering momentum. By the early 1960s, this movement would grow into the most influential social and political tide in the American twentieth century, leading to the abolition of racial segregation and the enfranchisement of all Black US citizens. As a politically active Black writer, Brooks was deeply engaged in the fight for equal rights, and her sharpest weapon was her poetry. Already a decade earlier, in her Pulitzer Prize–winning work Annie Allen (1949), Brooks had explored issues related to gender and race. And a decade later, in her 1968 collection In the Mecca, she continued to focus on similar, socially relevant themes. In “We Real Cool,” the speakers never explicitly remark on their racial identity, but context clues imply that they’re Black. The opening line, “We real cool,” subtly evokes the cadences of African American speech. The allusions to jazz also suggest their belonging to a Black community. Although the poem may be interpreted as being concerned with the fate of youth in general, it must also be understood more specifically as commentary on the fate of young Black males in US society.
Rebels have had an enduring place in the Western cultural imagination, and the teenage rebels of “We Real Cool” must be understood in relation to a popular tendency to treat rebels as heroes. Perhaps the most iconic rebel in the Western tradition comes from Christianity. After rebelling against God, the archangel Lucifer was cast down to Hell and became Satan. Satan is unambiguously evil in Christian tradition. However, when the English poet John Milton wrote his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), he featured Satan in a sympathetic way that many readers felt made him the poem’s real hero. Many other significant rebels have appeared in the literary tradition since then. However, it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that the rebel-as-hero became a pop-cultural phenomenon. The 1950s witnessed the production of numerous Hollywood films featuring rebel heroes. For example, Marlon Brando played the iconic outlaw biker Johnny Strabler in the 1953 film The Wild One. Even more legendary is James Dean, who starred in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause. The prominence of these and other rebels in 1950s popular culture helps explain why the speakers of “We Real Cool” idealize dying young.