Peiffer 1
Writing with uncommon strength, Gwendolyn Brooks creates haunting images of black America, and their struggle in escaping the scathing hatred of many white Americans. Her stories, such as in the "Ballad of Rudolph Reed", portray courage and perseverance. In those like "The Boy Died in My Alley" Brooks portrays both the weakness of black America and the unfortunate lack of care spawned from oppression. In "The Ballad of Chocolate Mabbie" Brooks unveils another aspect of her skill by entering the domestic arena with the lingering limitations imposed by prejudice. These aspects, such as strength and finesse, are among Brooks great attributes. Worthy of exploration, Brooks powerful and haunting techniques can be separated and explored in the above mentioned poems. Each work contains a specific tactic, which effectively promotes her ideas. It is for that reason, tactics mixed with ideas, which have placed Brooks among the finest poets.
Perhaps because of Brooks' use of a stiff format, "The Ballad of Rudolph Reed" may be her strongest work. Imbuing the poem with incredible lines and description, Brooks transforms Rudolph Reed, who is the character the poem is built around, into a storybook hero, or a tragic character whose only flaw was the love he held for his family. Brooks creates a strong, solid character who is more than another fictional martyr, but a human being. The Finesse she imbued in this work from the first stylized
Peiffer 2
stanza: "Rudolph Reed was oaken.\ His wife was oaken too.\ And his two girls and his good little man\ Oakened as they grew." (1081, 1-4) Here brooks' symbolic use of the word oakened, coupled with the use of a rhyme scheme of the second and last sentence of every stanza causes the reader to more deeply feel what the character and his family are going through. Using the idea of a dream home, Brooks stabbed to the heart of the American dream and where those of African descent fit into it. Every person, man or woman, has at one time or another dreamt of living in a beautiful home:

"I am not hungry for berries.\ I am not hungry for bread.\ But hungry hungry for a house\ Where at night a man in bed\ "May never here the plaster\ stir as if in pain.\ May never here the roaches\ Falling like fat rain.\ "Where never wife and children need\ Go blinking through the gloom.\ Where every room of many rooms\ Will be full of room.\ "Oh my house shall have its east or west\ Or north or south behind it.\ All I know is I shall know it,\ And fight for it when I find it." (1081, 5-20)

Without her use of the above dream, Brooks would have been unable to bring an effective human perspective to Rudolph Reed and his family. Once this human side was
Peiffer 3
created, the horrible demise of Rudolph Reed struck with an intensity which would otherwise have been lost.
Losing finesse in place of what at first seems a shallow attempt at poetry, "The Boy Died in My Alley" develops into an incredible exploration of enfeeblement. Brooks power comes again from her ability to bring the reader into a human world, with human characters. It explores the pain one person feels, and the hopelessness spawned from it. Although relatively few people live in an area where crime is so rampant as in "The Boy Died in My Alley", it strikes a chord of fear and depression most in society may relate to. The use of a strong beat in this poem help to create the frantic yet uncanny depression found throughout the poem:

"Policeman pounded on my door.\ "Who is it?" "POLICE!" Policeman yelled.\ "A boy was dying in your Alley.\ A boy is dead, and in your alley.\ And have you known this boy before?"\ I have known this boy before.\ I have known this boy before, who\ ornaments my alley.\ I never saw his face at all.\ I never saw his futurefall.\ But I have known this boy.
(1084, 10-21)

The staccato rhythm Brooks uses is developed through repeating many of the lines. The lines are not exact copies,
Peiffer 4
but keep the poem rolling forward, which is important if Brooks hopes to keep the reader