Consider the poems of Gwendolyn Brooks

What portrait emerges of black urban life from the poems in the text? Refer to the poems when answering. The poems, ‘The Bean Eaters’ and ‘The Lovers of the Poor’ bring forth an image of the urban black life. While ‘The Bean Eaters’ is a subtle narration of the life of an elderly black couple who eat beans for dinner. The beans, in fact, stand as a metaphor for the simplicity, the impoverishment as well as for their mundane lives. The poem talks of their ‘rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths’ (Brooks, 1960, p. 1462), where they sit, eating their beans. Even though they are poor, they are ‘Two who are Mostly Good’ (Brooks, 1960, p.1463). Through subtle undertones, the poem brings out the poor condition of blacks in American society.

Whereas in the poem, ‘The Lovers of the Poor’, the poet talks about the women who are the lovers of the poor, which means the rich ladies who want to help the poor. Even though they claim that they want to help the poor people who are black, deep down, there lies a disparity, which they never want to erase. This is evident when the poet says, Their guild is giving money to the poor, (Brooks, 1960, p. 1463) which is a satirical comment at the willingness to offer only monetary support, but not equality or love. Even though Brooks never mentions directly about the unwillingness of the rich to help out the poor, the undercurrent of this notion comes out through the poem, especially in lines such as they winter in Palm Beach, cross the water in June; attend, When suitable, the nice Art Institute (Brooks, 1960, p. 1465). The end of the poem summarizes the strong image of the black and white divide, perhaps the money can be posted, perhaps two may choose another slum (Brooks, 1960, p. 1465).

Thus, Brooks brings about a strong undertone of an impoverished black society, by emphasizing the divide. While in, ‘The Bean Eaters’, there is the image of a black household which is rented, ‘The Lovers of the Poor’ talks about the way in which the affluent looked at the poor, in an almost hypocritical manner.


Brooks, G (1960). The Bean Eaters. In Perkins, G, and Perkins, B, Eds. (2007).  The American Tradition in Literature, Volume II, 12th edition. (p. 1462-1463) New York: McGraw-Hill
Brooks, G (1960). The Lovers of the Poor. In Perkins, G, and Perkins, B, Eds. (2007).  The American Tradition in Literature, Volume II, 12th edition. (p. 1463-1465) New York: McGraw-Hill