The poem The Boy Died in My Alley by Gwendolyn Brooks tells a story of a woman finding a young boy dead in her alley after gunshots were heard. In this article, we will take a look at The Boy Died in My Alley and discuss the meaning of the poem.
Many famous writers and politicians were unnerved by the poem The Boy Died in My Alley. The New York Times wrote that “So moving was her writing during World War II that she became one of the first black writers to be widely known outside black circles. The White House press corps, covering President Harry S Truman’s campaign swing through Chicago in 1948, quoted her poem The Boy Died in My Alley. The poem itself became a national catchphrase for the often insurmountable obstacles blacks faced during that time period.
The New York Times went on to say that The Boy Died In My Alley “conveyed an outrage” and “captured the bitter mood of many blacks toward slum conditions at mid-century”. Many other famous people have been quoted as saying they were influenced by The Boy Died In My Alley. The poem embodies all of Brooks’ fury and pulls on all of America’s heartstrings as if Brooks herself was speaking of her own experiences. The Boy Died In My Alley is written with such power and conviction that it impels, without effort, the reader’s understanding of The Boy Died in My Alley.
The poem is so strong because Brooks witnessed these events first hand. The poem details the tragedy of Rudolph Reed’s death by fire on a cold winter night. The story takes place at 4:15 am when Gwendolyn walks out into her backyard which abuts an alleyway where trash is piled high. The only sound is “the cat gnawing something in the dark / And my own feet clicking along the iced sidewalk” (Brooks). This shows how at this time most people are asleep and The Boy Died in My Alley because of how secluded it is. The image Brooks creates makes the reader feel like The Boy Died In My Alley.
The next sentence brings a harsh reality to The Boy Died in My Alley when Brooks says “And I heard somebody say, ‘He died’” (Brooks). The simplicity of the statement along with the lack of elaboration leaves ambiguity for The Boy Died in My Alley. The poem has no distinct voice; therefore anyone can read it and picture themselves as The Boy Died In My Alley. This poetic move helps convey her message to all different kinds of American people: white and black. It also allows for this kind person, who would have otherwise gone on their life without The Boy Died In My Alley to The Boy Died in My Alley.
The poem also leaves The Boy Died In My Alley so the reader has a more personal connection with it and is able to The Boy Died in My Alley on their own terms. Brooks establishes Rudolph Reed as The Boy Died In My Alley because of what he represents: an average, hard working African American man who lived his life as best he could despite the harsh circumstances that surrounded him. “Rudolph was smart” says Gwendolyn Brooks about The Boy Died in My Alley, “He came from Oklahoma / Where they say such things happen” (Brooks).
The poem, The Mother , gives readers a better understanding of Brooks herself. The mother’s attempt to rid herself from the pain she feels regarding her son, who has been sent to jail for something he did not do brings to light Brooks’ true feelings toward racism and discrimination. The poem The Boy Died In My Alley takes place in a real alleyway located in Chicago. The author chose this specific place because she was familiar with it and knew that she could make it special through words.
The boy died here as well as many other boys whose names are lost to history or time itself. Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an American poet widely considered the first major African-American female poet. Born in Topeka, Kansas to parents David Anderson and Keziah (Wright) Brooks, she was the youngest of 13 children. The family moved to Chicago’s South Side in 1926 and resided there until 1940. Brooks published her first poem when she was still a student at Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King College).
In 1941 while working as an assistant editor for The Chicago Defender, Brooks attended a literary salon held by maverick poet Vachel Lindsay, who called his group “the Company of Men. ” The men included Gwendolyn among them after it only being two months since they had met. The women were not invited into their all male meetings because Lindsay claimed that they lacked conversational skills. The boy died in my alley, The garbage man came by. He said, “Clean out your backyards The boy died in mine. “
The idea of the poem is to show how The Mother feels about her son dying. The way it’s written gives off a sense of sadness and hopelessness. The author asks the question, where do dead children go? Does their spirit go to heaven or hell or does it just disappear all together? The poem was not written at an easy time for Gwendolyn Brooks because she suffered many losses throughout her lifetime. Her father passed away when she was just 13 years old then again at 19 years old when his heart suddenly stopped beating while working on his job site one night.
All that happened within five years. The poem The Boy Died In My Alley was written after the death of her son, husband and shortly before she lost both of her brothers. The title is very symbolic because most people don’t know where dead children go or what happens to them when they die. The Mother is showing that even though The Boy died in an alleyway, dirty and alone; he will always be there with The Mother as long as she lives.