Ballad of Pearl May Lee in Gwendolyn Brook's Street in Bronzeville

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Ballad of Pearl May Lee in Gwendolyn Brook's Street in Bronzeville

Gwendolyn Brook’s “Ballad of Pearl May Lee” came from her book called Street in Bronzeville. This book exemplifies Brook’s “dual place in American literature” (Smith, 2). It is associated with Modernist poetry, as well as the Harlem Renaissance. This book is known for its theme of victimizing the poor, black woman. “Ballad of Pearl May Lee” is a poem that uses tone to represent the complex mood of the ballad. While tone and mood are often used interchangeably, there are differences even though they often work together in a poem. A poem’s mood refers to the atmosphere or state of mind that the poem takes on. This is often conveyed through the tone, which is the
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Laughing still. / Though never was a poor girl lorner” (l. 10, 11). The speaker’s mood has changed from mocking and carefree to lonely, which results in the mood of the poem changing with her. By the fifth stanza, the speaker has taken on feelings of despair. This transition occurs when she says, “Oh, dig me out of my don’t-despair. / Pull me out of my poor-me.” (l. 29, 30). The speaker reveals that’s she is upset, but “poor-me” makes the reader assume that she feels bad for herself more than she feels bad for Sammy. As far as the reader is concerned, her sadness is more of self-pity than any sympathetic feeling for Sammy. However, this does create a shift in the mood, making the poem slip into a stage of despair. This despair soon turns into anger around the seventh stanza where she says, “Often and often you cut me cold, / And often I wished you dead.” (l. 44, 45). Again, this shift from despair to anger occurs with an episodic shift from the present to the past “school days.” This informs the reader that she is angry looking back at the situation during their school years, but presently she feels self-pity. These episodic shifts are responsible for letting the reader know how the speaker is feeling, depending on what stage in time she looks back on. Brooks chose a very realistic way to represent her reflection, which makes the

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