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a song in the front yard-by Gwendolyn Brooks

Updated on December 19, 2012
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a song in the front yard

a song in the front yard

-by Gwendolyn Brooks

I've stayed in the front yard all of my life.

I want a peek at the back

Where it's rough and untended and hungry weed grows.

A girl gets sick of a rose.


I want to go in the back yard now

And maybe down the alley,

To where the charity children play.

I want a good time today.


They do some wonderful things.

They have some wonderful fun.

My mother sneers, but I say it's fine

How they don't have to go in at quarter to nine.

My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mac

Will grow up to be a bad woman.

That George'll be taken to Jail soon or late

(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).


But I say it's fine. Honest, I do.

And I'd like to be a bad woman, too,

And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace

And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

The Girl in the Poem

The female in the poem, perhaps Gwendolyn Brooks herself, sees her life as a well-kept front yard. Because the front yard is what other people see. She wants to play in the back yard, the messy part of the yard where the other children play. "Charity children" may have come from the young girl's mouth, but more than likely her mother put those words there.

The children who seem poor in her mother's eyes are judged. They are dirty, bad, and lacking parental control, at least according to Gwendolyn's mother. Even makeup and stockings of lace are put into Gwendolyn's head as bad things. Maybe considered as seductive things to her mother. No, Gwendolyn should stay put in the front yard, seen as respectable, remain in her social class and setting, not go play in the dirt with the poor children and become a bad woman too.

Children vs Adults

Children have the awesome gift of innocence. When not molded by adult words they can accept other's more easily than adults would. Less judgment, less harsh words. Yet somehow the phrase "children can be cruel" is put in. Are they really or do they pick up things from the parents, from the media and society as a whole.

Gwendolyn's little girl in the poem represents the unbiased child who'd rather be considered a charity child, a poor child, a bad woman, or risk jail just to have fun and get out of her strict boring life. A life of where clothes are to be kept clean, no horseplay, and early bedtimes. Gwendolyn doesn't see the "charity children" as poor, she see's them as lucky. Her mother on the other hand sees them as dirty and unguided. Her mother sees the social class standards while her daughter just see's the child. And isn't that how it should be...a child just seeing another child as an equal.

Now day's in school the poorer class can be looked down upon for not having the name brand shoes and clothes. But in all reality does the social class really have a role on who grows up to be "bad" or not? No. In reality social class among parents can be worse. I come from a town where if your parents weren't known in town then you weren't known in town. Should the social class be passed down like that? In Gwendolyn's eyes it does but she's young enough that she'd rather be considered poorer just to have some fun, some restrictions loosened.

Is there a way to shield our children from our own biased behavior? I think this is an excellent poem of why we should, and why social class should not matter at all!

Tell me what you think!! Enjoy!


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