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Burton 1 Shelley Burton Professor Camargo English 2100 The Longings of Young Girls: a song in the front yard

Gwendolyn Brooks poem, a song in the front yard, describes a longing for a different life. Throughout the poem, Brooks uses figurative language, tone, and connotation to aid in explaining a young womans desire to break free from her sheltered life to experience something different and exciting. The narrator uses the analogy of the front yard to describe her behavior and overall lifestyle thus far. She desperately longs to experience the back yard and all of the adventure it has to offer. A song in the front yard reveals an innocent young womans curiosity about a lifestyle dramatically different from her own. Figurative language is used throughout a song in the front yard to create a comparison between the life the narrator lives in the front yard versus the life she longs to have in the back yard. The narrator begins the poem by saying Ive stayed in the front yard all my life (Brooks 1). This term front yard is a figure of speech for the safe life of innocence she has always known. She continues by saying I want a peek at the back (2). The back is referring to rebellion and freedom. She describes the back yard by saying it is rough and untended and hungry weed grows (3). This description would be referencing the lifestyle of people who live in the back yard. They are wild and dirty and answer to no one. At the end of the first stanza, the narrator identifies herself as a female speaker by saying A girl gets sick of a rose (4). This line implies the boredom she has with the purity and innocence of her life so far. While her life has been free from trouble, it has also been void of freedom and adventure. The narrator spends the majority of the lines that follow describing the behaviors and actions of the people who live in the back yard, and her desire to live as they do. She ends the fourth and final stanza by claiming

Burton 2 that she wants to wear the brave stockings of night-black lace/ And strut down the streets with paint on my face (19-20). This powerful image reveals a young woman who would be proud to rebel against the accepted beliefs regarding proper female behavior. She wants to wear the black lace stockings with heavy makeup and not just walk, but strut. The tone throughout the first stanza is full of desire. It sets the mood for the lines that follow. The narrator begins the first stanza by painting a powerful image of the gritty back yard and ends it by saying, A girl gets sick of a rose (4). Her tone is not envious, but full of longing as she says in the second stanza I want a good time today (8). The third stanza begins with a tone of admiration toward those children in the back yard. The narrator says They do some wonderful things./ They have some wonderful fun (9-10). This definitely contributes to the narrators positive tone about a group of people and a lifestyle that most would likely look at negatively. Throughout the rest of the third stanza, the narrator describes her mothers view of the charity children. She says, My mother sneers, but I say its fine/ How they dont have to go in at a quarter to nine (11-12). The fact that her mother sneers at the thought of these people shows just how harshly she criticizes them. The tone implies that her disapproving attitude comes from her belief that her lifestyle is superior. The narrator goes on to say, My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae/ Will grow up to be a bad woman (13-14). Despite her mothers warnings, the narrator is still determined to break away from her safe and comfortable life to experience the freedom of having no rules or constraints. She recognizes that life in the other side of the yard has the potential to get her into trouble, yet she still longs to experience it. Her defiance toward her mother reveals that she is obstinate and will not be persuaded to keep up her well-behaved lifestyle. The narrators tone in the third stanza reiterates the fact that her opinion has been formed, her mind is made up and cannot be changed.

Burton 3 The connotations throughout a song in the front yard are essential to building the poems theme. The comparisons between the front yard and the back yard and their underlying meanings can be found throughout the poem. The second stanza begins, I want to go in the back yard now/ And maybe down the alley (5-6). Down the alley suggests venturing even further into the back yard, possibly encountering an entirely new experience. This young woman wants the full experience of rebelling against everything she knows. The narrator continues by adding that she wants to go where the charity children play (7). While the term charity children may sound demeaning, the narrators attitude implies that it is not meant to be. The term refers to the troubled adolescents who come from a lower social class than the narrator of the poem. They most likely partake in activities that the narrator has never experienced, yet she craves their company. She ends the second stanza by saying, I want a good time today (8). This line reiterates the fact that she wants to break free from her safe, comfortable life to experience the wildness of misbehaving with the charity children. In the fourth stanza, the narrators fierce and determined tone creates a pretty powerful image and brings the poem to a close.She says, But I say its fine. Honest, I do./ And Id like to be a bad woman, too (17-18). She knows that compromising her place in the front yard will have consequences, but she is willingly ready to accept them. She continues by saying she would like to wear the brave stockings of night-black lace (19). The fact that she refers to this attire as brave reiterates her complimentary view of these people who are considered to be in a lower class of society. Her perception of these women is far different from the connotations that their attire might suggest. Finally, she ends the poem by saying she would like to strut down the streets with paint on my face (20). The term strut aids in constructing the image of a woman who is not proper and refined. This term is usually not

Burton 4 meant to be complimentary, yet the narrator proudly embraces it. Also, she boldly refers to wearing makeup as paint on her face. Gwendolyn Brooks poem, a song in the front yard, employs devices such as figurative language, tone, and connotation to establish the theme of a young womans desire to break free from her conservative upbringing and experience something wild and dangerous. The figurative language used throughout the poem aids in creating the front yard and back yard analogies. The tone is filled with passion and conviction helps to construct the theme and drive it home. The connotations used throughout the poem give insight to the narrators attitude about her lifestyle and how desperate she is to change it. Ultimately, the theme of rebellion in the poem can be summed up in the first two lines: Ive stayed in the front yard all my life./ I want a peek at the back (1-2).

Burton 5 Works Cited Brooks, Gwendolyn. a song in the front yard. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Seventh Edition. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005. 1,193. Print.