Individual Analysis


Noted poet Gwendolyn Brook’s poem A Song In the Front Yard is heavy with literary devices and can be interpreted several different ways, as with most poems. At first glance, the poem seems to have a simple enough topic—it is describing the life of a young girl who desires a life that she can’t have. However, when you look deeper, the use of symbolism, metaphor, and the tone provide a deeper look at the theme of the poem.

To establish an individual interpretation of a poem, the tone is generally a good place to start. In this poem, since the girl is also the first-person narrator, the tone is largely representing her attitude. Considering the way in which the girl (who is also the narrator) speaks, it can be inferred that she has become a bit rebellious, more so than her life would allow. For instance, when the girl describes how much fun the children in the back yard have in the third stanza, the reaction demonstrates the girl’s attitude: My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine“ (line 11). Clearly, the girl is beginning to question her mothers opinions, and therefore, indirectly, her own opinions. Another example of the girl’s rebellious nature appears in the last stanza, “And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace / and strut down the streets with paint on my face.” Overall, the tone fits the deeper theme of the poem and is consistent until the end.

Considering the fact that the tone is a major part of the poem, syntax is therefore relevant as well, since the two are closely related. The syntax is straightforward and simple—which makes sense, since the narrator is a young girl and she speaks her mind, rather than using subtle phrases to say she disagrees. An example can be seen in the last stanza, “But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do” (line 17). This line provides support for the interpretation of both the tone, and a simple, straightforward syntax.

As I interpreted, the poem uses the metaphor of a front yard and a back yard to embody the girl’s life (the front) and the freedom of a different life she wishes to experience. Evidence of this is provided in the first stanza, “I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life. / I want a peek at the back” (lines 1 and 2). The metaphor sets the theme for the poem, and although not recurring throughout the poem can be best described as an epic metaphor.

Another literary device present in the poem is symbolism. The first example shows up in the first stanza: “Where it’s untended and hungry weed grows. / A girl gets sick of a rose” (lines 3 and 4). These two lines are in acute contrast to each other, and are intended to symbolize the differentiation between what the girl is living through and what she truly wants. The hungry weeds can be taken to symbolize an unhindered life, where she would be free to do as she desires, whereas the rose symbolizes her current life, which is extremely structured, and in which she is expected to conform to her mother’s rules and expectations.

In general, A Song in the Front Yard offers various interpretations, largely due to the fact that the symbolism, and metaphor, and tone all express the theme of the poem. Although on the outside the poem appears simple, the deeper meaning is truly within the use of literary devices and through the narrator’s manner of telling her story.