“A Song in the Front Yard” by Gwendolyn Brooks
The poem under analysis is quite multi-layered because it unites several senses, and explores several themes. Rich in symbolism, it infers no clichés of these symbols and metaphors, but rather gives space for interpretation. At one level, the speaker deals with the opposition between the rich and poor, the front yard and backyard being markers of belonging to one or another class. At the same time, it also implies the tension between freedom and confinement, and suggests a speaker willing to get rid of her limitations that the status and parents impose on her.
The poem starts with a confession: “I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life. I want a peek at the back”( 1-2). The phrase “all my life” pronounced by a young girl implies that she is tired and bored with her position. The fact that she wants a peek suggests that she has strict rules to follow, so she wants to break them secretly, as she is forbidden to step in the backyard.
Further in the text, the meaning of front yard and backyard is gradually uncovered. It is mentioned that the backyard is where “hungry weed grows”. This metaphor refers to poor children who might be literally hungry, and they are likened to weed because they are not nurtured the way garden flowers are. On the one hand, this means lack of care, but on the other hand it is about total freedom, something the speaker does envy. “A girl gets sick of a rose”, she says, meaning that her cloudless security and beauty is of no interest to her. Because her family is rather well-off, she is protected from troubles, but she feels that she is protected from life itself.
In contrast to her present life, the speaker wants to go to the backyard and beyond it in order to enjoy her time:I want to go in the backyard now And maybe down the alley,To where the charity children play. I want a good time today.(4-8) This stanza implies an idea that the girl longs to get closer to the world of poor people. She is unprejudiced and does see their life as something inferior to the way she lives. Neither does she see the backyard as something ugly or unattractive, as adults would see it. She does not draw this borderline between the rich and the poor and has different criteria for judgment: freedom and interest, as necessary aspects of play. The fact that the girl says that she wants it now implies impatience and childish stubborn concentration on one’s own desires.
Later on, the poem introduces the girl’s mother and the conflicting visions between them. The girl is charmed by the world of the backyard, she believes that her life is so much boring compared to theirs:They do some wonderful things.They have …