Poetry Analysis: Learning Parts of Speech With Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are”

brooksGwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 17, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an African American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. Her poem, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are features all 9 Parts of Speech, making it not only the perfect poem to study the various Parts, but also enables students to enjoy the majesty of a prolific African American woman. 

Let’s review the 9 Parts of Speech: 

NOUN: A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea (ex. dog, school, television, freedom)

PRONOUN: A pronoun is word that takes the place of a noun (ex. he, she, her, they, them, it)

VERB: A verb describes action (ex. ran, sing, dance, talk)  or state of being (ex. is, were, be, are, was)

ADJECTIVE: An adjective is a word that describes  (modifies) a noun (ex. yellow, big, beautiful, saddened, fierce).

ADVERB: An adverb is a word that describes (modifies) a verb, an adjective, or another adverb (ex. loudly, carefully, under).

ARTICLE: An article is a word used to modify a noun, which is a person, place, object, or idea. Technically, an article is an adjective, which is any word that modifies a noun. Articles indicate general or generic (a, an) and specific (the). (ex. I want dog. vs.  I want the dog that I saw on t.v.). 

CONJUNCTION: A conjunction joins words, phrases, or clauses, and indicates the relationship between the elements joined. The acronym F.A.N.B.O.Y.S., which stands for For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So)  Coordinating conjunctions connect grammatically equal elements: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet. Subordinating conjunctions connect clauses that are not equal: because, although, while, since, etc. There are other types of conjunctions as well.

INTERJECTION: An interjection is a word used to express emotion. It is often followed by an exclamation point (ex. Help!, Fire! Yaay!).

PREPOSITION: A preposition is a word placed before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase modifying another word in the sentence (ex. on, with, over, before, between).

First, read the poem. Write down as many of the Parts of Speech that you can identify. My examples follow.

 The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves,

or, What You Are You Are

By Gwendolyn Brooks


  1. There once was a tiger, terrible and tough,
  2. who said, “I don’t think tigers are stylish enough.
  3. They put on only orange and stripes of fierce black.
  4. Fine and fancy fashion is what they mostly lack.
  5. Even though they proudly
  6. speak most loudly,
  7. so that the jungle shakes
  8. and every eye awakes—
  9. Even though they slither
  10. hither and thither
  11. in such a wild way
  12. that few may care to stay—
  13. to be tough just isn’t enough.”
  14. These things the tiger said,
  15. And growled and tossed his head,
  16. and rushed to the jungle fair
  17. for something fine to wear.
  18. Then!—what a hoot and yell
  19. upon the jungle fell
  20. The rhinoceros rasped!
  21. The elephant gasped!
  22. “By all that’s sainted!”
  23. said wolf—and fainted.
  24. The crocodile cried.
  25. The lion sighed.
  26. The leopard sneered.
  27. The jaguar jeered.
  28. The antelope shouted.
  29. The panther pouted.
  30. Everyone screamed
  31. “We never dreamed
  32. that ever could be
  33. in history
  34. a tiger who loves
  35. to wear white gloves.
  36. White gloves are for girls
  37. with manners and curls
  38. and dresses and hats and bow-ribbons.
  39. That’s the way it always was
  40. and rightly so, because
  41. it’s nature’s nice decree
  42. that tiger folk should be
  43. not dainty, but daring,
  44. and wisely wearing
  45. what’s fierce as the face,
  46. not whiteness and lace!”
  47. They shamed him and shamed him—
  48. till none could have blamed him,
  49. when at last, with a sigh
  50. and a saddened eye,
  51. and in spite of his love,
  52. he took off each glove,
  53. and agreed this was meant
  54. all to prevail:
  55. each tiger content
  56. with his lashing tail
  57. and satisfied
  58. with his strong striped hide.


Here is a partial review of the Parts of Speech I found in this poem. What else can you find?

Line 2: who said, “I don’t think tigers are stylish enough.”

     The word tigers is a plural noun. 

Line 3: They put on only orange and stripes of fierce black

  The word they is a pronoun. It takes the place of the plural noun tigers. 

Line 4: Fine and Fancy fashion is what they mostly lack.

      The words fine and fancy are adjectives.  These adjectives describe the word fashion.

Lines 9 & 10:   L9 Even though they slither  L10  hither and thither

      The words hither and there are adverbs.  These adverbs describe the verb slither

 Lines 16 & 17 contain prepositions. The word to is a preposition. 

     Line 16 and rushed to the jungle fair

     Line 17 for something fine to wear.

Line 18  Then!—what a hoot and yell

     The word Then! is an interjection. 

Lines 24 – 29 all end with powerful verbs that describes what each animal did. Each line begins with the word the, which is an article. 

  • The crocodile cried.
  • The lion sighed.
  • The leopard sneered.
  • The jaguar jeered.
  • The antelope shouted.
  • The panther pouted.

Lines 37 & 38 use conjunctions to connect individual words. The word and is a conjunction.

     Line 37 with manners and curls

     Line 38 and dresses and hats and bow-ribbons.


Feel free to copy and paste this lesson and use it as a supplement to your lessons on the Parts of Speech and/or African American Poetry. For more lessons that emphasize African Americans, follow my blog. Also, like us on Facebook, TAMS and ED Homeschool. Visit our website at http://www.tamsanded.com 

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