Alice Walker

We Alone by Alice Walker

In this famous poem, We Alone, based on humanity, love, and money, Alice Walker reveals the power within each human heart, and the power we have together when united in purpose. She begins We Alone with a strong statement and one that makes the reader stop and ponders the power of the human race. Alice Walker’s We Alone can be read in full here.

We Alone by Alice Walker


We Alone Analysis

Lines 1-4

We alone can devalue gold
in the marketplace.

It is a simple enough claim, yet it is somehow profound. It is profound because it is true, but who among us thinks of it often? The value behind gold, diamonds, and other “valuable” items is only there because of the ideas behind the value. The American dollar, for example, is nothing but a green piece of paper, but for the fact that humankind universally recognizes it as worth something. Upon reading these first five lines, the reader becomes aware of the power of the human heart. The first line “we alone” gives the reader a sense of responsibility. No one but humans can “devalue gold”. These lines reveal the power of care. What we care for, we value, and what we value becomes of worth because people have declared it valuable.


Lines 5-10

Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,

so much the worse
for you.

This section of We Alone reads almost like a warning. The speaker reveals that wherever there is gold, there is a chain. This chain symbolizes the chains that would bind a prisoner. For those who live for money are bound by money. They are owned by the love of money, and they are slaves to the idea of making more and more. In these lines, the speaker reveals that those who have gold, are chained to it, and that the gold and the chain make their owner “so much the worse”. This is not a new idea, but it is proclaimed in such a simple and profound tone that it touches the heart and makes the reader stop and ponder his own heart and whether or not it is changed by money.


Lines 11-13

Feathers, shells
are all as rare.

With these three short and subtle lines, the speaker makes a shocking suggestion. What if people universally agreed to no longer value gold? What if people decided to value beauty and nature rather than money and power. Now, these are, of course, the musings of a philosopher, not an economist. Nonetheless, the idea strikes a chord within the human soul. Readers are compelled to look into their own hearts and ask themselves, “what is it that I value?” The suggestions of “sea shaped stones” and “feathers” and “shells” as that which humankind should value reveals the speaker’s realization that true enjoyment of nature is of more value than wealth or power could ever hope to be.


Lines 14-17

This could be our revolution:
what’s scarce.

With these lines of We Alone, the speaker communicates to the reader that these musings are a possibility if only everyone would agree to act. The speaker claims that it “could be our revolution” to end the struggle for money and power and begin to value moments of connections with nature and other human beings. The speaker finally expresses a final thought on all that humankind values. She reveals that the revolution could finally happen when people would learn “to love what is plentiful as much as what is scarce”. Thus the speaker presents the idea that human love is what is behind the way the world works. Because we love power and material wealth, we place value on what is rare. However, if we could together agree to love all that nature has to offer, whether scarce or plentiful, we would surely enjoy a more thorough life.

Although the reality of this kind of shift taking place is nearly impossible, the words do cause the reader to venture into self reflection and to ponder what true value is. The reader is moved to question his own motives and values as they determine the course of his life.


Alice Walker Background

Alice Walker is one of the most loved African American writers. Her work has inspired many. In her early years, her mother was a maid and worked hard to provide a meager living for her and her seven siblings. Although she was raised in poverty and aspired to the position of renowned writer, this particular poem seems to suggest that the author does not relish fame or fortune. Rather, she suggests that fortune has a chain that binds its owner. She reveals that she has found enjoyment in seashells and feathers and other parts of nature. Though she has experienced poverty and fame, We Alone reveals that she does not find her enjoyment in fame or money or power. She rather would prefer that people would collectively give value to nature and one another and the simple pleasures of life rather than money and power.

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Allisa Corfman Poetry Expert
Allisa graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and English and taught World Literature and Composition at the high school level. She has always enjoyed writing, reading, and analysing literature.
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