Cream of Wheat | Study Guide

Lucille Clifton

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Course Hero. "Cream of Wheat Study Guide." Course Hero. 16 Aug. 2019. Web. 28 Oct. 2021. <>.

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Course Hero. (2019, August 16). Cream of Wheat Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "Cream of Wheat Study Guide." August 16, 2019. Accessed October 28, 2021.


Course Hero, "Cream of Wheat Study Guide," August 16, 2019, accessed October 28, 2021,

Cream of Wheat | Symbols


Chef's Cap

In "cream of wheat," the Cream of Wheat man's chef's cap (a mushroom-shaped white hat sometimes referred to as a "toque" or "baker's cap") symbolizes how he is imprisoned in his role and has no control over his own identity. In the poem the speaker describes him "trying to remove [his] chefs cap." Trying implies that he is either unsuccessful or the attempt is very difficult, further emphasizing how the chef's cap strips him of active agency and limits him. The chef's cap is the most identifiable aspect of the Cream of Wheat man's persona, and in trying to remove the cap, the speaker attempts to strip away this persona. Whether or not he is successful at removing the cap, when he returns to his shelf and to his box, he will be pictured again wearing the hat.

Grocery Shelves

Much like the chef's cap represents the burden of the speaker's forced identity, the grocery shelves symbolize the dehumanizing and depersonalizing power of commercialism. While the supermarket is closed for the night, the mascots are allowed to escape from their boxes and from the shelves and wander the aisles, but when dawn arrives and store hours resume, the mascots must return to the confinement of their shelves. It's also possible that in returning to their shelves the mascots are separated, as different products in stores are kept in entirely different areas of the market.

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