Intro to American Lit.
A Living City
Titles are commonly added to the beginning of a name to honor that name. John Smith, depending on what he has accomplished, can be addressed as doctor Smith, mister Smith, reverend Smith, attorney Smith, professor Smith, governor Smith, coach Smith, officer Smith, or captain Smith. One might wonder: why should these positions be given a title, but not others? Why not farmer Smith, telecommuter Smith, or hog butcher Smith? Chicago, by Carl Sandburg, gives ordinary jobs, such as a hog butcher, the honor of titles. Sandburg opens the poem with well worded apostrophe by giving the city of Chicago these honored jobs. Chicago does not symbolize these jobs, or contain people who have these jobs; Chicago actually has those jobs. After Sandburg establishes Chicago's different jobs, he goes on to talk about what other people say about Chicago. Although these things are phrased as accusations, the speaker does not interpret them this way; he or she admits that these problems are a real part of the city. The speaker does not get defensive in any way; instead, he or she goes straight to listing all of the positive things that Chicago has that the opposing cities do not. Maybe the opposing city's spokesperson leaves, or maybe the speaker just talks over them, either way, the speaker gets more and more excited as he or she describes Chicago until in the end he or she repeats what is said in the opening lines. Carl Sandburg attests the tenacity and iron will of lower class citizens residing in Chicago in many of his poems, including Mill doors, They will say, The shovel man, Passers by, subway, muckers, and of course, Chicago. Carl Sandburg uses personification and diction to show that Chicago is characteristic of a young and wild man full of vitality and spirit.
In Chicago, the speaker is not an emotionless robot. The speaker in this poem exemplifies the very subject he or she is speaking about. He or she is energetic, proud, and tough. The speaker comes right out into your face in the opening stanza. He or she boasts of a city that is "stormy, husky, and brawling" (line 4) with a tone of certainty. This tone is created through the use of short, choppy language full of hard consonants and grand descriptions including "city of big shoulders". This description makes the reader imagine a strong city, one that is not to be trifled with. Even so, people insult the city. These people are scornfully named "they". The speaker is unbothered, however, and only admits that the insults are accurate. Challenging them to find a city better suited to Chicago's jobs, the speaker sneers at the people. Sneering is what the speaker is doing, but the speaker is describing the city as if it is also sneering back at the people. Chicago is a "tall bold slugger" compared to the other "little soft cities" (both line 12 of stanza 2). At this point the speaker starts to get worked up, he or she begins to shout manly descriptions in short, bold lines. The descriptions are meant to describe the city, but also serve the purpose of describing the way the speaker is delivering the descriptions. Following the short lines, the speaker continues to escalate the now frenzied descriptions. Along with sweating, the city is now laughing uncontrollably, just as the speaker him or herself is also laughing maniacally. The speaker ends his or her retort by restating the grand depictions from the first stanza with the same tone of certainty as before.
The most evident literary technique used in Chicago is personification. In the first stanza, the speaker identifies multiple gritty occupations that can be found in the city, except he or she does not specify that the occupations can be found in the city. In fact, the speaker makes it seem as if the city is the one who works the jobs. At the beginning of the second stanza, the speaker talks to Chicago, referring to it as "you"...
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