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In what special sense is “Chicago” a poem of modern mid-America, not London, Paris,...

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peluza74 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Honors

Posted July 11, 2008 at 12:14 PM via web

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In what special sense is “Chicago” a poem of modern mid-America, not London, Paris, or Rome?

Comment on the use, of contrast for effect and the association of women with hunger

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted July 11, 2008 at 2:03 PM (Answer #1)

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Carl Sandburg's "Chicago" (1916) is his anthem to his beloved city Chicago.

The poem clearly emphasises its uniqueness. Its fame rests on the fact that unlike  the European capital cities  of London, Paris and Rome it has always been a centre for commodities trading. Its economic prosperity is due to both agriculture and industry especially the meat packing industry. Its a famous railroad hub and its  transportation and communication needs are well taken care of.

However, like all metropolises there is a seamy side to Chicago-prostitution, organised crime and urban poverty. But Sandburg condones these shortcomings by saying that they are nothing when compared to its energetic vitality: "Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning."

Sandburg uses contrast very effectively to mirror the vibrancy of Chicago: agricutlure/industry (stacker of wheat/tool maker);  crooked/brutal;  building/breaking rebuilding;   wrecking/planning;   city of big shoulders/hungry women and child.

Chicago is masculine. The only women mentioned in the poem are the prostitutes and the hungry women (mothers?) The brutal side to this prosperous and vibrant city is urban poverty. Sandburg is not ashamed of this for this is a common worldwide phenomenon: women and small children have to bear the brunt of urban poverty.

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