Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*New York City

*New York City. America’s greatest city typifies the urban metropolis of the industrialized United States. Scenes of wharfs, skyscrapers, tenement dwellings, and even streets form the backdrop for incessant noise and activity. Beginning with workers whose jobs are tailored to the building trades—from architects down to bricklayers and carpenters’ helpers—the people of many languages construct their lives as they make their homes and places of work in the busy cityscapes of New York, Chicago, and other urban centers of industry and trade. The skyscraper is the “Tower of Babel,” erected by people of all languages who come from all over the world to settle and build their lives in the land of opportunity. From the wealthy industrialist to the poverty-stricken homeless of the city, the voices of the people blend in the raucous song of the big city.

*Great Plains

*Great Plains. Great central region of the United States, stretching from the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Upper Mississippi basin in the east, and from Texas in the south into Canada in the north. As in the great cities, people from “six continents, seven seas, and several archipelagoes,” build railroads, bridges, riverboats, and roads that connect their settlements. In the Texas Panhandle and the high plains, the cowboys and cattle shiver in the cold winds that sweep from the North Pole to Amarillo, Texas, their only windbreak a barbed wire fence or the North Star. Voices heard on the prairies, in the deserts, and in Pacific Ocean ports define their lives in terms of their jobs—railroad men, meat wholesalers, fishermen, shippers, politicians, trial lawyers, merchants, waitresses, and housewives—and in so doing, describe the breadth and diversity of the land that is their home.

As Sandburg describes the people who construct the nation as they construct their dwellings and workplaces, he defines the character they impart to the “United States of the Earth.” It is infused with their contradictory spirits of courage and fear, despair and hope—builders and wreckers blending together in a restless but accommodating land with a republican government that guards individual freedom and inspires hope of future success for its people. In a very real sense, the land itself in all its diversity is the setting for this epic of the rise of the United States and its people’s struggle for survival.

The People, Yes Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Benét, William Rose. “Memoranda on Americans.” Saturday Review of Literature 14, no. 17 (August 22, 1936): 6. Written at the time of the publication of The People, Yes, this review discusses the work as a mélange and criticizes a lack of cohesiveness and depth. Provides a starting point for a comparison of the early criticisms of Sandburg’s works with later discussions.

Crowder, Richard. “The People and the Union.” In Carl Sandburg. New York: Twayne, 1964. Discusses Sandburg’s skill as a writer, the development of the concept of the work and how it exemplifies the culmination of the poet’s career. Focuses on the importance of the book to sociologists and historians as an enchiridion of folk literature.

Duffey, Bernard. “Carl Sandburg and the Undetermined Land.” The Centennial Review 23 (Summer, 1979): 295-303. A reevaluation of Sandburg as being more than merely a sentimental or populist poet. Discusses Sandburg’s poetry as an authentic voice with a wholeness of perception rooted in identification with the American people.

Golden, Harry. Carl Sandburg. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1961. Examines Sandburg’s personality and how it related to his writing. Includes a discussion of The People, Yes as a poetic definition of the elemental forces love, death, life, and work.

Hoffman, Dan G. “Sandburg and ‘The People’: His Literary Populism Reappraised.” The Antioch Review 10 (June, 1950): 265-278. Examines the limitations in Sandburg’s efforts to exemplify communal rather than individual emotion. Contains a thorough discussion of the theme and motifs of The People, Yes.