E. B. White

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What is a short summary of the essay "Here is New York" by E. B. White? What is it about, and what is the main idea? Can you back up these ideas with details from the essay?

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The main idea of this long essay by a man closely associated with New York City (as the author of the New Yorker's Talk of the Town and frequent contributor to this quintessential New York magazine) is to celebrate New York (Manhattan) in all its diversity. White argues that the city is like poetry, compressing much into a few lines. He tries to describe the vast diversity of the city. He asserts it as the new capital of the world, an apt label as in 1949, the United States had finally fully assumed the mantle of world power. He argues that it is both a microcosm of the world and unlike any other place.

A difficulty with summarizing this essay, as with Whitman's Song of Myself, is that it is trying to encompass the entirety of what New York City is—from its homeless in the Bowery to its Lower East Side neighborhoods, from Broadway to Rockefeller Center, from its industrial ports to its subways and commuter buses, from commerce to art, from visitors to life long residents, from cheap diners to grand hotel restaurants. Not only does White paint the city as it is (1948–49) in broad strokes, he also attempts to describe the changes in the twenty years he has been there: the city has picked up its pace, has grown, and has become more garish and more crowded.

White also dwells in sweeping terms on the paradoxes or contradictions the city represents: it is so filled with people every person becomes insignificant and so can find privacy, it is filled with so many big events it is possible to entirely miss them all (or most of them), celebrities can be seated 18 inches away, yet that small space is a chasm. Ultimately and poignantly, the seemingly powerful, energized city, the new center of the world, is extremely vulnerable—to change and to attack: a few airplanes could take it down.

White's essay itself reflects the bombastic self confidence and sincerity of his time period. It captures a slice of life, a moment in New York City's being, and it stands itself as a monument to a style of writing that conveys the sense of a a city that is so transformed it is no longer the one White knew.

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In a real sense, the main theme of Here is New York is the improbability and impossibility of New York:

By rights New York should have destroyed itself long ago, from panic or fire or rioting or failure of some vital supply line in its circulatory system ....

White starts out this work by applying this improbability called New York to individuals saying:

New York ... can destroy an individual, or it can fulfil him ....

White couches this double faceted look at New York in ironical language that reads likes praise but delivers a message bespeaking harm.

The city is like poetry: it compresses all life ... into a small island and adds music ... the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but .... At the feet of the tallest and plushiest offices lie the crummiest slums.

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It sounds like you need help writing this.  You have a good start from the suggestions here, so let me add how to go about it.  Take the main theme you like, and write a solid thesis statement from it. Then, find specific examples and quotations to support it.  Don't forget page numbers!  In an essay, you would have three main examples and then in the body paragraphs develop them with this evidence.

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This story is one that combines the key themes of memory, time, and change, as the author revisits the city and comments upon the way that he remembers it and how it has changed since he was last there. In a sense, White tries to capture the spirit of New York and what makes it such a buzzing metropolis, and the quote posted above is an excellent example of this.

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One theme of White's essay is that New York differs from many other cities, partly because of the height of so many of its buildings.  New York has had to grow upward, White says, because it has not been able to expand easily in other directions.

Another theme of the essay involves the different kinds of people who come to New York and their different reasons for coming.  Thus, in a particularly famous paragraph, White writes as follows:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something ….Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.

 

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Basically, the text is about the New York E. B. White knew when he was growing up as compared to the New York he revisits much later (1948). White gives great detail to the things he remembers and how he cannot accept the changes which have happened since last being there.

For some, the main idea of the story is that we, as humans, have a hard time with change (even if it is staring us in the face).

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