by Hart Crane

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Social Outcasts

One concept in this poem is that there will always be social outcasts who are not accepted by the majority of society. These individuals, including the speaker of the poem, make "meek adjustments" in order to try to get by and to survive in a society that is often hostile to them, and they feel gratified by their "random consolations"—small moments of happiness granted to them, it seems, by accident and not design. The speaker discusses not only the lives of these outcasts, but their deaths as well, and his description of their feelings, lives, and deaths seems to imply that they will always exist, and they will continue to be the people who most listen to their own hearts.

Love and Humanity

It is always possible to retain one's humanity. The outcasts, who must survive on moments of accidental happiness from the world, still manage to love it. When individuals like this find a starving kitten on the street, they have the heart to take it up and treat it with care and concern (a care and concern that they are not really shown by anyone else). Though they will not profit financially from this action, they do it anyways, because they can "evade . . . all else but the heart." They are compelled to do as their loving hearts direct them. They have retained their humanity even when they have little else.


The poem makes it clear that the wider world is largely an unhappy and materialistic place. The speaker describes the "inevitable thumb / That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us," describing some apparently powerful person counting out their money—the currency which rules the world. These people bent on material gain lack the innocence of people like the little Tramp, and so they cannot find the "grail of laughter" in everyday objects like the outcasts can. They only care about money, and so they are unhappy and unfeeling. The speaker seems to imply that these people, who do not follow their hearts, are living a lesser life.

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