On the Sidewalk Bleeding

by Evan Hunter/Ed McBain

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Discussion Topic

Andy's motivations and regrets about joining the gang in "On the Sidewalk Bleeding"


Andy regrets joining the gang because he realizes, as he lies dying, that his decision has cost him a future with his girlfriend, Laura. Initially proud of his Royal gang identity, Andy regrets it when he understands that his attackers targeted him for his gang affiliation, not for who he is. Dying alone, he wishes to be seen as an individual rather than a gang member.

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Why does Andy regret joining the gang in "On the Sidewalk Bleeding"?

Your question asks, “Why is Andy regretful? Why does he regret joining the gang?” I must assume that you refer to the short story, “On the Sidewalk, Bleeding” by Evan Hunter.  In this short story, Andy regrets his decision to become a Royal (the name of his gang and rival to the Guardians) when he realizes that he is dying from a stab wound.

Andy is stabbed as he leaves a party (a joint) to buy cigarettes. The candy store, where he expects to make the purchase, is closed. Therefore, he decides to go to another store which is a short distance away. Unfortunately, as he enters the alley, someone stabs him and remarks, “That's for you Royal!”

Initially, despite the profusely bleeding wound, Andy does not realize that he is dying. However, once it occurs to him that no help is on the way and that he will likely die in the alley, he begins to regret his decision to join the gang. He realizes that he loves Laura, his girlfriend, and that he would like to build a life with her. He also begins to understand that his attackers did not target him personally. They simply responded to the purple silk jacket that identified him as a Royal, an enemy. Andy desperately wants to discard the jacket so that, when his body is discovered, he is identified as an individual and not simply as a gang member.

 Andy realizes too late that his decision to join the Royals was a mistake. He loses his opportunity to build a better life for himself with one who loves him (Laura). He also knows that the police will see only the purple silk jacket and assume that his death was inevitable and in consequence of the gang rivalry between the Royals and the Guardians. a

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Why did Andy join a gang in "On the Sidewalk Bleeding"?

Ironically, Andy joined a gang to gain what he believed would be a worthy identity. The text tells us that the Royals and the Guardians were two of the biggest gangs in his area. Andy was especially proud when the Royals accepted him; at the time, he believed that he had gained a worthy title as a Royal gang member.

However, as he lay dying, he no longer reveled in being a Royal. He suddenly realized that he had never envisioned dying at such a young age. After all, he was only sixteen. There were still many things he wanted to do in life. Above all, he had hoped to one day marry Laura, his girlfriend.

As Andy lay dying, he wondered whether the Guardian member who stabbed him saw him as an individual. Andy did not want to die as a Royal gang member. He desperately needed to be known as an individual in his own right. In the last moments of his life, he concluded that a so-called title was little good if one was dead. The story is a sad one: eventually, Andy dies alone, with none of the Royals on hand to comfort him in his last moments.

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