Rootabaga Stories Critical Essays

Carl Sandburg


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Although in his other work, Sandburg was a passionate social activist, in Rootabaga Stories he relaxes and has fun. In a different context, for example, Sandburg might have treated the Potato Face Blind Man as an object of pity or as a victim of the social system. A street person, he “used to play an accordion on the Main Street corner nearest the postoffice in the Village of Liver-and-Onions.” Instead, he tells delightful stories and dreams that amuse the children of the village.

Nevertheless, the words of the Potato Face Blind Man are as close to morality or social commentary as the stories come. Whitson Whimble, “the patent clothes wringer manufacturer,” reads the blind man’s sign, which says “You look at ’em and see ’em; I look at ’em and I don’t. You watch what their eyes say; I can only feel their hair.” He then tells his chauffeur to “go on.” In this brief exchange, Sandburg’s sympathies are with the working poor, represented by the Potato Face Blind Man, rather than with capitalists such as Whimble. Earlier, the Potato Face Blind Man has explained another of his signs to Pick Ups:“Some of the people who pass by here going into the postoffice and coming out, they have eyes—but they see nothing with their eyes. They look where they are going and they get where they wish to get, but they forget why they came and they do not know how to come away. They are my blind brothers. It is for them I have the sign that reads ‘I am Blind Too.’ ”

This gentle...

(The entire section is 625 words.)