Short Paper Outline – Sandburg’s Crowds


Intro: Sandburg is fascinated by crowds/masses of people, and they way they make up a city.

Thesis: Sandburg uses each crowd he describes in order to emphasize a different facet of the Chicago community.


By ethnicity

Fish Crier (pg 7)—Jewish man – here he is singular, but he represents the mass of Jewish fish sellers—happy in his own ignorant way

The Shovel Man (pg 7)—Juxtaposition of shovel man working for almost no money to the dark-eyed woman who believes that the immigration to America was good for them

We need someone to love us to be worth anything in the world – either a group or an individual person that gives us affirmation

Picnic Boat (pg 8)—optimistic view of immigrants

Happiness (pg 8)—Crowd of Hungarians – Hungarians are a bit of red herring – they are indistinguishable; if you like somebody, you refer to them as a single person, but Sandburg gives this Hungarian crowd a distinguishing factor

Population Drifts (pg 13)—life beats the romanticism out of you: is it worth it?

Main points Sandburg brings up: Disillusionment with the American dream/immigration; optimistic view of happiness in profession and ethnic community


By labor

Halsted Street Car (pg 4)—calling upon cartoonists because the faces are almost caricatures of helpless workers

Working Girls (pg 14)—juxtaposition of romanticism; certain pride in the knowledge that accompanies being a “working girl”

To Certain Journeymen (pg 17)—all are equal in death

Ice Handler (pg 19-20)—repetitive and almost obnoxious facet of working in the ice industry is that the ice will melt—you will have good days and bad days on the job, and you will feel worthless, but you are not

Main points: Individuals represent the workers of their profession as a whole; you will toil but you have certain knowledge of the city and of the real world that you should take pride in


By the generalized “masses” in Chicago (labor + ethnicity)

Chicago (pg 1)—Sandburg is biased, proud of his city

Masses (pg 2)—poor don’t have to show off like the epic nature does, but it’s a beautiful mass all the same

The Walking Man of Rodin (pg 6)—The working men are the legs of Chicago and they’re the foundation of Chicago: the head is the faces, politicians and rich upper crust but you don’t really need that, you need the poor manual labor. Brings out dignity of not thinking, a non-intellectual life

Fellow Citizens (pg 20-21)—happiness of mayor and millionaire, who think they know happiness vs. the true happiness of an accordion player

Bronzes (pg 25)—Move from passive to active – as if they could get up and go tomorrow

Not such a bad thing for them to be bronzes either – we do need monuments – we need something that will last and will not fail like the rest of us

Skyscraper (pg 29-31)—idea of enduring monument

Main points brought up: Chicago is a city of endurance, exemplified by the monuments and skyscrapers—the poor people who you don’t give a second thought to actually shape the city


Conclusion: do the crowds shape Chicago, or does Chicago shape the crowds?

Answer: the crowds shape Chicago


About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
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