Kaivan’s Outline

New Outline: Short Paper 1

-Throughout Chicago Poems, Sandburg’s portrayal of modern society and mass efforts required to build it emphasis both 1) the irony that building a modern society is at once a deeply human effort, yet in mass work we lose a level of humanity and 2) that individual, singular moments, are perhaps the most human and intimate

-Focus on 3 poems: On the Way, Passerby, Skyscraper

-Passers-By: early in the series…the term alone suggests a lack of depth, a shallow encounter and yet the feeling in this poem is one of movement, of the energy of the city, of “bustle”, we sense that the passers-by are all together
-Out of this togetherness, we get…The city: “And your voices rose and blend
To form the city’s afternoon roar”
-but this leads to the “hindering of an old silence” – something has been lost
-The rest of the poem seems to recall a faint memory of individuality, individual dreams, and hopes, and genuine “kisses” that are no longer….now do kisses have an agenda? In this capitalist, modern, built-up society
-connect back to title…passers-by have an agenda, they are transactional and rushing and not reflective – a loss of humanity….

-On the Way: talks about group activities…again the generic getting together of groups of people…but these are empty interactions….drinks with “lawyers” (a specific choice of profession…very cold and negative view usually – a lack of humanity implied) ….
-speeches from “trained tongues” – a lack of genuine interaction..all canned and pat engagement…together in groups, yet there is so far little humanity to be found in this modern society….
-“take an earful from me once” the author is begging for a moment of intimacy, of honest, human, interaction and engagement…
-he wants this to happen in nature – a stark contrast the modern city implied at the beginning of the piece.
-in this moment there would be self reflection and perhaps actualization as there is finally time to ask real questions like “what is truth” – this contrasts with empty encounters with lawyers over drinks….
-we realize that this may not be the best outcome – this modern society as in this genuine moment we could ask “How much do the wisest of the world’s men know about
where the massed human procession is going?”

Body 3
-Skyscraper: as the physical embodiment of modern society
-monotony and routine are a result of this new era….where “hour by hour” the same thing happens again and again…..
-People in this poem are referred to in the plural as men and women and boys and girls and they are all the same.
-This is emptiness
-the only human moments occur for the individual….
-a man who shoot another man….referred to in th singular
-“each girl” has emotion as they cry and smile at work but under the duress of a generic plural “master-men”
-an individual experience for watchmen is also reflective of humanity…but this can only happen “over the sleeping city”




Kaivan —

I really like the analytic structure beginning with “Passers-by,” proceeding to “On the Way,” and ending with “Skyscraper.”  The titles of the poems already suggest a trajectory, a progression from casual encounter, to some sense of shared purpose, to an emblematic collective urban statement.  I agree with you that, in all three instances, intimacy emerges as an unexpected presence against all odds.   In “Passers-by,” strangers met on the street leave behind persistent memories (“written on your mouth”).  In “On the way,” we are explicitly told that humanity comes out of “the mob.”  And in “Skyscraper,” the repetition of the word “soul” makes it clear that this poem is not just about brick and mortar but something else, something more (“By day the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the sun and has a soul,” “By night the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the stars and has a soul”).   Your attention to plurals and singulars — and the meaningfulness of the former — seems exactly right.  Looking forward to an illuminating essay!       — wd





Taking modern American cultural themes and values in the 2016 context, to what extent are McTeague and The Junge representative of modern America?

Background: In class we discussed the ways in which we felt The Jungle may be an outdated portrayal of American consumerism/culture. However, McTeague and The Jungle are such broad strokes of American history and the themes and motifs of those times, I find we can interpret them as deeply relevant in the modern American context.

Thesis: In McTeague greed and a constant quest for more leads to the undoing of each character. In The Jungle, consumerism, individuality, and ultimately a loss of faith in institutions are prevalent. I assert that these main themes as articulated in national narratives today are very clearly still foundational to American culture today.

Body 1:McTeague – Greed

example 1

-In McTeague almost every character we meet is driven to an undesirable end as a result of their greed. Greed is an obvious and recurring theme in the novel, but the depth of the greed – bordering on illness is what offers its distinct relevance in modern context. Whether true or untrue the narratives that drove much of the election coverage centered around greed as the ultimate undo-er.
-Start with McTeague’s choice to lie about his dentistry credentials…the driver of this act must be a greed for more income (as there is no suggestion he does this out of passion)…
-ultimately greed causes him to tell this lie and it leads to his undoing….
-Compare to the Big Short 2015 – Academy Award nominated movie on the 2008 crash and its aftermath ….
-clear thesis of the movie is similar in that it blames both consumers and the banking industry for greed that leads to their own undoing.
-specifically, much like McTeague, the entire industry is charged guilty of a malpractice and dishonesty that leads to their undoing…

example 2

-When Trina takes her money out to literally admire it and play with it….her greed and treatment of money as an end itself instead of a means to an end leads to her demise.

-While the veracity of the claims don’t matter for the purposes of this paper, two main similar media narratives relate to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Each is extremely wealthy and each stands the close to becoming the most powerful individual in the world. Even here, an obsession with accumulating money for its own sake is driving news coverage of the election. The main issue at hand here is not that pursuing income in wrong, but rather the pointless pursuit of money leading to demise.

Hundreds of articles have been written about Clinton receiving high fees for speaking to Wall St. Regardless of the Clintons’ uses for that money, the prevalent narrative of both the Media and her opponents was that she should and would be undone by her pointless chase of more and more money.

The same narrative is at play in analyzing the behaviors of the Trump Foundation and Trump University. Here a similar narrative exists in that arguably someone with billions of dollars need not chase the type of small profits to be made from these organizations…yet doing so has led to the possibilities of criminal investigation and losing the Presidency.

….in each case, the money is not seen as a means but as an end itself and chasing that end is portrayed as the catalyst for demise.

Body 2: The Jungle

Three main themes in the Jungle are consumerism, individuality, and the loss of faith. While consumerism is perhaps most obviously relevant with daily news often seeking to expose corporate corruption and malpractice, individuality and loss of faith are also critical narratives in modern America.

Consumerism as a driver
-the house as a misguided choice…driven by consumerism and a culture Jurgis and his family make a terrible and impractical choice…
-this same narrative is clearly relevant in the 2008 crash discussed above

-Jurgis takes it upon himself to earn more and provide for the family…there is no question of who can help…etc…
-This is center of the the present narrative around immigrants…national debate centers around whether or not immigrants (undocumented as well) share Jurgis’s mentality or whether they expect “free” assistance

The loss of faith in bigger systems
-Jurgis is cheated by the bartender, ruined by his factory job and the novel makes clear that the political system in Chicago is unreliable and corrupt
-Today this is an extremely prevalent narrative both economically and politically speaking. In terms of the 1%, occupy wall st etc as they claim a capitalist system is failing them (as it failed Jurgis) and politically as Democrats and Republicans alike shunned their core parties to support “anti-Establishment” candidates like Sanders and Trump — who played off the idea of a rigged and unfair system.




Kaivan —

I really like the comparison between the America of McTeague and The Jungle and the America of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Since this is a short, 5-page paper, you need a sharper focus and a tighter argument.  Perhaps the best way to proceed is to dwell on the contrast between these two periods of American history.  Jurgis’s relation to his clearly enumerated dollars and cents is entirely different from Trump’s relation to his unspecified billions.  Likewise, Trina’s intensely sensuous attachment to her gold coins is entirely different from Clinton’s abstract relation to Goldman Sachs.  I look forward to analytic rigor and complex distinctions in your essay.        — wd


Dear Kaivan,


Great outline! I agree with Professor: there are a lot of big ideas here, and trying to cover them in five pages might force you to treat everything simplistically, which would be a shame. I think you touched on something really cool with the idea of the housing crisis and the current attitude towards immigrants, which is a worse problem in Europe right now with the refugee crisis. Perhaps try taking the idea of the housing crisis and using it to show the relevancy of these books. The people behind the scenes certainly played with money (Trina), the housing crisis literally relied on people making risky choices due to consumer culture/credit culture (Jurgis), and the housing crisis obviously stacked the odds against a class for whom life was already expensive (Jurgis.1). You could use the election to frame your whole essay as well, I’m sure, I just think the housing crisis works best out of the three ideas you mentioned (housing crisis, immigrant phobia, 2016 Election). Immigration would be tough, since I don’t think it works with McTeague.

Also, I personally would focus on Trina and Jurgis. I don’t think McTeague was all that greedy; his parents just wanted him to have a better life than that of a miner. Beyond that it was Trina and Marcus who goaded him into wrongdoings. But he never really pinched pennies. Furthermore, Trina and Jurgis would have a good upstairs/downstairs dynamic in an essay. In McTeague, Trina is the one pulling the strings. She steals from McTeague without him knowing it, and when he starts to realize it, she confuses him with a barrage of words that he can’t understand. (omg parallels) Jurgis, on the other hand, gets confused by these fast talkers with subclauses and fine print meant to do him in. He becomes the Trinas of the world’s victim, as happened to many victims during the housing crisis.

Either way, super cool topic that opened my eyes up to a new possible reading of these books. And that was just your outline! Excited to see the finished product!

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