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    Animal Imagery Used in the Poem “Chicago” and the Book Manhattan Transfer

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    Animal imagery is used in both the poem Chicago and the book Manhattan Transfer, Chicago was written by Carl Sandburg in 1916. The poem illustrates Sandburg s opinion of the city of Chicago during that time period. Although Sandburg thinks Chicago is a good place, he gives an honest account of the condition of Chicago by acknowledging the negative aspects of the city too. Manhattan Transfer was Written during the same time period as Chicago, in 1925, by John Dos Passos. Animal imagery appears mainly in the first chapter, Ferryslip. Using painterly words, Dos Passos illustrates life in Manhattan City from many points of view. Constant Juxtaposition of characters and plots reveals a generally negative View of the city. Sandburg and Dos Passos use animal imagery in both similar and different ways. Sandburg uses animal imagery three main times in the poem Chicago. He first describes the city as the hog butcher for the World, this phrase produces a harsh and raw image, because the slaughtering of hogs is a graphic process.

    A hog butcher cares for hogs in order to kill them for their meat. Chicago then, supports its citizens only destroys them in the end With issues such as crime or unemployment. Therefore, Chicago as a hog butcher relates to the struggle associated With liVing in a large, crowded city. The pressures of city life defeat people in the long run. Chicago is not only a hog butcher, but one for the World. This phrase shows Chicago s size in relation to the world. Chicago is a large, powerful city controlling not only the people that live there but also the world. This relates to the threat new American cities placed on the former European strongholds. Hog butcher for the world can also be taken more literally. If hog butcher is not used to directly describe the city, it can be used to show Chicago 5 economic importance. The city is then an abundant meat producer on a global scale.

    This interpretation still illustrates Chicago 5 power because the rest of the world is dependent on Chicago as a food source. Sandburg calls the City fierce as a dog With tongue lapping for action. His choice of the animal dog is interesting because dogs are usually thought of as compassionate, friendly animals. Dogs are characterized as man s best friend. Therefore, the dog of the city is something generally thought of as positive, that is really causing destruction. The dog of the city could be a corrupt government official, mobster or politician. Sandburg describes the dog as fierce portraying a wild, untrained animal. This parallels Chicago, an unexperienced, young, yet harsh city, The dog s tongue is lapping for action, implying that it is hungry. The dog could be literally hungry for food and nourishment, like the stan/ing homeless of the city 5 streets. It also could be hungry for a confrontation fight or challenge, like the government and gangsters that ruled the city. Sandburg continues to describe the dog, saying that it is cunning as a savage pitted against the Wilderness.

    Chicago shares those characteristics as an uneducated. newly corrupted, yet shrewd place. One must know the rules of the streets to sun/ive in Chicago.  The dog is pitted against the Wilderness. where the Wilderness is the untamed, hard reality of the streets. Not knowth one s way around the streets of Chicago is as dangerous as being lost in a dense forest. Dos Passos uses animal imagery in Ferryslip. The first sentence of the chapter, three gulls wheel above the broken boxes, orangerinds, spoiled cabbage , describes the rubbish laying around the ferry house. Gulls are naturally scavengers Who feed off other s Waste. Gull used as a verb means to take advantage of something. As the city decays. it must gull to survive. The city of Manhattan is a gull who takes from the countryside in order to sun/ive. As a scavenger, Manhattan feeds off the country for both agricultural foods and human workers to keep the city alive and functioning.

    Unlike the small rural towns, Manhattan cannot sun/ive on its own and must take from its surroundings. The theme of decay continues Within the first paragraph Dos Passos uses the adjective manure smelling to describe the ferry house tunnel. Animals secrete manure as waste. This Waste begins at the very entrance to the city: the tunnel that connects the outside world to the city. Manhattan has used up all its natural resources. Every inch of land is covered With huge buildings that tower into the sky. There is no beauty or trees or grass, rust waste and decay that is spilling out of the city at the ferry tunnel. The waste can also describe the decay of the quality of city life. As the city rots, so does the citizens happiness, morals, living standards and Welfare. Rows of tenement houses cram people into tiny unsanitary rooms, and people work laboring jobs for little pay. In every chapter of Manhattan Transfer at least one individual is at a bar getting drunk. Within one paragraph, Dos Passos communicates the decaying condition of Manhattan.

    Dos Passos then describes a newborn baby as a knot of earthworms. This dehumanizes the baby, as does her lack of name, Ellen, until later in the chapter. Eanhworms are one of the structurally least complex organisms, have no intelligence and burrow in the dirt. Earthworms, like gulls, feed off organic debris. Comparing the baby Ellen to an earthworm is obviously degrading. Ellen 5 character grows up to have earthwormr like characteristics. She is helpless on her own, feeds off men. and burrows her feelings in lies. Unlike most of the characters Ellen was born in the city of Manhattan. This almost dooms her to an unpleasant life. She is born a helpless earthworm in a huge city of skyscrapers and decay. Dos Passos shows the degression of the people in the city to lesser beings, while the city itself gives rise to huge structures. Perhaps instead of the city being the scavenger it is the people within the powerful city that must scavenge to sun/ive.

    Furthermore, Ellen s birth is just an occurrence, instead of a celebration of human life. Her mother responds to her birth flatly and unexcited, much like an animal would. Later in the chapter, the Ellen 5 mother says, Its not mine. Take it away Even though the baby is a female human being. she is not used in her reference. Instead, the baby is referred to as it, a Word substituted for things or animals. Clearly, Ellen is not thought of as important to society even by her own mother, she is more of a pesty animal. Three other occurrences of animal imagery appear in Ferryslip. Each time, an animal characteristic is used to describe a human. The ferry Violinist has a monkey 5 face. Monkeys are curious, playful animals. They are also the smartest animal next to humans, here, comparing the violinist to a monkey does not necessarily degrade him. instead the violinist appears to be more intelligent that the ferry passengers.

    He enjoys his life and his work. perhaps unlike the passengers being herded into the city forwork. Next, Dos Passos describes Bud as having a skinny turkey s throat. Turkeys are unintelligent birds. Bud is also not veiy smart and has bad grammar. Turkeys are hunted for their meat. Due to a murder Bud committed in his past. he thinks he is being hunted by detectives he imagines in states of paranoia. In a later chapter, Bud can not handle his paranoia and he commits suicide. Later in Ferryslip Ellen s father, Ed, tells a man of Ellen 5 recent birth, but says it sheepishly. Sheep are animals that follow each other in a herd and blend in With one and other. Overall, Sandburg uses animal imagery to animate the city of Chicago into a livmg, breathing, organism, Unlike Manhattan Transfer, no human characters are mentioned in the poem.

    Although Sandburg 5 overall theme of the poem is that Chicago has is a good place, he uses animal imagery to show the unpleasant, yet realistic sides of the city. Because animals are a lesser beings than humans, they better represent the bad aspects of Chicago. The analogy of hog butcher for the world animates the city and gives it the personality of a powerful controller. This phrase also positions Chicago in relation to the rest of the world, by referring to Chicago as a fierce dog lapping for action , he shows the corruption of the city. This phrase signifies that someone or something is causing destruction to the city, although appearing to be pOSlIlVe, Cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness shows the city 5 physical condition. The streets are not safe. This phrase also shows the starkness of living in Chicago. In comparison to Sandburg, Dos Passos does not use animal imagery to make the city come alive.

    He uses animal imagery in many different ways. Like Sandburg, Dos Passos uses animal imagery to show Manhattan 5 position relative to the outside world. The gulls show that Manhattan is, not a leader like Chicago, but a scavenger of the countryside. Dos Passos communicates the image of decay of Manhattan by telling of the orangerinds, spoiled cabbage, and manure—smell around the ferry house. These words illustrate not only the physical decay of the city, but also the decay of the living conditions within the city. He also uses animal imagery by associating the human characters with animal qualities. He describes a newborn baby as a knot of earthworms. He refers to the ferry Violinist as having a monkey 5 face. He describes Bud as having a turkey s throat. Ed replies to a question sheepishly Dos Passos uses these associations to give the characters personalities similar to animals.

    On the outside, they seem to be average people, but when referred to as animals, it is shown that they behave much like them. Perhaps Dos Passos is saying that the city has made the humans animals. He is shoWing the degration of the human characters Within the city to lesser beings. Here. like Chicago, Dos Passos shows how the city has taken control of it s citizens. Both Sandburg, in the poem Chicago, and Dos Passos, in the book Manhattan Transfer, use animal imagery in Within their works. What is being compared to an animal and what is given animal characteristics both differ and are similar. Despite their differences, the overall message is clear. By using animal imagery, both authors show decay, destruction and other negative aspects of the city.

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    Animal Imagery Used in the Poem “Chicago” and the Book Manhattan Transfer. (2023, Mar 16). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/animal-imagery-used-in-the-poem-chicago-and-the-book-manhattan-transfer/

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