Chicago

Chicago

by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling,
Wrecking,
Planning,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Summary of Chicago

  • Popularity of “Chicago”: Carl Sandburg, a distinguished American poet, biographer, and journalist, wrote Chicago. It was first published in 1914. The poem talks about the typical life that is seen in Chicago. Most of the time, the city is seen darker because of things like prostitution, hunger, and murders in a few corners of the city. However, despite the darkness, the poet says that Chicago is still a prosperous city. One of the phrases from the poem ‘City of the Big Shoulders’ is still used as a nickname for the city.
  • “Chicago” As a Representative of Pride: The poem is an expression of pride. The poet narrates what he observes and hears in the city while walking around. The speaker praises Chicago for having flourishing industries. He also portrays Chicago as a huge, laboring, and active place. The poet has a debate with ‘They’ the other voice. ‘They’ talks about the evils rooted deep in the city such as women seducing men, men killing mankind, hunger, and starvation. Despite knowing Chicago is a dangerous place to live in, the citizens are proud to be in an active and vibrant city.
  • Major Themes in “Chicago”: Progress, social-realism, and admiration are the major themes of this poem. The poet praises the city for its progress and good virtues. He talks about its economic status and the immense opportunities it offers to its people. But every coin has two sides to see, despite having positive attributes. He acknowledges the fatal issues of the city that have corroded its beauty and admires it for the work and life it offers to the people.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Chicago”

Literary devices are tools used by writers and poets to convey their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Carl Sandburg has used various literary devices to enhance the intended impacts of his poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /a/ in “Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /r/ in “Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler” and the sound of /n/ in “Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs”.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /b/ in “Building, breaking, rebuilding.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. For example, “Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat”; “Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler” and “Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth.”
  5. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, “City of the Big Shoulders”, “Hog Butcher for the World” and “Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the”.
  6. Simile: It is used to compare an object or a person with something else to make meanings clear. For example, “Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness.”
  7. Apostrophe: An apostrophe is a device used to call somebody or something from afar. Here the poet used an apostrophe to call the city a wonderful place: “City of the Big Shoulders” expressing happiness and pride.
  8. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.”

  1. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “and they tell me” is repeated in the second stanza to emphasize the point.;

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Chicago

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are thirty-four stanzas in this poem, with each varies in length.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful as a quote for people who never give up.

“Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle.”