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Child Of The Romans Analysis

Author: poem of Carl Sandburg Type: poem Views: 41

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The dago shovelman sits by the railroad track

Eating a noon meal of bread and bologna.

     A train whirls by, and men and women at tables

     Alive with red roses and yellow jonquils,

     Eat steaks running with brown gravy,

     Strawberries and cream, eclaires and coffee.

The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna,

Washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy,

And goes back to the second half of a ten-hour day's work

Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils

Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases

Standing slender on the tables in the dining cars.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Carl Sandburg, was a noteworthy American writer and editor who was best known and recognized for his poems in the 19th century. His poems were so awe-inspiring and remarkable that they won him one of the two Pulitzer Prizes he received, the other which was rewarded to him for the biography of Abraham Lincoln. He was such a significant person that H.L. Mencken, one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century called Sandburg “indubitably an American in every pulse-beat”. His work is noted for his excellent use of literary devices, such as imagery, verbal irony, and structure. Sandburg incorporated many different literary philosophies into his work, three of which were mainly focused on were: modernism, naturalism, and populism. In his collection of poems, Chicago Poems, one stood out, “Child of the Romans”, in that, Sandburg stresses his sympathy for the working class in the face of a huge inequity during a time of industrialization.
Sandburg is well known for his compassion and sympathy for the working class. He introduces them as likable and important, whereas the wealthy and powerful are seen as misleading, hostile, and suspicious. This connection to populism is seen when he states “Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils shake hardly at all…”. Sandburg is trying to tell the readers that because of the work that this dago shovelman has put in, the rich don’t have to worry about their flowers shaking on the table during their train ride. Because of him, the wealthy don’t express one care as long as their ride is smooth. While the dago shovelman is performing exertive and vigorous work and probably getting paid really poorly, the rich drive by worrying that their flowers might fall off the table and their rich and extravagant dining style would be ruined. But what really is important is the worker, there is more of the lower class than the higher class, and that is where the strength rests. He is saying that strength comes in numbers, and that the common working folks can be and are more powerful than they are seen to be.
Another great aspect in Sandburg’s writing is his belief that one’s destiny and fate isn’t under one’s control; it is controlled by the outside world or the economical world around one. He frequently dehumanizes people by animalization (showing people on their hands and knees, like they are animals) and mechanization (humans portrayed as machines and become part of industrial world) and reduces people to their most basic and smallest needs. This connection to the idea of naturalism is seen when Sandburg is describing the working mans lunch and then states “and goes back to the second half of a ten hour day’s work”. Sandburg is trying to tell the readers that it isn’t your choice of who you are and what social class you belong to. He is trying to stress that if the dago could chose he wouldn’t chose to be a part of the lower class; no one would rightfully choose a job that consisted laying down tracks for 10 hours on a hot sweaty day. There is a lack of choice where he can not control his destiny. But since he is put in a hard position where he needs to work to survive, he has no other choice but to do it. He doesn’t use much of his brain to perform the work he has to do; it is more of physical than intellectual. The dago doesn’t use any knowledge such that a business man or a scientist would; his job is merely mechanical and motorized; there is no mentality to it. All he has to do is be strong—like a machine. He does not need to posses any intelligence or meet any qualifications, no necessary IQ, no tests to pass or a resume to hand in. This is also how Sandburg shows him reduced to his smallest state, where all he needs is basic needs to survive. Another way he exemplifies this is by not giving “the dago shovelman” a name. He is merely just a shovelman, like it’s not important to present him with a name. He really made this stand out by when he stated, “red roses and yellow jonquils”, they can be classified as flowers, but Sandburg made sure to give them a name and a little more by describing their color, whereas the worker got no acknowledgment and was generalized. An additional way he shows the characteristic of naturalism within his writing is when he says “The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna, washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy”. This is an excellent line, it portrays how the dago washes the food down, as if it was bad and needed to be cleared away, the dry bread and cheap bologna compared to the fancy luxurious steak that the wealthy class eats, and the water drank from a dipper. A dipper is pretty much another word for a ladle, the image that Sandburg creates in our minds is so powerful; the dago didn’t drink out of a glass cup, but out of a dirty dipper where all the other workers also drank out of.
The last literary philosophy Sandburg includes in “The Child of the Romans” is Modernism. Modernism is the shift from the old Victorian ways to new ways of life. It brought the two ways of life together, conjoining them into one. This new way of life was seen to be more daring, more abstract, and broke apart the traditional Victorian picture and reorganized it from a different perspective. Sandburg really jumps out with industrialization with one of the lines pertaining something that industrialization was commonly known for, railroads. “The dago shovelman sits by the railroad tracks”, this is showing how the dago is the foundation for industrialization. It is not the wealthy out there, sweating, laying down railroad tracks for ten hours a day, it is the poor man who has to do this in order to survive. Because of all the work that the dago shovelman has done, America was built and became industrialized. It is not the American people working hard to get by, but the immigrants. The attitude everyone has towards them is also portrayed within the poem because Sandburg notes them as “dagos”,which is an ethnic slur for Italians. Calling him a “dago” instead of Italian, which sounds much nicer, was more demeaning, and by that Sandburg showed how the immigrants of this country were degraded and picked apart. There is a lot in the poem about the disparity of the two classes, wealthy and the poor. Instead of the two classes merging together, they almost as if shown to be even more separated. The lower class is being victimized by the system. They are being taken advantage of, the wealthy doesn’t really do much; they are not as productive as the other class, they just benefit off of the lower class’s work.
Sandburg’s unique writing was recognized by many at the time which led him to become the icon he is now. He had a gift, and that was to use certain words and to arrange them into such a fashion that left a mark on people. His words are forceful and the way he puts images into words holds people in awe. Sandburg used many poetic devices to help capture his point. A major one that every poet uses is imagery. Imagery is descriptive language that evokes sensory and visual experience. Poets use this literary device to help paint a picture in the readers mind. Specifically, Sandburg clutches onto this as he says, “eat steaks running with gravy”. First, eating steak is identified as being well-off due to the price of the steak which is not like a hamburger. So right away it is assumed that the individuals eating are wealthy. The next thing that is noticed is how he says that the steak is “running with gravy”, which to some people immediately makes their mouth water and their stomach growl, while others fantasize. Sandburg says it in such a particular way where we are able to imagine what he is saying. “Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases standing slender on the tables in the dining cars”, is another great line in the poem, this illustrates how the wealthy dine. It is not simply a vase, he describes it as a “cut glass” vase, as if it was cut t

| Posted on 2009-03-20 | by a guest

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