| Quote #1
Hog Butcher for the World,
The poem begins with a show of strength: Chicago is a "stormy, husking, brawling / City of the Big Shoulders." The speaker compares it to people who do manual labor—hog butchers, stackers of wheat—all professions that require brute strength. The speaker also compares Chicago to industrial labor—he mentions the railroad and freight industries. In early twentieth-century America, when this poem was written, the railroads were the key to the great and expansive West.
| Quote #2
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.
Chicago is a tough place filled with gunmen and prostitutes. The speaker even calls it "brutal." The speaker won't whitewash the truth of Chicago. There's no denying the essence of this city. We thus see different kinds of strength in the poem. There's the strength of workers, the strength of industry, but also the dark strength of violent killers.
| Quote #3
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Dude! We get it. Chicago is a place for tough guys—it's like a baseball slugger, a rabid dog, a savage. And it's proud of its brute strength. No denying that.