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Themes

The Bridge (which contains "To Brooklyn Bridge") is sometimes compared with T.S. Eliot's Waste Land. Both poems treat the gritty realities of 20th century life with an epic scope. Along the way, both poems also take their digs at the middle and upper classes, poking fun at the tedium of bourgeois life and the hollowness of the endless pursuit of the dollar. Crane's sympathies clearly do not lie with the peaceful citizen indulging in escapism at the movies or with the executives high up in their Wall Street buildings. Instead, he sympathizes with the anonymous person about to jump off the bridge, with the down-and-out, with the lovers and the urban prophets. Fortunately, Crane is a good deal more optimistic than the Eliot of The Waste Land and he doesn't see the world as merely a middle-class cesspool. He thinks there might be some advantage to be found in the anonymity of modern life.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Judging from the poem alone, what part of society do you think the speaker comes from?
  2. What is Crane's beef against going to the movies? What does he give such a creepy description in Stanza 3?
  3. Is the "bedlamite" who throws himself off the bridge a hero or a victim in the poem?
  4. Do you think it is appropriate or helpful to read "To Brooklyn Bridge" in light of Hart Crane's homosexuality?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Crane shares the view, later to be espoused by the Beat writers in the 1950s, that the most worthwhile part of American society is its lower classes.

The speaker must be understood through the poet's homosexual identity, as someone who looks to the bridge as a metaphoric solution to the problem of alienation and isolation.

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