Study Guide

Jonathan Pitney in Boardwalk Empire

By Nelson Johnson

Jonathan Pitney

It's crazy to think that everything that happens in Boardwalk Empire can be traced back to one man—Jonathan Pitney. Though the world tells him he is crazy, Pitney never loses sight of his ambitious goal of building a world-class resort. He might do some shady things to reach that goal, but that doesn't negate his achievements.

For example, is Pitney keeping it one hundred when he tries "selling his idea by touting the healing powers of salt water and sea air" (1.12)? Probably not. Pitney simply has dollar bill signs in his eyes and is ready to cash in.

Though his medical prowess might be limited, Pitney makes up for it with a grand vision for the future—a "dream […] to build a 'city by the sea'" (1.12). With the help of the steadfast Samuel Richards, Pitney manages to turn this dream into a reality. Though the early years are fraught with disappointment, Pitney's vision for Atlantic City eventually outlives him.

In many ways, Pitney continues to shape the culture of Atlantic City—after all, this little "experiment in social planning grounded in tourism" is still ongoing (12.64). Whether you consider him a visionary, a huckster, or just a weirdo, Pitney shows us what we can achieve when we reach for our dreams… even when our dreams are somebody else's nightmare.