Study Guide

Chicago Tough-Guy Imagery

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Tough-Guy Imagery

We've already established that "Chicago" is filled with personification, but let's get a bit more specific. This poem is filled with tough-guy, macho imagery. Chicago is no city for dainty folks or the faint of heart. It's a rough-and tumble, brawny, manly place. You can just feel the testosterone seeping out of this poem. The interesting thing is that Sandburg loves this tough and hefty city. Sometimes the poem seems almost like a love poem to the toughest tough guy who ever lived.

  • Lines 1-5: Chicago is described as being many types of manly workers: as a hog butcher, a stacker of grain, etc. It's also portrayed as "stormy, husky, brawling" with large shoulders. Hello, tough-town!
  • Lines 10-12: The beauty that the speaker finds in Chicago is not delicate. It's just the opposite. Chicago is "so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning." It's like a baseball player, like a fierce dog, like a savage in the wilderness. 
  • Lines 13-17: The city itself is always going through a cycle of destruction and rebuilding—you can almost smell the sweat of the construction workers in these lines. 
  • Lines 18-23: The laugh of Chicago is a deep-throated belly laugh: proud, aggressive, and coarse. This is one tough city.

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