Study Guide

To Brooklyn Bridge Society and Class

By Hart Crane

Society and Class

Some page of figures to be filed away;
--Till elevators drop us from our day . . . (lines 7-8)

The inspiring image of the seagull taking off and circling around the Statue of Liberty dissolves into this depressing image of office work. The speaker says "drop us from our day" as if he is an office worker himself.

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen; (lines 9-12)

The mass of people at the movies remind us of zombies receiving instructions from their master: "Must buy large soda and candy bar! Must buy large soda and candy bar!" They represent the faceless middle class of consumers who need constant diversion and entertainment.

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan. (lines 17-20)

Crane does not focus on the powerful and wealthy; his concern and sympathies are for the outcasts and rebels of society. The most detailed description of a person in "To Brooklyn Bridge" is this view of an insane man jumping off the bridge. We just can't get enough of the line, "A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets."

Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,-- (lines 31-32)

Crane would have been right at home alongside Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, who also mixed up his "prophets" and "pariahs." Those at the margins of society, the underclass and the persecuted, are the ones worthy of attention. Try comparing this poem to Ginsberg's Howl.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear. (lines 37-38)

This is the other point in the poem where the speaker reveals something about his class. What's he doing waiting by the piers at night? Trying to catch a glimpse of the boats? Nah. Lots of readers think this is a veiled reference to a cruising spot for local gay men. As a persecuted minority himself, Crane's sympathy for the marginalized is understandable.

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