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Response 2

Samuel A. Batista Jr.
Professor Steven Alvarez
English 255-6476
Slumful America: In the Big City and Out of the Snow by Eugenio Florit
Over many years America has the center of attention, envied by nations around the world. With its preaches of democracy, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness even to allow freedom of religion to be practiced by any and all of its citizens as they see fit gives America the image of one the greatest places to live and one that’s sought after by many immigrants from around the world. However, what’s left out of this great picture, are the struggles people have to live with; dead end jobs, food stamps, increasing rent, inflation, many factors that haven’t taken into effect, but all this aside, the picture in itself is just an illusion created by those desperate enough to dream of the America that created false promises and hopes. Eugenio Florit’s “In the Big City” poem paints the more realistic view of what America is like, or more to the matter of how New York looks like. Florit’s writes,

“In this sunken city,
lights don’t shine.
absorbing anguish
from below, from above,
from the left and the right,
they glare at each other…”(519)

Based on Florit’s poem, his choosing of the word “sunken” to describe the setting, depicts a dark environment with little lighting, not a single star in the sky and the sound of sirens from emergency vehicles in the distance. “Lights don’t shine” gives more of a slum feeling, in a dark neighborhood, where only those can barely afford to live walk around. Within the darkness, a sign of despair and fear, the very feelings it portrays are absorbed further, where not even those feelings are enough to describe the scene but a far more depressive feeling that seems to slowly catch a tight grip and keep tightening as the setting of reality begins to kick in, from all directions, as if being closed upon. The darkness in all directions seem to want to grab a hold more so as if they take on identities of their own, and they begin to look at each other as to see who can grab the innocence first.

In Florit’s “Out of the Snow”, it’s a lot less negative but it does show a kind of a “Johnny rain cloud” feel. It continues along the same path of the first poem in terms of description and images that it paints of the city but instead of focusing more on the living places it focuses on the commute and what occurs on the commute. The commute, a transition to what leads to the darker homes in the first poem, Florit writes,

“out of the fog, out of the sunken train
with its hundred hands grasping;
out of the make-believe neon lights
and the roar of the fire truck,
out of the night that falls on top of us
–slabs of starless sky—“ (524)

Based on this section of the poem, when Florit writes in the first stanza, the image of people, the common people, the business men and women come slumping out of the train going about their daily with a look of dread with the thought of going to a job they hate. The second line brings to mind the same amount of people who got off the train now board, arms grasping the bars and handles, in an attempt to hold on for the ride. This could be a double meaning where people are holding to these jobs as a sort of last hope that they can turn their lives around and pull themselves out of their bad living conditions. The third and fourth line then seems to go back and follows the original commuters, seeing them walk the streets to their barren homes, where they eventually come to hear the roaring engine of the fire truck echo within earshot; the night comes and the lights of the sky never come but remain dark and empty. The sky grows darker and darker, as the first poem originally suggested, the lights grow dimmer, the lights barely stay on, just enough to see what is only a few feet in front but never a powerful beam, not a ray of happiness, but darkness consumes it all.
“like yesterday, like tomorrow,
perhaps like all the days to come, if they come,
I step into silence” (524)

The people will follow their routine, to wake up the next day and do it all again as the last section of the entire poem over all dictates. The days will come and go, but nothing will change, the commuter will go about their day slumped thinking of a way to create a new form of themselves, to stand up and become the person they have dreamt of since being on America’s shores. However, they must always keep in mind the needs to survive on all levels. They deal with the affordable and continue their routine, slowly fading into the background, silent ghosts.

Florit, Eugenio. “In the Big City.” The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Trans. Acosta-Belen, Edna, Liberis-Hill, Susan. Stavans, Ilan, Reidhead Julia, Fraser, Carly, Genesen, Rivka, Granville, Erin, Connell, Eileen, Johnson, Marian (eds).. New York City: W.W. Norton 2011. 519-524. Print.

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