People Identifying Themselves With Their Communities Term Paper

Total Length: 1160 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: -4

Page 1 of 4

Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte, and "To Brooklyn Bridge" by Hart Crane. Specifically, it discusses what reasons the two main characters have for conforming (or not conforming) to the norm in these two works.

The characters in these works symbolize America - both the best and the worst. They also symbolize how society expects much from its citizens, and how some people, no matter how hard they try, simply cannot conform to the norm and fit in to a society that will only accept them on its' own quite demanding terms.

Conforming to the "norm" is one way people manage to get along in society. Society certainly does demand a lot from most people - ethically and politically, and those who do not openly conform to society's rules are often cast out or seen as outsiders. In both of these works, the main characters must conform to society's rules to survive. In "Brooklyn Bridge," the main character is really the bridge itself, and Crane portrays it in a mystical or God-like way, as if it is an image to be idolized, just like the Statue of Liberty nearby in New York Harbor. More than conforming, the bridge becomes a symbol of America at its best. It is symbolic of a society on the move, inventing new technology and rushing toward the future. Crane writes, "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" (Crane). The reader can see humanity as it rushes through the crowded streets of New York, then pausing for a moment on the miraculous bridge, and then scurrying on to their destinations.
The bridge typifies solidity and permanence, something the rushing masses experience very seldom. The bridge conforms to what society believes its' monuments should be - solid, permanent, and commanding. It also symbolizes these attributes that make a person successful in society, and so, it is a lasting symbol of what works and what does not. People look to it as an icon, and as a symbol of the best the American people can accomplish. Not to "worship" the Brooklyn Bridge as an American symbol and something representative of American culture and ingenuity is to go against the norm of society and culture.

In "Poker Flats," the same theory of culture and society applies. Even in the wide open and unlawful American West of the 1850s there were certain customs and rules that one must follow in order to fit in. If the bridge symbolizes the American ideal, then Mr. Oakhurst in "Poker Flats" symbolizes quite a different American icon - the bad man with a heart of gold and a weak character. Mr. Oakhurst cannot commit himself to conforming to the norm; he can only exist in the fringes of society. When he actually joins a successful society, he cannot last there for long. He cannot face the realities of life and death, and so he chooses death over conforming or surviving. In the tiny society the survivors create in the hut on the trail, Mr. Oakhurst suddenly assumes the responsibility of leadership. Here, there is no vigilante group bent on ridding the town of deviants, there is only a small, singular society that accepts Mr. Oakhurst for what he is. Somewhat like the iconic figure of the Brooklyn Bridge, he becomes larger than life and the savior.....

Have Any Questions? Our Expert Writers Can Answer!

Need Help Writing Your Essay?