E.B White’s Here is New York

Analyze E. B.White’s opening line, “On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy.”

As Roger Angell expressed in his introduction of E.B White’s work, “It is hard to feel private in the surging daily crowds at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, say, or lonely on a side street packed solid with gridlocked traffic.” (11) Indeed, the opening line of Here is New York seems peculiar when one witnesses the sheer flood of civilization in New York City.  People seem to be swarming the streets of the city,  each with vibrant passion, excitement and enthusiasm. For most, the ’18 inches’ of separation that New York offers its inhabitants from one another offers a dream come true: a “Fragile participation with destiny.” The city provides a front row seat to “…all enormous and violent and wonderful events that are taking place every minute.” (21). However, to those who desire such queer prizes, the enormity and grandeur of New York can make the privacy and loneliness achieved all the more satisfying. As I commute every day to Baruch College, I witness firsthand how the all the commotion, bright lights, and attractions vying for our attention are merely a silent background to most as they race through the agendas of their day. Paradoxically, for those longing for internal quiet, New York is perfect.

Discuss White’s prophecy (final pages of the book) about airplanes in the light of 9/11.

Written in 1949, the scene depicted by E.B White in the final pages of his essay is at once enlightening and startlingly familiar in the aftermath of 9/11. It is important to note that at the time of the writing of the book, the gruesome sights and sounds of war were probably ingrained in the mind of the author after the atrocities of WWII, and of the Holocaust. People around the world saw images of planes flying over civilian neighborhoods in Europe dropping bombs on apartment complexes. It was only natural for White to envision the grand struggle of worldwide conflicting ideologies that would ensue. At the time of the publishing, E.B White witnessed the building of the United Nations on New York soil. There, hundreds of nations would be represented in no other city in the world but Manhattan. Therefore, there is no greater message of hate than to mercilessly attack New York, “the capital of the world” (55) and a symbol of cultural diversity, heterogenous unity, racial brotherhood and freedom. As White states, “Today Liberty shares the role with Death.” (54) Thankfully Mr. White’s prediction of the annihilation of New York City never occurred. Yet, for those of us who experienced the terror attacks of 9/11/01, White’s message rang true. The world must collectively take a stand against acts of hatred and intolerance, and feverishly support the ideals that hold up this great city today.



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