Brooklyn Bridge: A Symbol of Integration for a Social Outsider

In his investigation of Hart Crane’s poetry through in the context of his homosexuality, his social identity as an outsider, Thomas Yingling writes in ” Hart Crane and the Homosexual Text: New Thresholds, New Anatomies” of Crane’s “Proem: To Brooklyn Bridge” by examining the poem in two sections. In the first section, Yingling argues that Crane uses the premise for movement without meaning present with the epigram “to and fro in the earth… up and down in it” and the subsequent movement of the poem itself along a path of “dips and pivots” to suggest an initial sense of displacement and isolation as a “problem for the homosexual who understands himself as displaced, the fact that nothing ‘stays’ him.” Yingling observes a culmination of this initial tone of despair with the bedlamite who commits suicide from “the speechless caravan” that is followed by Crane’s characteristic pursuit of poetic redemption from the despair of seeming alienation and meaninglessness.

Yingling observes that in the latter half of the poem the bridge becomes a symbolic object which “strongly invites us to see the bridge as a sign of the possibility of reunion even in such an alienating and fragmented landscape as the opening of the poem depicts.” Thus the bridge becomes an object of “beauty and contemplative richness” (a harp and an altar) that in its simultaneous integrative and transcendent ability allows Crane to redeem his alienation and perceive the “unfractioned idiom” of existence. Yingling concludes his analysis by integrating the context of Crane’s homosexuality into his aesthetic treatment of the poem, stating, “For its homosexual subject, the bridge becomes a powerful scene of possibility and love (not only in providing a literal cruising place, “Under thy shadow by the piers I waited,” but by offering itself as a symbol for the transformative structure of homoerotic experience as well.”

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