Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*New York City. Crane’s vision of America’s largest city is ambiguous. On one hand, “Proem” and “The Tunnel” depict a city resembling London in T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem “The Waste Land,” which contrasts a sordid contemporary urban environment with an idealized past. In Crane’s poem, many of New York’s famous streets exemplify a similar contrast: Avenue A, Broadway, Fourteenth Street, Chambers Street, Bleeker Street, and Prince Street. On the other hand, in “Proem” and “Atlantis,” New York’s Brooklyn Bridge represents the greatest achievement of modern man.
*Cathay. Medieval name for northern China, the fabled Orient and a land of spices and riches. Crane uses it here as the first of a series of “promised lands,” including Atlantis, Avalon, and America. These idealized places are backdrops for the modern mechanical age, which, too, has enormous potential and great dangers.
River. The central image of “The River” is the Mississippi River, which flows past Cairo, Illinois, where it is joined by the Ohio River and symbolizes freedom and continuity. Although most of the section actually is set first on a train and among hoboes crossing the country, the river, like the bridge, connects past and present America.
*Cape Hatteras. North Carolina promontory where Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their first airplane from the hill at Kitty Hawk. Crane speculates both on the awesome power of modern machines, embodiments of the creative power of the imagination and, potentially, destructive of human values.
Quaker Hill. New England location with an old hotel called the Mizzentop, a beautiful relic of a more glorious time sullied by modern commercialism that has replaced the earlier peace and tranquillity of the Quaker religious meeting.