New York: “The Symbolic City of Symbolic Statements and the Everyday City of Necessities”

“The City and The Pillars” by Adam Gopnik was written after the 11th September terrorist attack on The World Trade Center. It is a description of the New York after the catastrophe. A motionless and descriptive narration about the city and aftermath of the events express fear and anxiety that captured it peoples’ minds and changed their attitude to the city itself.

The author focuses on the subject of the New York appeal before and after the attack, and describes a real and symbolic New York. Through the article, the author makes use of various devices to provide the reader with the in-depth analysis and understanding of the real NYC and a symbolic one that was created during ages of its development. Thus, the author builds his narration on two extremes.

As it has already been mentioned, the author uses various stylistic and literary devices in order to describe the city. The article begins with the description of an ordinary day in the New York City:

“On the morning of the day they did it, the city was as beautiful as it had ever been. Central Park had never seemed so gleaming and luxuriant—the leaves just beginning to fall, and the light on the leaves left on the trees somehow making them at once golden and bright green” (Gopnik 411)

Broad use of epithets and comparisons creates the image of a beautiful day and beautiful city. People live their ordinary day and in seems that nothing pointed to the catastrophe. But there was something in the air that worried everyone…

The author compares the safety which people thought was surrounding them with the “protective bubble” that “had settled over the city, with a bubble’s transparency and bright highlights, still seemed to be in place above us” (Gopnik 411). One day, on September 11, this “bubble” burst. The author describes this event metaphorically, which produces the effect of suspense.

With the help of the metaphors, epithets, metaphoric descriptions and comparisons, the other explores the themes of the New York life, real and symbolic city and vision of attack from the point of view of people who live in the city and out of it.

The real New York appears as a busy city. Gopnik describes it as:

“In the uptown supermarkets, people began to shop. It was a hoarding instinct, of course, though oddly not brought on by any sense of panic; certainly no one on television or radio was suggesting that people needed to hoard. Yet people had the instinct to do it” (Gopnik 411).

It is a real life, and a real city that people got used to see. And even after the attack, when their image of the town had changed, they tried to live an ordinary life, but there was something unusual and extraordinary in their behavior that made them value “the real city” more that its “fashionable image”, “we will probably never be able to regard the city with quite the same exasperated, ironic affection we had for it before” (Gopnik 415).

The symbolic city appears as a world of tourism, attraction and fan. The author presents it through the bright description of the famous places, such as Central Park, SoHo, the 7th Avenue, Times Square, and of course, The World Trade Center. But the image of the symbolic city was erased after the attack.

Gopnik says that the advantage of living in New York was that it provided the opportunity of living in both real and symbolic city, “the symbolic city of symbolic statements (this is big, I am rich, get me) and the everyday city of necessities” (Gopnik 414). But one day, the symbolic city was attacked by terrorists and people understood that the real city was important and necessary and it is the city that will go on because, “we now know what it would be like to lose it, and it feels like losing life itself” (Gopnik 415).

Another theme explored by the author is the impact of the attack on The World Trade Center which was not so important before it was ruined. It became a “symbol of America” due to the media and journalists. This exemplifies how the social consciousness changed and how people reevaluated their vision of the New York City.

The author does not provide actual details of the attack and does not show any dates. In fact, he reveals the memories and describes how the disaster influenced all people and each one separately. He writes, “people in Europe say “America attacked” and people in America say “New York attacked” and people in New York think, Downtown attacked.) For the financial community, this was the Somme” (Gopnik 412).

Thus, “The City and The Pillars” is a profound analysis of the New York society and the impact of the 9/11 attack on the people’s lives. The other provides the images of the real and symbolic New York though the social references, stylistic devices and metaphoric descriptions of the terrorist attack. Gopnik provides the idea that the image of the symbolic city was changed forever that influenced the “world image of the city”, as well as the way New Yorkers regarded it.

Works Cited

Gopnik, Adam. “The City and the Pillars” in The Conscious Reader. Eds. Caroline Shrodes, Michael Shugrue, Marc Dipaolo, and Christian Matuschek. Pearson Education Canada, 2008. 411 – 415. Print.