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draft prog 3 - Gabe Altman Writing the Essay Noel Sikorski...

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Gabe Altman Writing the Essay Noel Sikorski 12/2/07 Through the Children’s Gate: Adam Gopnik’s Take on New York Adam’s Gopnik’s Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York , as a collection of smaller essays, reveals to us certain truths about a New York that does not seem readily apparent to an objective observer. One thing that resonates throughout each one of his essays is his commitment to unfolding a “secret truth” behind New York, one that strays from the conventional perception. As such, his opinion that life in the city is becoming increasingly money-centric surfaces through his anecdotal references to various, not particularly well-known New York staples. From parrots to orthodox Jews to his own experiences to circuit breakers, Gopnik’s writing is loaded with metaphors that add to his idea of New York City as a newly emerging, destructive, capitalistic force in the lives of its residents. Gopnik has a tendency for juxtaposing seemingly unrelated concepts to prove his point. Looking at his essay “Power and the Parrot,” we see Gopnik parallel two starkly different aspects of the city: parrots and “switch hotels.” His essay chronicles the peculiar nature under which these two exist. Gopnik tells us that these “pirate-ready” birds who have taken up residences atop the electrical poles on Flatbush Ave in downtown Brooklyn, originated elsewhere (“they’re exotic, all came from outside North America”),
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sometime around 1968 but still live here despite its statistical improbability. He parallels the existence of these parrots with the ‘lives’ of another unique new resident, modern computer technology. Gopnik focuses on “switch hotels,” which exist as large apartment buildings, with rooms designed for the occupation of only servers and routers, lights and switches. Surviving in utter cleanliness, these marvels of modern technology, serve as an unusual mirror for the parrots he talks about earlier in the essay. Gopnik’s portrayal of the parrots and circuits is almost a historical account of how these beings came to this town done in a similar way to how someone would chronicle the immigration of Russian Jews to New York in the early 1900s. He cites, regarding the Monk Parrots of Brooklyn, how “New York State tried to kill them off and by 1975, they were all thought to be dead. They were not.” (103) Gopnik admires the perseverance of the birds, as it remains a characteristic of New York as much as anything else, the ability to endure. He calls them “adaptable” comparing them to immigrant groups who have taken up working comparable uncharacteristic jobs. “Nobody thought that Koreans had a particular affinity for fruit, or, for that matter, the Irish for police work, before they came here.” (104) Gopnik seems intrigued by the ability of certain groups to adapt, breaking the pre-determined assumptions of others en route to survival and flourishing, but he does not offer any sense of judgment concerning what this adaptability may mean, at least not
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