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Tasks: Chicago

Here are a variety of tasks to the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

Comprehension Questions:


  1. Who/what do you think is referred to as "you" in the poem?
  2. List the names that Chicago is recognized by in the poem.
  3. In which ways is Chicago brutal?
  4. Why do a lot of people criticize Chicago?
  5. How does Sandburg defend his city?
  6. What is "the painted women under the gas lamp" all about?
  7. How do the young people reveal that they are proud of their city?

Grammar Task: Noun or Adjective?

The poem contains many nouns and adjectives. By doing this exercise, you'll get familiar with significant words in the poem and their word classes.

Discussion Questions:


  1. Look at Carl Sandburg's biography. What makes him a "typical" second-generation immigrant in the late 19th century?
  2. Sandburg was attached to his home town. Are you proud of yours? Why or why not?
  3. Where do first-generation immigrants feel that they belong? What about their children?
  4. America is a nation of immigrants. Does this help newcomers feel more at home? Compare to Norway.

Literary Analysis:

  1. Chicago is personified in many ways in the poem. Give examples.
  2. The poet compares his favorite city to a dog: "Fierce as a dog...". What do we call this literary device? Which effect do these comparisons have?
  3. Make a table with two columns. In the first column you list all words with positive connotations and in the second you list words with negative connotations.
  4. How does Sandburg reveal his commitment to workers and immigrants in 'Chicago'? How do you as a reader respond to Sandburg's message?
  5. What do we call words that are associated with sounds? How many "sound words" can you find? Give examples.

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The Immigrant Experience