Geography and environment can play a major role in who we are as people. In prologue of “Let the Great world Spin” by Colum McCann, A dark figure can be seen standing along the ledge of the observation deck in Tower B of the World Trade Center on an early August morning.
This draws in a crowd of hundreds. This large crowd proved to be very opinionated. Being that it wasn’t for certain if the man was a jumper, I was amazed at how many people were said to be shouting for the man to jump, and others said not too, while the rest stared in awe.
The setting of the beginning of chapter one then begins in a family home in Dublin, Ireland. There is a much different vibe than that of New York City. In the prologue everything is near chaotic. In the beginning of chapter one I had a feeling of tranquility which gave me a sense of security. This soon turned to grief and sorrow for the loss of the brother’s mother and Corrigan’s irrational behavior.
In chapter one, I could relate to much of what Ciaran and Corrigan had experienced. I have two older sisters and although none of us share the same father our mother raised us as a single parent throughout areas of the Bronx. That being said, of all the characters introduced so far I feel a close emotional connection with Corrigan. Many of his character traits and actions remind me of somebody close to me. He always struggled with substance abuse and tried to make others happy, without any regard for himself. Maybe it works as a coping method to not take any blame for his own actions, or maybe it’s just a way of forgetting them all together. Either way, I feel reading this book has so far given me a different perspective and insight on issues I see in my own life.
The prologue labelled Those Who Saw Him Hushed, explains the events that took place when a man, named Philipe Petit, walked across a tight rope between the twin towers. Column McCann narrates this story in sort of the perspective of a bird, as the events taken place are seen from another perspective. New York is known for its busy and chaotic style, but as there is suddenly silence and people gather around to watch this build up tension, as police sirens and firefighters rush to the scene, there is large anticipation amongst the crowd and the reader. This made me think about the perspective of Petit, it must have looked liked the whole world is there under him, looking at what he might do next. I also have a special connection to this story, as when I first arrived into the United States, I barely knew english, therefore I read children’s books to improve. My favorite book that I had read and one of my first was actually a picture book about this same event. I read teh book with the same excitement as the people mentioned in the prologue. I could not believe that this was possible, and I couldn’t imagine how someone was brave enough to do such a thing. This was actually one of the few things I had known before coming to New York, this interesting story about a tight rope walker. Therefore the prologue really made me interested in this book, and made me constantly think about the ideas and themes present in the prologue as I started to read the first chapter.
Throughout the first chapter, I have most connected to Ciaran. Not because of his family or the events regarding them but in the way of discovering a new lifestyle and a new country. Dublin is 3,176 miles away from New York, it has a very different culture, lifestyle, and all around look. I also arrived in the Bronx when I first came to New York. I came from a longer distance however all the way from Istanbul. Which similar to Dublin, is a very different city compared to New York. Just like Ciaran I was discovering this new culture and style through an outsiders lens. Therefore I felt connected to Ciaran in the sense that we are both immigrants.
The prologue of the book begins with a man on the twin towers and everyone gathering to watch what he was going to do: “if he slipped, or got arrested or dove.” This part made me laugh at little, because it is very New Yorker to only think of the bad that was going to happen and how no one was expecting him to walk on a tightrope or do something amazing. How we have a habit of stopping when someone on the train is being arrested and screaming, but not often for someone on Union Square singing. I became like the watchers, ignoring everything around them to focus on the man; I even tried to skip through the long descriptions of New York in the book to see what would happen to the man, even though I knew. It also made me think of the extraordinary things I have missed because I was too “busy” and couldn’t be bothered.
The scene then changes to Ireland, specifically Dublin Bay. The narrator starts to talk about his family, focusing more on his brother, Corrigan. His brother is described as someone who even in the darkest of days can see the light. After their mother dies, he moved around a bit and then goes to Brussels and becomes a monk. Corrigan has a desire for real “rough plot” and after being in Naples, he is sent to the Bronx (YAY!). Corrigan is a character I want to be like, someone who puts others above themselves. I can relate to his idea of put it all out there and helping even if you get hurt, and not ending up another cynic. I sometimes dream of being that selfless. However, I also agree that being selfish is sometimes required, because his selflessness gets him hurt. I really love his character and of course as always, every character I love has something tragic happen to him.
From the Dublin Bay in Ireland to the projects in Bronx, New York, Let the Great World Spin has taken me from one end of the Atlantic to the other. The prologue of the book sets you up almost above the World Trade Center in 1974, around the time the novel takes place. You are watching Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the two towers. To me, this represents the bridging of two worlds and two brothers, Carian and Corrigan. These two brothers grew distant at one point and lived two different lives. One joined a monastery and moved to the Bronx where he thought he could help the “lost souls”, while another took up a normal life. The prologue can also represent the joining of the two brothers and those in the Bronx projects (prostitutes, the pimps, drug addicts).
This chapter took me on an emotional rollercoaster. From when Corrigan was young and helping the homeless and addicts in Dublin, to when we learn he leaves his door open for the women to use between clients in the Bronx left me in awe. Corrigan takes beatings from pimps and continues to leave his door open for the women knowing the consequences. For this, he is the most interesting character to me. He is a man with a history of helping others, but for also getting mixed up in what they to do.
The most baffling part of the chapter to me was the car accident. After Corrigan went to pick her up from jail, he got rear ended and Jazzlyn went flying out of the car and died on impact. Corrigan is taken to the hospital and when Adelita (his love affair with her took me by surprise) visits him, announces that he sees something beautiful. Could this be heaven?
“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci
After reading the prologue, this was the first thing that came to mind. For years this quote by Leonardo da Vinci has rang through my head whenever I had felt lost or was at a standstill in my life. As the people of Manhattan watch a man tightrope between the Twin Towers, some had their faces pointed directly at the sky watching the fate of this foolish man and others were too absorbed by their daily tasks. My biggest question for those that could not spare a moment to look is, why? Why be so consumed with your routine that you have to miss out on the spectacular things occurring around you? This makes me come to the conclusion that maybe these people have not truly experienced flight because if they did they would try to be apart of the world around them. McCann even describes the setting by stating that the man was visible from all parts of the city as if being the focal point from which everything else expanded from.
The first chapter begins with two brothers and their mother that live in Dublin, Ireland. After their mother’s death, Corrigan finds himself joining the Order and stationing in an apartment in the Bronx while the narrator remains in Dublin. They eventually meet up again and this is where we get an in depth look at the person that Corrigan really is. All his life he has preferred to live and be surrounded by the unfortunate people of society such as hookers, junkies, and vagrants. I connect most with this character as he reminds me both of myself and my very religious aunt. As a frequent Criminal Minds and Law and Order viewer, I know that the world offers many threats; however, just as Corrigan tells his brother that he is not worried by the “tough looking” people I feel the same exact way. My aunt basically gives her life to God and because of this her and Corrigan share many similarities. This has caused me to lose a connection with the narrator since I know that he does not have a full understanding of what what his brother is trying to do. From the moment he gave his blanket away to when he saved Jazzlyn from the Tombs, his life is sacrifice which is why I idolize him.
The first chapter of the book introduces us to the two brothers from the isolated by the oceans and rainy area of Dublin, Ireland. The elderly one being the narrator, and the younger one Corrigan. It is important to note that the younger brother’s name is John Andrew, however he goes by Corrigan. The older brother’s name is not yet revealed and it very well may never be revealed throughout the whole book if that is the author’s intention. The only way Corrigan does refer to him is simply as “elder brother”. It is not rare for authors to not have a name of the protagonist revealed in order to try to convey an idea and have the reader be better immersed in the atmosphere and the feelings the narrator experiences. The most recent book which I read that had the same way of delivering the position of the main character is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It draws a better connection to the character since there is no actual name that applies. It takes away the feeling of being a spectator of the story and forces you to take in primarily only what the protagonist experiences.
In this case the emotions of frustration and helplessness is what speaks out to me by seeing what the narrator goes through. The lack of the ability to change Corrigan and just watch society take advantage of his selfless nature adds to the dark and abusive nature of the Bronx from the elder brother’s eyes. It is a tragic flaw of brother Corrigan and it is something that many people can relate to. Blinded by love towards everyone, Corrigan seemed to never have enjoyed life’s moments as seen from the narrator’s perspective.
Not to repeat what Geevanesam had already explained in the earlier-posted blog post very clearly in terms of relating to the characters and how being a foreigner in NYC might feel like at first, I would like to add some hypotheses of what the author might have for us in later in the book. By setting a negative tone and a feeling of helplessness and having the protagonist be presented in such a way, we the readers might become more prone to believing that we truly have a connection to this character and that his perspective on life – is our perspective also. However, as the book goes on, we might be later challenged to these initial views which we gain from the first chapter.
Interestingly enough, perhaps the Colum McCann is trying to tell us his personal by keeping the uncertainty of knowing who exactly is the elderly bother in the story since he is also from Dublin.
A tightrope walker, on top of the world trade center in New York City arises an interest in the city’s pedestrians as everyone stops to find a suitable view to witness either the death of this brave man or the success of a skilled athlete. Let The Great World Spin’s author, Colum McCann, brings the reader to a wild day in New York City in its prologue. The actual story though, takes place in Dublin, Ireland as the narrator recounts his childhood with his brother, Corrigan. As their parents pass away and both brothers grow up, they eventually meet again in Bronx, New York where this specific location has altered both of their lives and developed their characters in one way or another.
The prologue allows the reader to become a viewer of the man walking the tightrope. Instantly, I feel as if I am in New York watching this figure stand on top of the world trade center wondering if he is going to fall and die or live and become a huge success. However, as the story of Corrigan and his brother unfolds, I feel more emotionally connected to the narrator rather than Corrigan. He is seen as the more innocent brother trying to help Corrigan out. This is also expressed when he moves to New York and starts locking Corrigan’s apartment door as a method of helping Corrigan clean up his life. Corrigan’s drinking and smoking is what mainly repulses me, however, through this I am also able to see that he is just a human trying to cope with his absentee father and tough life. When he grows up and moves to New York it is clear that he genuinely wants to help others, perhaps at a cost to himself. For example, he wants to help the hookers by leaving his apartment unlocked but he also gets hurt. I feel sympathetic towards him because of his generosity even if it is not portrayed in such a clean manner. I would like to believe that I am a little religious, and it is mainly in this form that I can relate to Corrigan the most. Finally, his love for Adelita arises an internal conflict in Corrigan between their love and his vows as a monk show that he falls into temptation and must resists as much as he can due to his faith reveals the type of man he is. This is what makes his death incredibly unsettling to me.
As I began to read chapter one, my mind still lingered on the strange man balancing a thin bar in his hands just about to walk across the towers on a thin cable . I had a series of unanswered questions both about him and his audience: did he make it? Did the people in the crowd who shouted “just jump” cheer him on? Why didn’t the author tell us what happened? These unanswered questions began to fade as I was transported from the busy streets of Manhattan to the somber neighborhood in Sandymount, Dublin. The geography and social environment allows the reader to recreate their own perception of the setting through the author’s description. I was no longer a part of the anxious crowd preparing to watching a circus act, instead I was in a home with two young boys listening to their mother playing the piano. I felt the warmth radiating from the small family as the mother held her two young children in her arms and kissed their cheeks. The bitterness of solitude took over me as I visualized the two boys sitting against the back of the closet, letting the suits their father had left behind, along with them, brush against their face. I found myself growing attached to Corrigan as I read Ciaran’s expressive descriptions of him. In some ways he reminded me of my younger brother. How they both had a selfless nature, carefree in their own unique little world knowing no bounds. Corrigans behavior never matched with his age, not only his recklessness but also his ability to sympathize with others, “Corrigan wanted other people’s pain. He didn’t want to deal with his own,” (McCann 31). Corrigan’s personality drew me closer to him, I found myself wanting to become the person he was. I too wanted to engage with others, know about their life stories and troubles and not just stay inclosed in mine. As the two brothers grew older and reunited in Bronx, New York the story took a sudden turn. I expected Corrigan to be his usual self living in an area where he had people to help, but the ending blew the wind out of me. I sat there angry and frustrated as I was left yet with another question: why does it always have to be the good ones?