New York: The City of the Yellow Devil

In “The City of the Yellow Devil,” Maxim Gorky develops one of the most intriguing voices that we’ve read this semester. The best way I could describe his voice is one of frustrated irony. Throughout the chapter, Gorky writes at great length about the detrimental effects that Capitalism has had on American society, particularly in the financial center of the country – New York City. He makes use of his powerful voice to illustrate his point with endless metaphors about the bleak reality of New York society.

One of these metaphors can be found in his title. The fact that he chooses to call New York a “Yellow Devil,” and not a red or black devil, is indicative of his thesis. There are several ways that he expresses yellow in a negative light. One thing the color yellow represents is light. As he passionately claims, “There is a terrifying abundance of light in this city…when one looks at it, enclosed in transparent prisons of glass, one understands that here light, like everything else is enslaved” (16). This passage, including the next few lines was my favorite of the article. His ironic voice truly captures his frustration with the “terrifying” Capitalist city that he sees in New York. He implies that just as light is enslaved in “prisons of glass,” New Yorkers are slaves to Capitalism. As he continues, his paranoia about capitalism and his voice only become more extreme:

…light is a party to the conspiracy against man: dazzling him, it calls: “Come here!” And wheedles him: “Hand over your cash!” People respond to this summons, buy rubbish they do not need and watch shows that only dull their wits.    (16-17)

Imagine what Gorky what say if he was alive today! He lived from 1868-1938 and was fed up with how Americans are seduced into wasting money on petty material “rubbish they do not need” and “watch shows that only dull their wits.” This written decades before reality television was conceived. How would he react to shows like “Real Housewives of New York City” and “Jersey Shore?”

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    David Rand – Writing New York » New York: The City of the Yellow Devil

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