The Cricket in Times Square

The Cricket in Times Square Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5 - 6


Rather than sleeping late on Sundays like he usually does, Mario wakes up early and goes to the newsstand with his father right away. He greets the cricket immediately, and is glad to see that he did not run away in the night. Mario feeds Chester some bread, sugar, and a Brussels sprout, not knowing what crickets like to eat; Chester usually eats leaves and grass, but he is happy with this as well.

Mario takes Chester over to one of the lunch counters and introduces him to the counterman, Mickey, who lets Chester drink from a glass of water. As Chester tries to balance on the rim of the glass, though, he falls in. Mickey offers to let Chester try a soda as well, and Mario selects strawberry, his own favorite flavor. The counterman makes a tiny soda float with ice cream in a tablespoon for Chester, and another larger one for Mario. When they finish, Mickey tells Mario to bring Chester back for water anytime he needs it.

When Mario returns to the station, Papa is speaking with Mr. Smedley, the Bellini's best customer. They are talking about Italian opera, which the Bellini's like more than anything else, and listen to on the radio whenever it is broadcast. Mario tells Mr. Smedley about his cricket, and Mr. Smedley asks if the cricket would chirp for him. Mario asks Chester politely if he would chirp, and Chester does. Mr. Smedley notes that the chirp was a perfect middle C, and then begins to pretend to conduct, and Chester chirps on every downbeat.

Mario asks if Mr. Smedley wants to give Chester music lessons, but Mr. Smedley says nature has already taught Chester everything he needs to know. He calls the cricket a "little black Orpheus," referencing the mythological figure that could play a harp so beautifully that even nature itself stopped to listen (Chapter 5, pg. 36). Mr. Smedley says there are great things in store for a cricket of this talent, and Papa Bellini wonders if he could be famous.

Next, Mario heads downtown to Chinatown to find a house for Chester to live in, since the Chinese think crickets are special and build unique cages for them. Chester watches up and down the subway car as they ride, curious and wanting to see as much of New York as he could during his time there. Once they are aboveground, he gets his first look at the tall city buildings in the daylight.

They scour Chinatown for an open store that sells cricket cages, and finally find Sai Fong's Chinese novelties shop. An old Chinese man named Sai Fong runs it, and Mario notes that his voice sounds musical too, like a plucked violin. Mario shows him the cricket and asks for a cricket cage. Excited at the sight of a cricket, Sai Fong goes into the back of his shop and comes back with a multi-tier cricket cage in the shape of a pagoda.

Sai Fong says that the cricket cage is ancient, and it once housed a cricket that belonged to the emperor of all of China. He tells Mario a story about a time before crickets, when a man named Hsi Shuai who knew all secrets and spoke only the truth was changed into a cricket by the gods to keep him from being killed by people who did not like what he had to say. Now his words of wisdom and truth are contained in a cricket's song.

Chester Cricket is touched by the story, and chirps in response. Sai Fong sells Mario the cage discounted, since this cricket is so special. He also gives him a special silver bell for free to put in the cage, as well as a Chinese fortune cookie. Mario's fortune reads "Good luck is coming your way. Be ready" (Chapter 6, pg. 45).


More characters in the book have begun to plant the idea of Chester's music being special and becoming famous. Mr. Smedley even makes an allusion to Greek mythology when he compares Chester to Orpheus. This places Chester's skill on an even higher, almost timeless, level, far above anything that a present-day musician could accomplish. Like Orpheus can charm all living and nonliving things with his music, Chester will soon charm the masses with his own.

As time goes on Chester is slowly growing more used to New York City. When he first arrived he was timid and scared, worried about adapting to this world that is so different from what he has always known. Now, though, he is actively taking everything in, looking around the subway cars and up at the towering downtown buildings. It is still overwhelming, but Chester is open to learning as much as possible while in this new situation. This is a clear message to readers to embrace new surroundings in their own lives the same way Chester has embraced them in his.

Selden establishes an immediate connection between Chinese shopkeeper Sai Fong and Chester Cricket when, through Mario's perspective, he compares Sai Fong's voice to a violin. In this way, Sai Fong and Chester Cricket are two different takes on the same instrument. Chester's sound is the long slide of a bow across a violin's strings, while Sai Fong's is the quicker, shorter sound of a pluck of a single violin string. No other human in this story is parallel to Chester like this.

The story that Sai Fong tells Mario and Chester about Hsi Shuai, the man who spoke only truth, serves a few purposes. Like the story of Orpheus that Mr. Smedley references, it connects Chester with the importance of the past and raises his music to a special level above all other things. But it also gives Chester a sense of confidence that he desperately needs while surrounded by so many new, different, and intimidating things. If Chester himself feels special, then he can do great things with his time in New York. If he does not, then he will likely not make the most of his city experience.

Although there is foreshadowing everywhere in this story, the most obvious way to hint at future events is through a fortune cookie itself. When Mario's fortune tells him that good luck is on the way, readers know immediately that the Bellini family's fate will change, somehow, because of the presence of this cricket. What they need right now more than ever is good business for their newsstand; judging by this fortune cookie, the tides may turn and bring them exactly this.