Black Spring

Patriot of the Fourteenth Ward: Henry Miller's Black Spring College

The opening passages of Black Spring seem very endemic to the New York attitude. Henry Miller says that he is a patriot of the Fourteenth Ward of Brooklyn and he discusses how all great heroes and literary figures were merely fantasy compared to the boys like “Eddie Carney, who gave me my first black eye” (4) and “Lester Reardon who, by the mere act of walking down the street, inspired fear and admiration.” (4) This discourse bespeaks of a particular worldview which recreates the city as a conglomeration of villages pushed together by some insane planner. Miller makes it more explicit when he states: “For me the whole world was embraced in the confines of the Fourteenth Ward. If anything happened outside it either didn’t happen or it was unimportant.” (6)

In other writer’s hands, this limited view of the world would be depicted as a cage or proof of a type of degeneracy in the characters. Yet, Henry Miller celebrates the Fourteenth Ward as a place of youth and fire in which the workers are infused with strange nobility. The workers with their black hands have a “grit that has sunk so deep into the skin that nothing could remove it, not soap, nor elbow grease, nor money, nor love, nor death!” (5) This phrase reminds one of Zola’...

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