Cape Hatteras

Hart Crane’s The Bridge immediately caught my eye because the name of the section we were assigned “Cape Hatteras.” Cape Hatteras has played a huge role in my life, as I’ve lived there every summer since I was born. I also know Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers all too well, since my grandfather insisted I visit the museum on a yearly basis.

While the museum is slightly boring (especially the tenth time), there is something magical about the dunes where the Wright Brothers actually departed from their first flight, and climbing them at sunset is one of my favorite things in the world. Hearing Crane mention the towns, monuments, and landscapes I’m so familiar with allows me to feel an instant connection to Crane, one that I think Whitman would be proud of. I find Crane’s relation of Whitman’s Paumanok to his Hatteras a wonderful universalizing strategy that Whitman also used often.

The modernist aspect of the poem that resonated most with me was how pessimistic and apprehensive Crane seemed with regards to progressing technology and overall society, revealed in his ending of the first flight in a plane crash. I find it a depressing passage, since it begins with an excited, optimistic tone with descriptions like “Up-charted choristers of their own speeding/They cavalcade on escapade, shear Cumulus—/Lay siege and hurdle Cirrus down the skies!” and abruptly ending in a crash: “Zodiacs, dashed/(now nearing fast the Cape!)/down gravitation’s/vortex into crashed/…dispersion…into mashed and shapeless debris…..” (633-634). Maybe Crane wanted to warn society as to not progress too much too quickly, or it could possibly end in self-destruction? He juxtaposes hope and despair in a way that makes me want to think there could be an optimistic reading of this poem…I’m just not sure what it would be.

{the dunes at Kitty Hawk, July 2010}

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One Response to Cape Hatteras

  1. Nicole Monforton says:

    I felt the same way about the ending of Cranes poem- it quickly went from an optimistic tone to one of uneasyness. I think Crane is warning his audience of readers about the dangers of progressing in technology too quickly. Though it may be innovative and exciting, people have a capability to lose sight of the natural elements the world supplies us with-something I think Whitman would have agreed with. The words “mashed” and “shapeless”, I think, are quite revealing.

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