New York City strikes amazement and awe as it stands as the epitome of dreams coming true. Its expansive diversity of arts, entertainment, commerce, cultures, and ideas allow it to offer valuable opportunities like no other city known to mankind. In his essay “Here Is New York”, E.B. White successfully describes the atmosphere of the city and the gifts that New York bestows its people. It is these very gifts and opportunities that allure women such as Gladys Glover in It Should Happen To You, Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Helen in Panic At Needle Park to migrate to New York City. It is only after coming to the city however, do these women realize that New York City gives much more than one had expected. Rather than being an escape from reality, the city only leads one to confront reality. In White’s words, New York City “can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him…”(34). Gladys, Holly, and Helen each experience a different reality when they migrate to New York City and it is either fulfillment or destruction that envelops their lives.
E.B. White discusses the wonders of New York City in his essay. He speaks with a tone that expresses his appraisal as well as his astonishment at the city’s unique and eclectic persona. According to White, the city truly houses a diverse range of population as it the “concentrate of art and commerce and sport and religion and entertainment and finance”(34). Having said all that, it only makes sense for White to claim, “New York City is peculiarly constructed to absorb anything that comes along”(35). With its acceptance of every mode of living, how can New York not welcome all sorts of people? White reports that the city draws in not only selfish commuters but goal-oriented dreamers as well. These dreamers are categorized by White as the third type of New Yorkers who come to the city in quest of something. New York City is symbolic to a church offering “aspiration and faith”(37), claims White. The heterogeneous people of New York help paint the city in return. While commuters contribute to the fast pace and restlessness of the city, it is the dreamers who offer passion, excitement, and love for it. White characterizes the intensity of a New York City’s dreamer by commenting that they have “fresh eyes of an adventurer, each [of which] generates heat and light”(36). He metaphorically compares New York to poetry, which successfully squeezes in massive ethnicities, arts, music, and lifestyles into a small island just like a poem that expresses so many emotions in such little space.
Perhaps New York wouldn’t be as unique as it is if it weren’t for the gifts it offered its inhabitants. Along with commenting on the welcoming nature of the city, White points out New York City’s qualities that “bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy”(34). Unlike the life of small towns and villages, New York City offers personal space and time to its people. These gifts are blended with the excitement of participation as well. He elaborates his point by giving examples of “splashy events that occurred” in NYC, and “a man [who] shop and killed his wife in a fit of jealously”, which in no way intrude the steady and continuous lives of its people.
Considering that the third type of New Yorkers give the city “its high-strung disposition, its poetical development, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements”(36), these goal driven individuals are inevitably the center of White’s comments on the city. These are the city’s “young worshipful beginners”(39), who have migrated from villages to pursue a dream. New York City the final destination for these people, and it is this place that is expected to offer them “sanctuary and fulfillment”(34). This city can be the city of dependents for the third type of New Yorks because they depend on the city’s variety and sources to provide some sort of rejuvenation in life. Along with that, many people depend the city for it’s rare gift that allows them to “escape, rather than face reality”, states White. Although all dreams and goals are welcome to turn into reality in this city, White does not fail to mention that New York’s gifts are in fact “mysterious [and a] dubious quality”(34) of the city. He claims that amidst all its wonders, New York City can “destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending on a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky”(34). New York City can be symbolic to a grail for many, but it can do so much more than just fulfill one’s dreams.
Gladys Glover in It Should Happen To You tests her luck as she moves from Binghamton to New York City because she wants to “make a name for herself”. She feels that this city can fulfill her dreams and optimistically considers every opportunity since her dream is bound to come true in this magical city. The women’s viewpoints toward this city only prove E.B. White’s statements true. New York City is her “visible symbol of aspiration and faith”(37) because Gladys expects the city to fulfill her goals. The excitement of reaching her goals and the passion to become famous oozes from the woman. Gladys is excited by the incredible opportunity to rent a billboard and then astounded by her “fame” and name on the billboard. In her eyes, it is only New York that can do such wonders. At one point, Gladys turns gloomy at the thought of going back home because that means she must return to working in a shoe factory and getting married. This very idea shows how NYC is an “escape”(36) for people, as White states, to a world that is the “final destination”(36). It is a place of rejuvenation where people like Gladys can come in, grasp an opportunity, and earn success.
White mentioned that a settler New Yorker’s passion allows for the city to reach incomparable achievements. White’s statement could not have been better proven by the movie in which a ludicrous idea of naming billboards after oneself actually allows for actual success and opportunities. New York is indeed “peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along”(35), even people like Gladys who simply want fame. As Gladys struggles to reach her goals, one sees NY in light of being the “concentrate of art and commerce and sport and religion and entertainment and finance”(34), as well. Photographers like Pete fill Central Park, businessmen like Adam talk intense finance, and people like Gladys work in the art of modeling and commerce all in the same city. White’s observations are proven, as the city does indeed allow for so much to happen. Stretching the connection between Here In New York and It Should Happen to You, one can even see how Gladys takes advantage New York’s gift of “excitement of participation”(35) as she disregards the busy crowds of New York and just pushes and pursues her own dream. Events happening in other parts of the city neither concern nor intrude her life.
Just like the skyscrapers of New York City, Gladys shoots skyward as she becomes famous. The woman goes from owning several self-named billboards to appearing in talk shows and commercials as the “Average American Girl”. New York City gives rejuvenation to Gladys by fulfilling her dream and allows her to make a name for herself. At this point of her life however, Gladys begins to experience “great forlornness or forsakenness”(35) that is considered to be a characteristic of New York City. Gladys begins to lose the excitement and adrenaline rush she once felt from her dream coming true. She loses her beloved Pete Sheppard, who constantly tries to explain that New York City offers the valuable gift of privacy, and it is something most people cherish. He fails to explain to her that life is worth living within the crowds rather than above it. It is only after losing her excitement, privacy, and beloved Pete, does the woman realize that her true excitement and happiness lies in living within the crowds. All along, Gladys was trying to escape the life of an average woman who had no media buzz and fame following her. Little did she know, detaching from fame and living a private life with Pete as an average American girl, not “The Average American Girl”, was what she truly wanted. By confronting her reality in New York, Gladys discovered her true identity and earned fulfillment.
Like Gladys Glover, Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s conforms the role of the third type of New Yorker. She migrates from Texas as Lulu Mae Barnes, to New York City as Holly Golightly. New York City becomes the perfect escape for her as she leaves behind the reality of a family to pursue an elitist life in New York. The city gives Holly the gift of loneliness and privacy as she lives a phony life without having anyone intrude in her matters or question her background. Unlike a small town, Holly’s life is her own business and the very privacy of New York is one of the things that allow Holly to survive. One can see that she is attempting to escape her old identity and get rich by depending on the “city’s tremendous variety and sources of excitement for spiritual sustenance and maintenance of morale” (35). Holly indulges in parties and drinking, as she tries to rejuvenate her life and recreate herself as a socialite. She is trying to relive by giving herself a new name, identity, and lifestyle. It is for this reason that OJ Burman calls her the “realest phony of all phonies”. Holly is a Texas country girl who acts like a Manhattan socialite. The interesting thing however, is her ability to be such a phony so well. One must note that it is only NYC that allows for such a passion to be true, and absorb people like Holly who come along with dreams like the one she has.
The dream of actually becoming a wealthy socialite is right around the corner when Holly’s temporary escape shatters, and reality begins making its way into Holly’s life. Holly is caught and imprisoned for being involved in drug trafficking. As a result, she loses her chance to marry a rich Brazil man. At this point, Holly almost loses Paul Varjack as well; a man whose love she disregarded because it wasn’t enough to reach her goal. The woman turns back from completely being destroyed when she gets a final hit of reality from Paul. He blatantly awakens her by letting her know that she is trying to escape from her true self, who calls herself a “free spirit” but is only caged because she refuses to be happy by accepting love. Holly’s confrontation with reality is a little similar to that of Gladys Glover in that the two women discover their identities. Holly’s confrontations make her realize that a made-up glamorous life is not meant for her. She accepts reality and hence, gains fulfillment as she takes on her own identity by settling with Paul and living an average, but happy life.
Helen’s New York City, as portrayed in The Panic At Needle Park is extremely different from those of Gladys and Holly. This goes back to White’s claim that New York City is extremely diverse even within itself. “Each area is a city within a city within a city”(38), he states. Each neighborhood has a distinguishing characteristic, and Helen’s New York neighborhood shapes much of her life. Helen tests her luck by coming to New York City, only to get tackled by a plethora of problems. Although her life is quite different from Holly Golightly’s life, the two women face the same kind of identity struggle. Holly relies on a “phony” lifestyle filled with dressing up, drinking, and partying like someone she really isn’t, while Helen relies on other men and the streets of NYC to give her an identity and a meaning in life. Helen is a very lost person, and this is evident right in the beginning when she is hemorrhaging due to an illegal abortion behest of her dishonest lover. Even after seeing death so close in the eye, the dependent woman relies on the city’s “variety and sources for spiritual sustenance and maintenance of morale”(35). She becomes attracted to a cocaine addict, Bobby only to lead a life that progressively gets worse. Helen’s risky life turns into ongoing escape from the authorities, as she gets involved in prostitution and cocaine abuse.
E.B. White believes that every neighborhood in New York is complete and has its own unique character. Unlike other areas explored in It Should Happen To You and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Upper West Side explored in this movie is drowning in crime and drug abuse. It is evident that NYC is indeed “peculiarly constructed to absorb anything”, for it allows drug communities and “Needle Park” to exist as well. The Upper West Side neighborhood plays a very important role in the life that Helen leads. The neighborhood’s poverty forces people like Bobby and Helen to take up crimes such as drug trafficking and prostitution. A lack of authoritative figures allows “Needle Park” and drug communities to continue and grow.
Helen presumably comes to New York for a better life. She was obviously not expecting cocaine and prostitution to infest her life. Any dream or goal of leading a better life was not achieved. Helen did not have the luck that New York City required. Although New York City welcomed her in, the area of New York that Helen survives in, is nothing but destructive. Bobby gets jailed and Helen even decides to leave the city, but she never actually does so. Her life becomes the “spectacle that is continuing”(39) that NYC is characteristic of, because she continues to live with Bobby in the crime infested neighborhood after he comes out of jail. Unlike Gladys and Holly, she doesn’t discover her true identity nor escapes her life of dependence. She continues to swallow the reality that stands in front of her, and allows for New York City to destroy her.
Hence we see that New York stands as the home of dreams, opportunities, and a better life for many. Women like Gladys Glover, Holly Golightly, and Helen leave behind their previous lives with dreams and hopes that rely on the wonders of the city. As wondrous and miraculous as the city is, New York is also seen acquainting these women to its ability fulfill or destroy people as well. Gladys, Holly and Helen experienced the dual nature of New York City first hand, as they unexpectedly confront much more than they had expected. Gladys discovers her identity and steps down from her dream that actually comes true in New York City. Holly discovers her true self and true happiness, as she ditches her made-up life and endless struggle to obtain wealth. Helen too, confronts the unexpected. In her unfortunate case however, the woman never reaches a goal or a destination. She never discovers her identity, and instead gets stumbles upon and destroyed by New York City. Whichever the case maybe, E.B. White was very true in claiming that New York City welcomes all sorts of races and creeds, it is diverse in nature, and can fulfill or destroy its people. The city proved itself to be that way in It Should Happen To You, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and Panic in Needle Park by welcoming every women and her dreams and leaving her fulfilled or destroyed.