A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of Rum Alley.
Mr. Dean’s “The City in Literature” class spinning knowledge on the interwebs:
Crane’s language here and below contrasts the youth of the children in the scene with their apparently heroic actions. The boy is “very little” yet defending the “honor” of his neighborhood.
This “honor,” though, turns out to be nothing more than a “heap of gravel,” so Crane seems to be suggesting that the epic nature of the battle is somewhat ridiculous.
In the name Rum Alley, Crane also encapsulates the rampant alcoholism of the tenements seen later in Jimmie’s home. These boys are often sent to fetch beer for drunken adults, further demonstrating their loss of innocence.
Some background on late nineteenth century NYC tenement life might be helpful here:
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