Big Cities Vs Small Towns Cultural Studies Essay

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When speaking to an individual of experience, possibly an explorer or an elder, someone may be informed about the way people from particular towns behave. Such as, 'people from big cities are always in rush' or 'citizens from smaller towns are friendlier'. As John Jake states, "The big city and small town have been stereotyped in the American experience as being at opposite ends of an imagined social gradient--the former more a place of cold impersonality in social relations and the latter more a place of warm personalized community. Assumptions about urban-based "mass society" largely blinded Americans through the twentieth century to the existence of, and importance of, locality-based community in big cities. Early in the century, most urban Americans emigrated from rural and small town circumstances, bringing to the nation's cities strong rural and small town proclivities at neighboring. Both central city working-class neighborhoods and affluent suburbs mirrored the small town."(Jakle,1) But, for someone born, raised and living in that small town, these differences may seem clearly an opinion, and perhaps some distinctions are. So why, then do so many people prefer one type of life style over the other? Specific characteristics such as economics, population, crime rate, traffic, city planning and also architecture, differentiate one region from the next. In order to form an opinion, one must analyze two towns on opposing ends of the spectrum. By comparing two towns: a small town, and also a busy suburb, the differences in the characteristics of citizens, the city, and their daily life, make it seem as though small towns and big cities are practically from different countries. As John Jake confirms, "America's small towns and big cities occupy opposite ends of an urban spectrum. Early in the twentieth century, commentators on American life clearly differentiated towns and cities as socially different--the two kinds of place sustaining very different ways of life."(Jakle,1)

In a small town, at first one might notice the appearance. It is not generally uncommon to see an assorted crew of soiled young children come running into the neighborhood supermarket without shirts or shoes and buy candy. The cashier, rather than ushering the inadequately clothed children out the door, asks them how their parents have been, they just so happen to live next door. This sort of incident would not go over so well in a big city. The same young children would have been asked to leave and later admonished by their parents for going out in public looking so disarrayed. For example, in a Clockwork Orange a young fifteen-year-old boy known only by the name of Alex is the antihero. Alex and his three "droogs" are a gang of youngsters who goes around in the dangerous streets of London, fighting, raping, pillaging, and all the basic doings generally associated with anarchy. In a small town, this would be less likely to happen. Overalls, dirty jeans and hats are not uncommon apparel for citizens out running errands and are almost a necessity for the distinguished elderly man. Aside from the readily differences, citizens of small towns seem to have contrasting personality traits as well. Take the scene of a crowded store during the holidays, for instance. In a busy, crowded big city, a shopper with a cart overflowing with items in the checkout lane would simply be focused on checking out and planning on where they need to go next. However in a small sleepy town, that same shopper may check to see if the person just behind them, with only a couple of items, might want to go ahead. Then, possibly even strike up a conversation with a total stranger. As John Jake explains, " To Simmel, large cities overloaded residents with social stimuli, producing in people defensive behaviors both patterned and regularized. The urban personality was reserved and detached. Contact person-to-person in the city might be face-to-face, but even those encounters tended to the impersonal, the superficial, and the transitory (Wirth 1938). The metropolis was seen as a mass of separate individuals variously practicing social avoidance, especially in public spaces. City streets were seen as cold and unfriendly (Gross 1965). Small towns, on the other hand, with limited populations interacting in limited geographical areas, tended not to produce social overload. There, people could personalize relationships, even the cursory spontaneities of chance encounter in public space. Small town streets were warm and friendly. The idealized small town was likened to a nurturing extended family, whereas the city was made out to be a place of alienated individuals (Smith 1966)."(Jakle,1) Another strange exception happens to be a relative disregard for locking the doors at night or even at all. This such behavior is unheard of in the big cities of larger towns. In small towns neighbors have a tendency to look out for the good of the neighborhood, and are always cautious, but with such low crime occurrences, such preventative measures as door-locking are not required.

The appearance of a small town is also entirely different when contrasted against a larger city. As John Jackle mentions, "This study argues that towns and cities shared much in common, the result of one important fact. Most big city residents in America's early twentieth century cities came from small town or rural backgrounds. They brought small town ways to big city life."(Jackle,1) Some small towns themselves, nowadays seem like massive tangled knot of parking lots, avenues, service roads, and highways exactly like in big cities. Expanding businesses and developing neighborhoods all connect and intersperse within the maze of asphalt, making it very problematic for an unfamiliar traveler to get from one destination to the next without help. Small, box-like buildings snap together like tinker toys to house businesses for a year or so and then are left empty, only to be replenished by another business soon thereafter. Massive, lighted signs tower over buildings, coupled with billboards outlining the busiest roadways all advertising to the highest bidder. While tiny, insignificant trees limp around consistent, lifeless houses in an attempt to re-beautify a deforested city. A small town, in contrast, is a large grid work, nearly the whole town divided into two blocks with only a few outer roads and two highways entering and existing the city limits. As Bethany Warner explains, "Living in close proximity, such as in a small town or distinct city enclave, creates community bonds because people see each other continuously. European cities are structured around this idea, having central squares and preserved green spaces." (Warner,28) In Lars and the real girl, Lars arrives at work and The receptionist greets him and encourages him to talk to the new girl and get a date. He politely ignores her and disappears behind the double doors. This is where all of the cubicles are. He walks to his desk and passes by the new girl. At this point you finally understand he lives in a pretty small town. Each of said city blocks is cut down the middle by at least one alleyway, possibly two. These alleyways serve such intention as garbage pickup and parking for residences, garage access, and the most notable job of all, a playground for the neighborhood children. Most of small towns is housing. Each house is unique, some ranging from a few years old to hundreds of years old, family built to Victorian- style mansions. In the housing district, trees tower over all, stretching ancient branches across the street to form an arboreal canopy across brick and asphalt streets alike. Small family owned businesses and restaurants all share the same space and are built into old houses. The only busy roadway is a section of highway that comes directly through town, there is where residents will find fast food chains, department stores, hardware stores, all sharing the small parking lot and signs. A typical day in a small town is very much at ease, especially when compared to whirlwind of city life. the opening scene summarily characterizes Blue Velvet in theme and plot. Following the lush, fifties-style opening credits, the screen shows a blue sky, flowers, the local firefighters riding through town waving, and Jeffrey's father watering the lawn, all in brilliant, almost surreal color. Then the scene, which might have come from a generation earlier, is interrupted by a massive stroke that drops Mr. Beaumont to his back. The camera pans deeply into the well groomed lawn and uncovers combating insects. Likewise, the camera plunges unflinchingly into the unseen, discomforting side of Lumbertown. In the small town, since most of the businesses are in same proximity, morning and noon rush are not that intimidating, unlike complicated games of bumper cars that is rush hour in the big city. After work, most families go and spend time together, perhaps going to the movies or dinner. Most children come home and run about the neighborhood until dark, without fear of a run-in with a car. During the weekend, it is not uncommon to see many families or even groups of neighbors barbecuing in the back yard and drinking alcohol in plain sight. Some may have a bonfire, though such fires a technically illegal, local law enforcement rarely, if ever, interferes unless it gets out of control. One of the most popular activity's among citizens is to spend a day at one of the parks around towns. As John Jackle states, "If the small town was seen to excite tight bonds of social security, then the city did not. If the city represented the cold realization of a new mass society, the small town did not. Stereotypic thinking has always been (and always will be) influential in how Americans not only conceptualize, but configure the nation's built environments."(Jackle,1)

For some individuals, the stress and speed of big city life is a trip to insanity. Others cannot stand the slow, inactivity of a small town. “To each, his own” it is said, and such statement applies well to the choice between living large and living modestly. Small towns sadly may be a increasingly dying species at the current rate of human expansion. As Paul Kantor remarks, "Small-town America is easily overlooked. The spreading of suburbia has usually enveloped (or paved over) little towns

located near the rim of metropolitan areas. Interstate highways typically by-pass them. Similarly, the attention of academic urban specialists is more likely to be directed to big cities, not small-towns, in order to understand the dynamics of urban change"(Kantor,415) Perhaps someday, cities will all merge together and memories of simple, small rural areas will fade. But for now, it is nice to sit back and notice the sometimes staggering conflicting difference between the two life styles.