English Blog

Detroit Renaissance Phoenix April 6, 2010

Filed under: Middlesex — writing4english @ 8:33 AM

          Book Two tells a lot about the city of Detroit and it is told from two perspectives. To begin with, book two tells how Detroit was made of wheels long before the days of Ford. It begins with the more recent display of Detroit. This is told through Cal, when he was nine and still a girl. He reflects on a day he spent with his dad in the city. Her dad had offered to take her anywhere she wanted. She picked “the top of the Pontch” and dad kept his promise (Eugenides 80), so there they went. The Pontch that Cal referred to was the Pontchartrain Hotel. According to the website for Detroit hotels www.emporis.com, this hotel was built on the site of Fort Pontchartrain, Detroit’s first permanent European settlement in 1701. It was later known as Fort Detroit. The Top of the Pontch, 25 floors high, is the top floor that has a 6,500 square foot ballroom. Renovation for the Pontchartrain Hotel began in 2007 and cost approximated $35 million by the time of completion in 2007 (www.emporis.com/appliction/). Cal goes on to explain how looking out the window from the top of the Pontch, the city below him made a design of a hub cap. “And there it is: half a hubcap of city plaza, with the spokes of Bagley, Washington, Woodward, Broadway and Madison radiating from it” (Eugenides 80). This ties back into how the beginning of book two, the narrator says that “Detroit was always made of wheels” (Eugenides 79). After the fires of 1805, Chief Justice, Augustus Woodward, used baroque styled radial avenues and Grand Circus Park as his outline for rebuilding the city (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus_B._Woodward). Each wheel in the design was to “separate yet unite” (Eugenides 80). The motto of Detroit is “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus”, which means “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes”. This motto was made after those fires of 1805 when the city was basically burned down. The fires wiped the city out and had to build back up. The motto represented that even with the fires, a better life and city is in store. The fired caused for a re-birth of the city of Detroit. It is also interesting how the city of Detroit is also known as being the Renaissance city. Renaissance is French for re-birth. There are many places throughout the city that use the word Renaissance is some way. There is a building downtown named the Renaissance Center, the top Detroit Public School is named Renaissance High School (which I attended), and there is even a bowling alley named Renaissance Bowling Center. The mascot of Renaissance High School is the phoenix, a mythological bird that when the end of its life is near will ignite and burn to ashes to be reborn and live again. This magical bird can rise from the ashes and the city of Detroit believed it could too. The city of Detroit is the phoenix and after the fires of 1805 it would rise and be reborn.

-Arielle K.

I would like to use this in my paper.


3 Responses to “Detroit Renaissance Phoenix”

  1. I like your connection with Detroit always being made of wheels and Cal thinking the aerial view of Detroit looked like a hubcap. I found the same connection.

    – Jake Morse

  2. I liked your connection with the Renaissance and phoenix and the burning of Detroit very interesting!


  3. Very good, Arielle. You can definitely use this if you would like. There is even further connection to the “re-birth” idea you present, particularly with Cal.

    ~Jenna G.

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