Stuart Dybek's Chicago





Mayor Daley

Stuart Dybek




works cited



Mayor Daley


Dybek identifies Mayor Daley as the major instigator of urban renewal during the 1950s and 1960s in Chicago inner city neighborhoods. For this reason Daley played a major role in the lives of inner city residents. Dybek makes Daley's presence known in his short story Blight. Within the first few lines he says "Richard J. Daley was mayor then. It seemed as if he had always been and would always be, the mayor"[6]. Dybek's depiction of Daley is not simply the musings of a young boy, but echos the feeling of the entire city. Daley is best remembered as being the last "Big Boss" of Chicago. His long tenure as Mayor began in 1955 and ended with his death in 1976.

In general as a Mayor, he was known for his heavy handed ways and for being unacceptably tolerant of corruption, despite his own personal honesty. He is also known for his role in the 1968 Race Riots as well as the Controversy surrounding the Democratic Convention. However, for the people living in the neighborboods of Chicago during his run as mayor he was known for something different.

"Mayor Daley was everywhere. The city was tearing down buildings for urban renewal and tearing up streets for a new expressway, and everywhere one looked there were signs in front of the rubble reading: SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE ANOTHER IMPROVEMENT FOR A GREATER CHICAGO RICHARD J. DALEY, MAYOR" [5]


Not everyone viewed Mayor Daley's urban renewal project as a good thing. For generations who had been living in these neighborhoods, change was uprooting their culture. Mayor Daley's project had the opposite affect, "...another express way goes through the Puerto Rican ghetto and the remains of the old polish neighborhood where the old people remain while their children move away" [4]. The demolition and construction drove away the young generation, creating the loss of the neighborhood feel as metaphorically described in Dybek's story Hot Ice.

At the end of the story Mannie, Eddie, and Antek go to the abandoned icehouse the night before it is to be demolished. "...Antek knew that no matter how much they joke or what excuses they gave, they were going, like him, for one last look. They were just old enough to have seen the icehouse before it shut down. It was a special building, the kind a child couldn't help but notice and remember"[7]. They are on a mission to rescue the frozen body of the polish dead virgin, who represent the attempt to preserve the old ways and legends of the nieghborhood. Antek is the old neighborhood bum, he has been here as long as anyone can remember and he represents the old remains of the neighborhood. Eddie and Mannie represent the young generation. The contrast in the ethnicities of the two young characters emphasizes the shift from polish to hispanic.

In mayor Daley's urban renewl project he has achieved a restructng of the inner city neighborhoods as well as the distruction of communities and legends.







Richard J. Daley









Richard Daley driving first stake into new expressway.