On The Sidewalk Bleeding, by Ed McBain. Short Story Questions

1. Who is the Protagonist?

The name of the protagonist in this story is Andy. Andy is sixteen years old and is part of one of the largest gangs in the area, the Royals. He wears a purple jacket that has his name on the front, and The Royals written on the back to show his allegiance. His early pride of being a Royal is entirely hubris, as he is dying because he is a Royal. The events of the story revolve around him lying in the street, bleeding out because of a stab wound he took, not because he as Andy, but because he was a Royal. Nobody who finds him knows who he is, and when he is thinking to himself, he wants the whole world to know who he is, that he is alive, and that he exists. At this time he doesn’t yet realize that he is dying, that’s why he wants people to know he is alive. It wasn’t until his girlfriend, Laura, came that someone knew him as Andy, and could look beyond the purple jacket. When Andy did know that he was dying, he knew it was because of his affiliation with the royals, and so in and effort to be known as who he was instead of what he was, he took off his jacket with the last strength and determination he could muster; in his death it show Andy was a tragic hero, with no happy ending. Andy focussing on his love for Laura helped him greatly as it gave him hope and a reason for his perseverance.

2. What are the conflicts?

Man vs Man:

The Voice (the man who stabbed Andy)
Guardians and the history of the rivalry between Royals and Guardians
The drunk man who thought Andy was also drunk left him alone, thinking he was doing Andy a favour, as Andy would be underage.
Freddie and Angela wouldn’t help Andy because he was a Royal and they were afraid the Guardians would find out if they did. The people who found, but would not help Andy were bystanders, as they could have easily helped him but chose not to. Andy was bleeding through his ribs, symbolizing his Jesus-like sacrifice.

Man vs Nature:

The poor old woman was unable to hear Andy’s moans from the other end of the alley because of the sound of the rain, especially against the garbage cans.
Andy was the one person who needed help against the rain the most, and even the old woman who lived in poverty had an umbrella.
“The March rain drilling his jacket and drilling his body” shows the perceived hostility of the rain, and Andy’s further discomfort in the rain, when the rain before was washing him, symbolizing baptism and

Man vs Self:

Andy is in a constant struggle in trying to know who he is and to be Andy rather than being generalized as a Royal, this search for meaning presents Andy’s existential crisis. His crisis is his wonder, his not knowing, and his unfruitful search for meaning and of self.
Andy was unable to let the world know who he was and that he existed.
Andy did not want to die a royal, he wanted to be himself and to be known as Andy.

3.The conflict is developed through the use of names that apply to the boy: Andy and a Royal. How do the names appear in critical places. What do these names represent?

Andy’s name was written on the front of his jacket, near the heart, the author shows the importance of who someone is with this small detail. The person who stabbed Andy had said “That’s for you, Royal!” he didn’t stab him in hatred of Andy, but in hatred of The Royals. The title of a Royal is meaningless in Andy’s view near the end, and the pride he previously had about being a Royal was hubris. Andy’s struggle between being a Royal or being Andy represents our own search of self, we also look to find our own meaning and want to know who we are, and not just what we’re called. The police officer recorded Andy in his notepad as a Royal, showing that, despite Andy’s efforts, he was still only a nameless Royal in the eyes of others.

4. What effect does Andy’s Jacket have on the people who find him in the alley?

The drunk was unable to clearly see that Andy was bleeding, because the Jacket was covering his wound, the rain was washing the blood away, and because of the darkness. Freddie and Angela didn’t help Andy because he was a Royal, and they were afraid of The Guardians, who were a rival gang to The Royals. The police officer wrote that it was a Royal who had died, because of the jacket that was near Andy, if the jacket were not there, and Laura was there, the police officer would likely have written Andy’s name instead. Andy’s efforts to no longer be associated with The Royals were futile.

5. What are the reasons why these people do not help Andy?

The drunk man thought Andy was also drunk, so he left him alone, believing that he had just done him a favour as Andy was underage and he thought that no further help was required. Freddie and Angela didn’t help Andy, because of his alignment with The Royals. The old woman didn’t hear Andy from the other end of the alley over the sound of the rain. It’s ironic that the drunk threatened Andy with calling a cop, then would not even though one of the things Andy would have needed the most was a cop.

6. At what point does Andy realize he is dying?

After not receiving help from the young couple he began to wonder what it would mean if he died, and after the old woman left, he acknowledged the fact that he was dying. Before, he had refused to think about the idea that he might die, but after not receiving any help, he gradually lost hope.

7. What does Andy do with the last of his strength? how is this important to the theme and to the outcome of the conflict?

The theme of this short story is the importance of the meaning of self and who you are. Andy takes off his jacket with the last of his strength, he does this because all he could think about was that he wanted to be Andy, and not to be a Royal, which was now a meaningless title and was the reason he was dying. If Andy had successfully separated himself from his title as a Royal, the police officer would have listened to Laura, who knew him.

8. What is the climax or turning point? Create a plot diagram.

The turning point was Andy’s realization that he was dying, followed by him taking off his jacket.

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9. What is the police officer’s reaction to Andy? How does this contribute to the author’s message?

The police officer saw the purple jacket beside Andy’s body, and said “A Royal, huh?” Laura then quietly told him Andy’s name, but the police officer again said that Andy was a Royal and wrote in his notepad that a Royal had died, not that Andy had died. The message the Author conveys in this story is the importance of knowing one’s self, not being attached to meaningless things or titles, and seeing all dimensions of a person.

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