On the Sidewalk Bleeding is a short story by American author Ed McBain, also known as Evan Hunter. The story was first published in Manhunt magazine in 1956. Its protagonist, a sixteen-year-old boy named Andy, bleeds to death on the sidewalk after being stabbed below the ribs by a member of a rival gang. The story is commonly used as teaching material in high schools and colleges. According to Evan Hunter, this was one of his most anthologized stories, together with First Offence and The Last Spin.
The story takes place during the last minutes of the 16 year old protagonist Andy's life. Andy is a member of a gang called "The Royals", as shown by a purple jacket he's wearing. He left to buy a pack of cigarettes and is stabbed by a member of a rival gang, The Guardians. He is slow to realize the severity of his wound, too proud to have taken a hit for his group. However, Andy soon notices that he is slowly dying. Due to rapid loss of blood, he is too weak to clearly speak. A drunk man comes down the alley and assumes Andy is also drunk and staggers off, telling him he's lucky he won't call the police. A young boy and girl fear to help him because he is a Royal and do not want to become involved in gang wars. An elderly homeless lady digs through trash cans near by but does not hear him because of the rain splattering the trashcans. In his final moments, Andy realizes the Royals jacket cost him his life. With the last of his strength, he shrugs off the jacket and dies. A few minutes after his death, Laura–the girlfriend he was to marry–finds him and quickly runs to find a cop. The cop simply looks at the jacket and says, "A Royal huh?". Laura answers, "His name was Andy". The cop ignores Laura and says, "A Royal," and continues to write on his notepad.
- ^E. E. MacDonald; Ed McBain and Evan Hunter (2012) A Literary Companion. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers: Jefferson, North Carolina.
- ^Jay Cline, Ken Williams (1969) Voices in literature, language, and composition, Book 3, Ginn and Company. p. 103
- ^Rose Wassman, Lee Ann Rinsky (1999) Effective reading in a changing world, Longman. ISBN 978-0130115799, p. 99
- ^Brenda D. Smith (2005) Bridging the Gap, Longman; 8 edition. ISBN 978-0321416759 p. 191
- ^Barbara Ruth Johnson (January 1975). "Resources for the Teaching of English: 1975". The English Journal. 64 (1): 84–85.
- ^Ed McBain (2006) Learning to Kill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0151012220, p. 452
“On the Sidewalk Bleeding” has two different kinds of conflict. First, there is a man vs. man conflict. In the beginning of the story, Andy is stabbed by a rival gang called the Guardians who, during the stabbing, say “This is for you, Roya1!” These two gangs stand for different things and hold different territory. Therefore, their confrontation is an example of a man vs. man conflict.
There is also a man vs. himself conflict in the story. This conflict can be seen on several occasions in the story. In the middle of the story, a young couple stumbles upon Andy, who is lying on the sidewalk, about 10 minutes after he was stabbed. The man in the couple walks up to Andy and considers helping him but then he sees his jacket, which is a jacket for the gang, the Royals. The man fights with himself over the issue of whether to help Andy and get him to the hospital. In the end, he decides not to and says to his girlfriend, “I don’t want to get mixed up on this. If we find a cop, the Guardians will find out who.” In this man vs. himself conflict, fear won the battle. It is appalling to me that this man would not help Andy while he is dying in the rain. This man’s fear of being hunted down by a gang is the key moment in the story that led to Andy’s eventual death.
The other man vs. himself conflict is between Andy and himself. As Andy continues to wait for someone to help him, he begins to lose hope. He fights with himself over man issues. He fights with himself over whether or not he will live after being stabbed. He admits to himself that he is losing this battle, when he thinks to himself, “Laura, I’m dying!” This is one of the worst things Andy could have done. When someone accepts that he is dying, that is when he finally starts dying because he has lost confidence. Andy also fights with himself over the decisions he has made in life. It turns out that, as Andy was dying, he began to regret the decision he made to become a Royal. He gives the reader the impression that it was one of the worst decisions he ever made. When he found out he had been accepted by the gang, he was on top of the world. Now, as he lies on the sidewalk, bleeding, he wishes he had never been a part of the Royals in the first place. Andy is also in conflict with himself over his girlfriend, Laura. He is angry at himself that this had to happen because he was going to spend the rest of his life with her in the Bronx. He wonders to himself if Laura will be mad at him for being gone for so long.
The theme of the story “On the Sidewalk, Bleeding” is identity. Andy is angry at everyone for not giving him a chance because of how people identify him. All anyone sees him as is a member of the gang called the Royals. Andy wants to be known as Andy, the man who is going to marry Laura and move to the Bronx. Andy faces prejudice because of his identity at many points in the book. At the beginning of the story, Andy is stabbed by the Guardians. If Andy had been walking around without a Royal jacket, he may not have been killed. Later, in the alley, Andy comes across the young couple who decide not to help him. They don’t help him because of the jacket he is wearing and everything that comes with it. Then, there is the most painful part of the story, when Andy is lying dead and Laura says, “His name is Andy”. The policeman at the scene responds that Andy is just “a royal”, giving the reader the impression that the policeman feels the death is justified because there is gang warfare involved. People often judge each other’s identities based on what they wear. If Andy walked around without that jacket, people would just see another man. Instead, Andy is judged instantly because of this jacket. In the end, this jacket cost him his life.
The third element of the story is setting. The setting of this story takes place on a sidewalk outside an alley, late at night. The setting of the story is very gloomy. It is also raining, which, coupled with the alley, makes the story very spooky. In this story, the setting makes a huge difference to the power of the book. The author tries to create as horrific a setting as possible. The rain is the key to the story. One can imagine Andy, lying on his side with blood spilling out and it being washed away by the rain, creating a murky red puddle. For example, if Andy was lying in a field with no clouds and the sun was shining brightly, the reader might not feel as frightened while reading the story. The gloominess of the setting in the story is connected to the terrible thoughts of dying Andy had going through his head as he lay there.