Don’t judge a book by its cover. We all grow up listening and trying to live day in and day out following the metaphorical phrase. For most of us, this idiom means little however; Evan Hunter uses a character from On the Sidewalk Bleeding to influence the reader of its importance
Andy is a young gang member growing up in the rough neighborhood of The Bronx. As a result, the attraction of membership leads Andy to join The Royals, a gang represented by a bright purple jacket. We are first made aware of Andy just after a rival gang member has fatally stabbed him. It is made clear to us that Andy is no stranger towards violence and gang culture even at his young age. He thought to himself “That was a fierce rumble, they got me good that time” indicating that fighting is a common occurrence for him that he is still unaware of how serious the stab wound is.
As Andy lays helpless down a dark alleyway, we are made aware of three groups of public denying Andy help, a direct result of this appearance and his relationship with the gang culture. Most notably, one young couple is felt inclined to leave Andy helpless. The couple’s first reaction in finding Andy was “He’s a Royal” demonstrating the immediate prejudice. This is again reinforced when they leave him to die due to his gang connections, suggesting that because of this, he doesn’t deserve to get help.
“We help him and the Guardians will be down our necks” It is also made clear that the Guardians are another rival gang. This is confirmed when Andy comments about these gangs being “two of the biggest” As the couple flee the scene, Andy thinks to himself, “Why are they afraid of the Guardians? I’ve never turkeyed out of a rumble with the Guardians” The emphasizing how Andy is no stranger to violence.
However, Hunter positions the reader to understand what is beneath the purple jacket. Hunter demonstrates how Andy is simply a young and impulsive boy therefore is inclined to make poor decisions. In the first paragraph, Hunter uses the word ‘boy’ twice and also makes reference to his age, 16. The author’s intention is to create sympathy for Andy.
He does this successfully because we relate the word ‘boy’ to someone who is young and naïve. The reference to his age convinces us that everyone is inclined to make mistakes, especially at his age. Andy made one poor decision and he should not lose his life be cause of it.
Hunter also reveals how Andy is a kind and caring person. The positive personality is evident when Andy talks about his girlfriend Laura, and his hopes and plans for his future with her. “Someday he would marry Laura, someday he would marry her and have lots of kids, and then move out of the neighborhood” Though this we learn how this gang member ship is just a phase that Andy is going through and how he wants to start a clean project with good opportunities.
We also see how Andy believes in traditional values, not the norm of a gang member. This is further emphasized when we see him put Laura’s needs first “He wondered if Laura would be angry”
Andy is also revealed as tenacious and determined, which are qualities that we admire. He realizes that “they had only stabbed the jacket and the title” Because of this, Andy was driven to take the jacket off, so when he was found, he would not be seen as a Royal, but just Andy.
Andy’s determination is shown when he fights the pain just to remove his jacket. “With great effort, he rolled over onto his back. He felt great pain tearing at his stomach when he moved” Hunter also uses the verbs “squirmed and fought and twisted” These verbs have great impact on the reader because it develops our appreciation of just how determined and tenacious Andy is.
Andy has taught us a very important lesson in the short story On the Sidewalk Bleeding. He has demonstrated how we are not all synonymous to our appearance. Evan Hunter conveys this throughout the text influencing us to understand how maybe we are inclined to make unsafe judgments based on appearances, or is it in our power to prevent it.