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[Detail] Woody Guthrie

Historical Analysis and Interpretation

This collection includes a short composition called The Railroad Cricket that Guthrie probably wrote for an episode of the radio program Back Where I Come From. This composition is an allegory, a story that seems to be about one thing, but actually has another, symbolic, meaning as well. Read The Railroad Cricket a few times and answer the following questions to interpret the symbolic meaning of Guthrie's tale.

  • What does the railroad cricket do for the railroad workers?
  • What does Guthrie mean when he writes, "The rainy weather he'd hide up under a chunk somewheres and you talk about it, he'd mentally put it out?"
  • Why wasn't the railroad cricket afraid of his boss?
  • What did the railroad cricket do in the winter and why?
  • What did the railroad cricket do for the other crickets and how did they respond?
  • Given what the railroad cricket is like and what it does, who or what else might the cricket represent?
  • Who might the crickets that hid in big holes represent?
  • What do you think is the symbolic meaning of this story?
  • Why might Guthrie have chosen to use an allegorical story about a cricket to convey this meaning?