Howl

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The times of the 1950s are a time of great uncertainty in America. The United States of the past described by poets such as Walt Whitman does not exist anymore. In its place is an industrialized America, a hegemonic America that dominates the world with super weapons, neutrons and death. This new America creates great amount tension in its society. Howl, by Allen Ginsberg, is a response to these tensions. Ginsberg divided Howl into three sections to describe the ones howling, the causes of the Howl and how these people can redeem themselves. In this poem, Ginsberg starts each part with a general discussion before narrowing to a personal connection and then ending higher level, meta-conscious reflection. Within the superstructures of each section used specific techniques to convey his messages. Ginsberg used clustering of substantives to describe the condition of the ones who howl in the first half of the first section, before using a personal and Meta connection to describe the true identity of these oppressed people in the second half. He then alluded to Moloch as a symbol of tyranny of society to explain the fundamental causes of the Howling in section two before using repetition in section three to imbue the idea of fealty to Carl Solomon as the only viable redemption from Moloch’s destruction for the oppressed.

In the first part of the superstructure of part one, Ginsberg used a clustering of substantives to create images of tension in order to attack and subsequently reveal American society by showing the general condition of the best people in that society. This climate is far different from the sugar coated vision of America. The mainstream describes this time period as a time of prosperity and the rise of the middle class. It is a time of American leadership in the free world. Ginsberg sees it differently. He sees society in a state of despair and decline with hopelessness rampant. The cluster of substantives angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the/ starry dynamo in the machinery of night,/ who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the cities contemplating jazz(3-4) allows one to see the plight of the oppressed in this society. As stated earlier by Ginsberg, the best minds of the generation have been wasted in this society. These best minds are alienated in this new society purposeless except doing drugs and “smoking in the supernatural darkness of the cold water flats” (4). The best minds do not reap the benefits of the fantastic, supernatural, new American life but instead live in such despair that their flats lack even the basic necessities such as hot water. Their conditions, however, are not just a minor blip in the overall rise of living conditions across America. Instead the poverty and despair are supernatural, powerful and entrenched in almost all aspects of American society. These images of tension also make one see that these best minds do not have faith in the materialistic vision of America. They see only poverty and do not believe America has any positives to offer and might one day be destroyed by a dropping of the bomb. Their poverty and alienation has instead made them have a “burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night”(3).These best minds, instead of building America, are trying to achieve sense of comfort in this alien world dominated by machinery, mechanization and industrialization by having a personal connection to the higher powers, maybe through religion, drugs or a combination of both. In the second half of part one, Ginsberg connected and reflected on these oppressed people to reveal their true identity. The drug using, alcohol chugging best minds are often labeled as mentally deranged. They “threw potato salad at CCNY lectures on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with...
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