23 March 2011
Through the Eyes of Influence
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's father died before he was born, and his mother was placed in an insane asylum. He was left to be cared for by relatives, and eventually foster parents. Lawrence was ten years old when the stock market crashed October of 1929, which led to the Great Depression. He was twenty when World War II began in September of 1939. Serving as a Lieutenant Commander of the Navy during the war eventually exposed him to the traumatic effects of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. He explained how anyone who was able to witness the aftermath “would suddenly realize that they'd been kept in the dark by the United States government as to what atomic bombs can do.” (nndb.com) This event changed Ferlinghetti. He became one of the key people of the Beat movement. The Beat poets “rebelled against what they saw as their country’s social conformity, political repression, and prevailing materialism” (868, Ann Charters). His City Lights bookshop “was an early gathering place of the Beats, and the publishing arm of City Lights was the first to print the Beats' books of poetry” (biography.com). Although he was not always recognized as a core member of the young group of poets, his poems often contained remarks that had the potential to transform other peoples’ views. Through three of his poems, he influenced change by protesting the repression in society, the violence in war, and the injustices of the United States Government.
Ferlinghetti finds popular culture unsettling, and expresses his view of society in his poem, “The World is a Beautiful Place”. He hopes that people will recognize what they have become, and long for individuality and change. “Our Name Brand society / is prey to / [its] men of distinction” refers to how our society is constantly trying to keep up with the latest trends and what is popular at the moment. And the men of distinction are the ring-leaders in a sense; they are the advertisers, the market researchers, and often the trend setters. They quickly learn what to market, how to market, and who to market to. Most people are afraid to step out of the box in fear that they would not be accepted by the majority, and be left on the outskirts of mainstream society. Thus, the “Name Brand” society can be viewed as being a slave to the “Men of distinction”, and unable to break away. He goes on to show his disapproval of pop culture in another poem titled “I Am Waiting”. He writes, “I am waiting / to see God on television / piped onto church altars / if only they can find / the right channel / to tune in on.” Society today is heavily influenced by mass media and advertisements. Ferlinghetti realizes that America no longer contains the core Christian values that the country was built upon, because all their energy has been absorbed by advertisers, trends, and constant consumerism. The mention of how people would not even be able to find the right channel if God were on television means that he believes society is too deeply absorbed into popular culture that it would be almost impossible to break away at this point. He challenges society to change their ways.
The capitalization of the word “God” is used in syntax. “Lowercasing God” in certain cases can be seen as “An attempt to obscure the reference to God” (ncsu.edu). Ferlinghetti chooses to capitalize God because of the context in which he uses the word. He tries to allude to the Christian faith, because of the fact that this country was established as one nation under God. If he had not capitalized the word, the meaning may have been lost.
Additionally, war is something that Ferlinghetti speaks out against often in his poems, especially after witnessing its devastating power first-hand. In “I am waiting”, Ferlinghetti is “Waiting / for the Age of Anxiety / to drop dead”. The words “Age” and “Anxiety” are capitalized...