Theme in “Howl”
“Howl” by Allen Ginsburg has many distinctive themes. The most distinctive theme I found in the poem is that society does not see good people by who they are on the inside, but by how well they conform to the norm. Both the poem itself and the movie Howl help contribute evidence to this theme. The movie also helped me understand the poem with its images and audio. Evidence from the text that would allow me to arrive at this theme comes from every section of the poem. The poem starts out saying, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked” (line 1). This means that he saw the good, intelligent people, but they were not perfect like society wants, so society labeled them starving, hysterical, and naked. In two passages in this section it talks about how these great minds were marginalized by society because they did not act and write in the way that society thinks is acceptable. One of these passages is, “who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull” (line 7). The person was marginalized by being expelled from the academies. The second of these passages is, “who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts” (line 35). This person only wanted their manuscripts to be known but society dragged them away because they were naked in the subway. Later in the poem, he uses a metaphorical “Moloch” which is supposedly a fire god that people worshipped by burning their children as a sacrifice. The Fire god represents society and the burning of the children represents how children are indoctrinated into society as if there is no other way of living. He describes Moloch as, “Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! … Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!” (lines 83 and 84). These mean that society is unseeing and that it only cares about those who contribute to the great machine of...
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