Allen Ginsberg's Poetry

To what extent is Ginsberg's 'Howl' a reaction to 1950s America? 11th Grade

1950s America was a turbulent and changing time for its inhabitants; the combined forces of the post-Depression period, the looming fear of communism and the Soviet Union, the back end of the Second World War and with it a growing need for material goods, and of course the segregation and prejudice that the Black and Migrant community saw meant that the United States was very divided even in its supposed ‘united’ front after the War. Creating an oppressive and conformist society, it is arguable that Ginsberg, along with other Beats, used the cultural revolution as a step for them to break free from the literary cannons that previously limited their writing, and with it, themselves.

Ginsberg partly cites his ‘Great Breakthrough ‘as the beginning of his sexual and poetic liberation. There was a shared sense of spiritual exhaustion in the country, escaping a repressive society that barred homosexual acts, and actively campaigned against them. Much of Howl’s more explicit sexual lines could be interpreted to mean homosexual sex, which for an audience of the time, would have been seen as shocking. Lines like “who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer” reference not only a freedom to be sexual, but also could be a...

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