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Essay on Jack Kerouac's On the Road and Allen Ginsberg's Howl

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Jack Kerouac's On the Road and Allen Ginsberg's Howl
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It was a 1951 TIME cover story, which dubbed the Beats a ‘Silent Generation, ’ that led to Allen Ginsberg’s retort in his poem ‘America,’ in which he vocalises a frustration at this loss of self- importance. The fifties Beat Generation, notably through Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl as will here be discussed, fought to revitalise individuality and revolutionise their censored society which seemed to produce everything for the masses at the expense of the individual’s creative and intellectual potential. Indeed, as John Clellon Holmes once noted: “TIME magazine called them the Silent Generation, but this may have been because TIME was not really listening. ”

Holmes in essence established the Beats as a recognized group in his 1952 New York Times article headlined ‘This is a Beat Generation,’ and Kerouac would later define the changing the preconception of the name ‘Beat’ from “poor, down and out, deadbeat, on the bum, sad, sleeping in subways,” to a “slogan or label for a revolution in manners in America. ” This new ‘beatitude’ described a positivity and optimism that life could be better if individuals only chose to live it their own way, an idea repeatedly expended in both the texts in question here. On the Road and Howl challenge conventional culture in the frank, sometimes seedy but always emotional material they discuss, as well as through their form and literary style which are decidedly gritty, jumbled and real in comparison to traditional literature that had previously been reserved an artistic production of highbrow culture.

Defining the terms culture and counterculture, as Raymond Williams’ exte...


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...option and adaptation of transcendental literature suggests a desire to create a balance in wanting to belong to an American literary tradition, but also start something entirely new.Both Howl and On the Road presented examples of widening literary conventions in reviving the consideration and importance of the self. As Honan observed, “the Beat influence has helped us to question our reportage on, and accounting for, the human past. We no longer think it absolutely truthful to account for past lives or events in a wholly retrospective way.” Indeed, it is feasible to assert that the increasingly travelled youth of today continue to thirst for a more meaningful identity as the Beats propounded, and it ultimately pervades that in the face of Eisenhower’s static America, “the Beats brought literature closer to the texture of life, and their influence has not ended. ”


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