Charles Bukowski: Cynical Critic

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The poems of Charles Bukowski arose from the gutters of society, venting his personal experiences with a dark, but often humorous narrative. Despite his disgust towards social conformity and the American government, Bukowski is still generally considered an iconic figure in American literature. A contradiction to Bukowski’s anti-American opinions is made by his emphasis on the values of freedom and independence in his poems: yellow cab, I have shit stains in my underwear too, and quiet clean girls in gingham dresses. These poems reinforce Bukowski as a cynical critic of the bourgeois society, often targeting women; it would be foolish to blind ones opinion on whether he was anti-American or not, as such generalizations rarely fit an individual perfectly. Why Charles Bukowski criticizes and mocks conformed societies can be uncovered through the analysis of his life.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was born in post-World War I Germany, but soon after immigrated to America with his German mother and abusive American father (Frost, 2002). Bukowski was isolated in youth, contracting blood poisoning which caused severe acne, permanently scarring his face. According to Bukowski, his father severely beat him to vent out his own personal depression; this caused him to despise both his father and also his mother because she never tried to stop the beatings. Bukowski was introduced to a lifelong friend, alcohol, early in his adolescence (Frost, 2002). Shunned by his peers because of his appearance and helplessly beaten by his father, these events probably rooted his self-reliance and disdain towards conformity in his writing life. Bukowski attended college in Los Angeles, but dropped out leading to decade long period as an alcoholic dri...

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...atively. Isolated his whole life, Bukowski’s work incorporates vulgar humor to narrate his miserable and pathetic experiences.

Works Cited

Bukowski, Charles, “I have shit stains on my underwear too” Love is a Dog from Hell / Poems 1974-1977. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 1977. 209. Print.

Bukowski, Charles, “quiet clean girls in gingham dresses…” Love is a Dog from Hell / Poems 1974-1977. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 1977. 74-75. Print.

Bukowski, Charles, “yellow cab” Love is a Dog from Hell / Poems 1974-1977. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 1977. 150-151. Print.

Frost, Adam, “Bukowski, Charles” Literature Online Biography. Cambridge: 2002. Literature Online. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

“Bukowski, Charles (1920-1994).” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale World History In Context. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

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