In Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” the speaker angrily blasts America in a one-sided argument. In this poem America is personified and is addressed by the speaker as if it were human. After calling himself America the speaker asks several rhetorical questions that make the reader think about America’s ethical and moral values while questioning its goals and ambitions. In essence, the speaker presents to the reader those unanswerable questions that neither himself nor him as America are able to answer.
Ginsberg starts this poem with the speaker declaring that he has given America everything and has not received anything in return. The first line signifies the speaker’s intimacy with America. One will only voluntarily give up everything to another if the other is someone close, important, and special to them. The diction of the first line confirms that the speaker is referring to a voluntary submission (“I’ve given you all” instead of ‘you’ve taken everything from me’ or ‘stolen from me’ etc). This distinction is important because it establishes the angry tone of the speaker in the poem. The speaker has some expectations that America does not meet and that is why he questions America about all those issues that anger him (line 1).
In the first question, “When will we end the human war?” Ginsberg very quickly establishes the speaker’s tone and attitude while maintaining the notion of an intimate relationship between America and himself connoted by the word “we” in the verse. At the conclusion of the previous verse, “I can’t stand my own mind,” a sudden outburst of anger and a barrage of questions shock the reader. The poem seems to be moving at a fast pace much like an argument between two peop...
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...iction to appeal to the audience’s emotions by means of rhetorical questions that require no answer, which is also the reason why the reader is attracted to the poem. These questions, even though unanswerable, present serious problems that need to be addressed. In the world that Ginsberg creates in this poem answers are not important but the acknowledgement of those questions and problems that require some action is important. Ginsberg uses his questions to make the reader feel a need for action and that is the purpose of this poem. These issues can only be resolved if each individual accepts their responsibility of helping the country and realize that these problems exist. The poet wants the readers to acknowledge that every citizen is an important part of America. Therefore, each individual, like Ginsberg, is America and can make this country a better place.
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