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Allen Ginsberg’s America and Kerouac’s Vanity of Puluoz
Throughout the words and the lives of the Beat Generation, one theme is apparent: America, everywhere from Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” to Jack Kerouac’s love for Thomas Wolfe. Although the views of America differ, they all find some reason to focus in on this land. Ginsberg, in his poem “America,” makes a point that not many of us can see as obvious: “It occurs to me that I am America. I am talking to myself again.” Each and every one of us make up America, and when we complain about something that is wrong, we are complaining about ourselves. Being raised by his mother as a Communist, and being homosexual, Ginsberg found many things wrong with America, and he does his fare share of complaining, but at the end he decides, “America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.” Ginsberg didn’t want to sit and watch everything go wrong. He was going to do something, despite the fact that he was not the ideal American.
Kerouac’s view of America was completely different from Ginsberg’s view. Kerouac saw America as a beautiful place, with many unexplored regions for himself, and the rest of the people in the country. Kerouac credited his love for America to Thomas Wolfe. In Kerouac’s book Vanity of Puluoz he said that Wolfe made him realize that America was not a dreary place to work and struggle in, it was a poem. If everybody thought of America as a poem rather than a place where we just come to in order to live work and die, this country would be the ideal place that Kerouac wanted it to be.
The “Night of the Wolfeans” was an event in the lives of the Beats that affected them for a long time. It brought together all of the Beat’s feelings toward America. They were put into two categories: “Wolfeans,” and “non-Wolfeans.” Kerouac and Hal Chase were heterosexual, all-American boys who believed in America, the perfect image of the American citizen. The non-Wolfeans (William Burroughs and Ginsberg) were also known as “Baudelaireans” or “Black Priests.” They wanted to destroy the Wolfeans and all that they believed in. The Beats felt that everybody fell into one of these two categories.
One thing that all the Beats agreed upon, was that in order to truly become a great writer, you had to be considered an American writer.
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