Analysis of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" Essay

863 Words Mar 26th, 2013 4 Pages
Rachel Weston
English 125
November 30, 2009

Time, Terror, Heaven and Eternity

Allen Ginsberg’s revolutionary poem, Howl, is a powerful portrayal of life degraded. It represents the harsh life of the beat generation and chronicles the struggles of the repressed. Howl is a poem of destruction. Destruction of mind, body, and soul through the oppression of the individual. Using powerful diction, Allen Ginsberg describes this abolition of life and its implications through our human understanding of abstractions like Time, Eternity, and self. The poem’s jumbled phrasing and drastic emotion seems to correspond with the minds of the people it describes. Ginsberg uses surprisingly precise and purposeful writing to weave the complex
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Ginsberg describes Beatniks who ate, wept, coughed, plunged, cut, balled, hiccupped, howled, broke, burned, cowered, and sank, yacketyyakking, screaming, vomiting, whispering. These endless verbs range from ecstatic to violent and give the poem an almost frantic tone that reflects the lives of the oppressed. Ginsberg even titles his poem “howl,” a cry of emotion and sorrow. To howl is to wail in self-pity, to be helpless and alone. Hearing a howl is both frightening and piercingly sad. A howl is a perfect representation of the collective cry of the Beats; a people trapped like helpless animals with nothing to do but howl in despair.
The desperation and destruction continues to escalate throughout part I of the poem until it reaches a close at,
“with mother finally *******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture…”
After this point, it seems that the destruction has taken its course and there is nothing left but emptiness and everyone “battered bleak of brain all drained of Brilliance in the drear light of Zoo.” The last “fantastic Book,” “open door,” and “piece of mental furniture” represent any remaining originality, opportunities, and ideas that were left being “thrown out the tenement window” and “slammed shut” by society and the capitalist system.
One of the most
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