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
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” Williams’ theory therefore suggests that the terms must necessarily co-exist in order to define each other. The “pervasiveness of consent ” therefore characterises the fifties, against which these Beat texts can be contrasted. Theodore Roszak’s 1969 article ‘The Making of a Counterculture,’ helps define beat ideology as “heightened self-expression and often a rejection of political and authoritative institutions… a negative spirit of the times coupled with a specific lifestyle .” Both On the Road and Howl and their author’s lifestyles of their writers reflect this criterion, in idiomatic and contextual terms, lending to the notion that they are, by the overall nature of their existence, countercultural texts. Roszak’s adolescent counterculture often seems the embodiment of Dean and Sal’s ‘beatitude’ in On the Road “when they pulse to music…value what is raunchy… flare against authority, seek new experience, ” but it is similarly descriptive of the naked, sometime vulgar language Ginsberg employs in Howl “who bit detectives in the neck… let themselves be fucked in the ass.” (13) The Beats admire the vibrancy naturally present among youth, and although this is a style for which their writing has been criticised, it is a move away from the traditionally
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