Resistance in Allen Ginsberg's Howl Essay

Decent Essays

In Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, the idea of resistance is present in multiple forms. On a thematic level, Ginsberg exploits the reasons the “best minds” of his generation are being destroyed (9). On a formal level, Ginsberg uses lengthy sentences to resist traditional styles of writing. Ginsberg was successful in his rebellion and gained substantial recognition; further supported by the fact he even had to fight for his freedom of expression in the court of law. As a whole, “Howl” has been a controversial poem (and eventually film) ever since the public laid eyes on it. Ginsberg was very proactive with the idea of self-expression and freedoms. His work tends to portray his personal views, and resisting higher powers and societal expectations …show more content…

This repetition allows for Ginsberg to be clear about whom he is talking about and addressing (“the best minds of his generation”), and also allows him to switch thoughts at every repetition of “who”. “Howl’s” form is resistant in a sense, because it does not follow the traditional style of writing. Part one is actually one continuous sentence. This style of writing coincides with the idea that his thoughts are seemingly random, at parts incoherent, and difficult to find direct meaning. The use of punctuation – or more precisely, the lack their of- makes Ginsberg’s thoughts all seem to be fast and irrational.
“Howl” is managing to maintain a level of resistance even today. The language used when the poem was first published was controversial. In present day, some of the dialect Ginsberg used has taken on new meaning, and the harshness of certain words has also increased. For example, when he refers to the best minds of his generation “dragging themselves through the negro streets” (Ginsberg 9) we can interpret this in one of two ways. Firstly, that the best minds are simply walking down the streets at night, or secondly – “negro” is literally interpreted implying they are walking through a predominantly African American neighborhood/place. With such room for interpretation, there can be a resistance seen in the way the reader interprets the text versus what Ginsberg may have actually meant. This guessing game Ginsberg allows the reader to partake in

Get Access