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Allen Ginsberg’s Message in His Poem 'Howl'

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Words: 1011 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 1011|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

What does the word howl mean? It is a long and loud, drawn out cry. Allen Ginsberg’s purpose in the poem “Howl” is to request people to be in opposition to repression, freedom, and capitalism. The speaker sees American society as being of unsound mind, but people view society as being standard. An important character in the poem is Carl Solomon, whom Ginsberg met in a mental institution and who is far more mentally troubled than Allen. The poem “Howl” was written for Solomon. The motion of this poem is to show the falling and rising and the madness that comes in different forms of American society through symbols, metaphors, and characters. The author shows madness to be a raised state with visions and delusions, and this is important to the reader to understand Ginsberg’s past life and how he views his generation and society to be desperate, lonely, and in need of help.

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Allen Ginsberg uses symbols to demonstrate madness for his generation and American society. In part one of “Howl”, one symbol being presented is the best minds of his generation. Ginsberg goes on to say that his age group does not behave as normal people would. Allen Ginsberg simply puts his generation as, “Who chained themselves to subways for the endless / ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine / until the noise of wheels and children brought / them down shuddering mouth-wracked and / battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance / in the drear light of zoo” (Ginsberg 10). In this quote, people not being in the right mind, doing drugs, being desperate, and acting like animals are being implied. The speaker is indicating that people are not able to reach an inner vision, which tells the reader that society is not in their right mind. Another symbol in the poem is Moloch, which is a false idol that people worshiped and sacrificed their children to. In the article, “How I Hear ‘Howl’”, George Bowering explains what he thinks Moloch represents, “All thru the poem, heaven and eternity are in sight, are being called upon, or bitterly regretted, so that a cynical second best stands as an ironic refuge from the world of present Moloch”. Bowering is saying that Moloch appears to be something that holds people back and does not let them move on. Allen Ginsberg is using Moloch as a symbol that is destructive to society and consumes the present, which tells the reader it is something sinister. Ginsberg says, “The heavy judger of men” . This refers to what the author sees as the government ruining America. One more symbol introduced is Rockland, which is the mental institution Ginsberg went to and where he met Carl Solomon. The author in “Howl” uses the phrase, “I’m with you in Rockland” (Ginsberg 24), to say he has sympathy and understanding for Solomon. Rockland represents society’s reluctance to accept all people. In the article, “‘Sanity a Trick of Agreement’: Madness and Doubt in Ginsberg’s Prophetic Poetry”, Tony Trigilio says, “Ginsberg deploys the psychiatric institution as a locus of both inspiration and decay”. Trigilio is inferring that the mental institution is both bad and good. Allen Ginsberg shows madness through these symbols to manifest what he is viewing.

Metaphors are displayed throughout the poem “Howl”, and they give characterization to the theme of madness. One metaphor that is presented is, “Who crashed through their minds in jail” (Ginsberg 18). In this quote, Allen Ginsberg is saying that people have collided destructively with an obstacle in their minds. Another metaphor the author uses is, “Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows”. The speaker of “Howl” is implying that society is letting Moloch take over everything, such as skyscrapers and factories. Ginsberg is referring Moloch to the government in this sense. Allen Ginsberg uses this metaphor, “You’re losing the game of the actual ping pong of the abyss” (Ginsberg 25), to entail that Carl Solomon is losing a game that he cannot fight anymore, which shows insanity. The last metaphor used to demonstrate madness is, “Where you imitate the shade of my mother”. Allen Ginsberg is referring to his mother having nervous breakdowns, and by saying this Allen is telling Carl Solomon that he understands his mental illness. These metaphors serve as the speaker’s free-thinking views, and they show insanity and madness throughout the poem.

The speaker, Allen Ginsberg presents characters in the poem “Howl” to be insane, artistic, and free of expression. The author wrote “Howl” for Carl Solomon, which is one character in the poem. Ginsberg had a friendship with Solomon when he was in the psychiatric hospital with him. Ginsberg uses a lot of Carl Solomon’s actions in “Howl”. For example, in the poem, the author says, “Where you bang on the catatonic piano” (Ginsberg 25). Catatonic is the action of being immobile, so the speaker is saying that Solomon is numb when playing the piano. Allen Ginsberg saw Solomon as an idol because he symbolizes how people with insanity cannot stand to live in modernisms boundaries. America is also an important character being given in the poem. America becomes a humanized body in the poem “Howl”. America represents the people in the country as well as the country. In the poem “Howl”, America mainly represents war, industrial enterprise, and modern society. Allen Ginsberg feels that those ethics are what are destroying American society and the entire country. The last character noticed in the poem is Moloch. This character represents bad or evil and an unchristian like sacrifice that society requires to atone to the pollution to American society. These characters Allen Ginsberg gives in “Howl” shows the absurdity of people and society.

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In the poem “Howl”, insanity shows through the symbols, metaphors, and characters. Allen Ginsburg wrote this for the purpose to show people what society has come down to, and he gives examples of what he is feeling and experiencing. Madness shows through the duration of the poem to give the importance of how people should be against repression, freedom, and capitalism.      

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Allen Ginsberg’s Message In His Poem ‘Howl’. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/allen-ginsbergs-message-in-his-poem-howl/
“Allen Ginsberg’s Message In His Poem ‘Howl’.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/allen-ginsbergs-message-in-his-poem-howl/
Allen Ginsberg’s Message In His Poem ‘Howl’. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/allen-ginsbergs-message-in-his-poem-howl/> [Accessed 28 Feb. 2024].
Allen Ginsberg’s Message In His Poem ‘Howl’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 11 [cited 2024 Feb 28]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/allen-ginsbergs-message-in-his-poem-howl/
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