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Ginsberg's Critique of America in Howl

Autor:   •  August 7, 2017  •  1,838 Words (8 Pages)  •  238 Views

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“who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,

who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,

who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love…”

In the second part of the poem, Ginsberg’s overarching message is that his generation is “down on the rocks of Time”, while the society consists of money, armies, factories, machinery and filth. He says that Moloch represents all of these things, so Moloch is to be blamed for these. Moloch is the prototype of evil, greed and corruption, pervading the American society of the 1950s. Political discontent in America is also discussed in Howl, Ginsberg saying that “the stunned governments” don’t do anything to belittle the madness which increases everywhere around him. He names Moloch the “heavy judger of men”, and “loveless”, as no love can be found in the greed of the American culture. (Kagan)

“Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!”

Although Ginsberg sees Moloch to be one of the main problems in society, this figure is more than the government, being inside everyone, even Ginsberg. There is "Moloch who entered my soul early!" and "Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy". He also suggests that his ecstasy ceased because of this presence. (Kagan)

“Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!”

Ranaan Kagan notes in “Allen Ginsberg, Covert Patriot” that “most of Ginsberg's indictment of "Moloch" can be found in his parallel indictment of his country in "America”." As he begins “America”, Ginsberg declares that he has "given [America] all and now [he's] nothing", suggesting that everything he had has been taken away by the evil in America, which is Moloch. He implores America to end the human war and to be angelic, saying that he cannot handle its machinery. While questioning America, Ginsberg could also question Moloch, which is, after all, a very much hated part of America. (Kagan)

James E. Breslin observes that the third part of the poem it’s characterized by a “dramatically shifting from self-consuming rage to renewal in love”, some kind of self-integration being sought. The first line of this part turns from “angry declamatory rhetoric to a simple, colloquial line”, establishing a context of emotional support and spiritual communion (“Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland”). He finally finds his “real” self, which is “innocent and immortal”, breaking free from Moloch. Breslin also observes that the poem is not ending with the suicidal deliverance of the second part of the poem, closing with an image of love and reunion (also seen at Whitman). (Breslin)

"in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night".

Despite the clear negativity of the poem, at the beginning of the “Footnote” there are fifteen repetitions of the word “holy”, immediately followed by Ginsberg’s declaration “the world is holy”. He also includes some of the things he declared as being Moloch under the category of holy ("vast lamb of the middle class" and "mysterious rivers of tears"), suggesting that there is hope that America, as a whole, can be salvaged. Furthermore, he says that in spite of catastrophes in America, there is forgiveness, mercy and charity ("Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith!"). He also suggests that there is a duality existing between the evil side (Moloch) and the good side (holy). Besides, there is faith, which is holy, so he proclaims that has faith in the good side of his country. (Kagan)

The final line of the “Footnote” is "Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul", which can be seen as both an adoration of the human soul as the uplifting, powerful, kind, intelligent and benevolent force in humanity.” This means that humans can get out of this era of Moloch dominating America. (Kagan)


- Breslin, James E. On “Howl”


Burt, Stephen. The Paradox of Howl.The anti-establishment poem's debt to the established past.

- Ginsberg, Allen. Howl


Ginsberg, Allen. Footnote to Howl


Kagan, Ranaan. Allen Ginsberg, Covert Patriot

- McClure, Michael. On “Howl”

- Porter, Jessica. “The Madness that Howls”: Voicing Protest in Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal and Ginsberg’s “Howl”




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