The 1950s saw a period of great material prosperity in the United States. After World War II G.I.s came back to take charge of the family again. Women no longer had to work and could return to the home to nurse their newborn babies. Housing, automobiles, and white picket fences were in high demand. Televisions became commonplace, making possible the rapid distribution of visual information- not to mention the sitcom. McCarthy had started to purge the U.S. of those pesky Communists, ensuring a democratic future for all. While the blacks, of course, could not realize it, virtually everyone else saw the fulfillment of the American Dream.
In their writings of the mid-1950s, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac describe an America recently converted to the religion of the T.V. Ginsberg witnesses and records big blue Buicks in driveways of identical box houses. With Walt Whitman he watches whole families peruse the peaches in late-night supermarkets. Conversely, Kerouac describes a spiritual journey that takes him back and forth across the U.S. Both Ginsberg and Kerouac use Buddhist ideals and methodology to criticize the current state of American society. They seek after a more honest and equal American Dream.
Ginsberg and Kerouac are an interesting comparison because of their unique symbiotic relationship. Not only was each a literary influence on the other, but they actually appear in each other's works. In Ginsberg's "Sunflower Sutra," he and Kerouac sit between a railroad and a river to watch the sun set over San Francisco. Kerouac points out a sunflower, and Ginsberg begins one of his mystical visions ...
The primary image in the poem is a ...
... middle of paper ...
...g to live in a real world. He does what he can, and gives the rest up for port wine.
Kerouac and Ginsberg envisioned a dream that no one can live up to. Like everyone else, they are good at telling you what's wrong, but cannot come up with the right answer nearly as quickly. From the evidence of the texts, I would give Kerouac more credit than Ginsberg, because he was less hypocritical and made his best attempt at reaching his spiritual goal. Ginsberg, however, definitely did his part in pinpointing the errors of a generation. Consequently, all are Holy and Beautiful.
Ginsberg, Allen. "Sunflower Sutra." Howl and other Poems. San
Francisco: City Lights, 1956. Rpt. in The New American Poetry. Ed. Donald M. Allen. New York: Grove Press, 1960.
Kerouac, Jack. The Dharma Bums. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
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