American culture in the 1950s and 1960s was marked by cultural transformations and literacy, all of which had a profound influence on the country’s consciousness. The early years after World War II saw a reassessment of traditional American society. As a result of the economic boom, materialism became rampant and had a significant impact. Runaway capitalism proved to be diametrically opposite to social equity and serious devastation of the human spirit. This resulted in the rise of Beat Generation writers such as Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Cassady, who solely criticized the direction of American society. America was a package of dissatisfaction and characterized with an awful nature of sexuality which became a point of concern. Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Cassady stunningly stood in opposition of the unhealthy, unclean and the damaging psyche society. In the lines of writing, they proactively touched on the ailment of pornography and the devastating political system that only bred and provided fertile grounds for wars. These writers vividly fashioned bold works of literature that expressively and straightforwardly condemned America of being on the wrong road that drove them to doom and thus they were painted as rebels.
Ginsberg in his poem “Howl”, he powerfully and evocatively illustrates the dreadful social and political dilemmas that surrounded American. He writes “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by/ madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the Negro streets at dawn/ looking for an angry fix,” (Ginsberg). Despairing and self-destructive sentiments evident from Ginsberg writing include drug taking such as tobacco and cigarettes along with sexual immorality. The America’s intellectual life was critically damaged by anti-communism and anti-liberalism. The source of evil identified by the three men proved to be upsetting with Ginsberg citing the horror of capitalism which roamed in the American society.
In the book, Vanishing American Hobo, Kerouac points out the shortcomings which prevailed in American society in the 1950s and 1960s. During this era, the American culture attested to have departed from an underlying factor of what was to be truly valued; independence. He writes that “The woods are full of wardens, Wardens who seek to rob you of your independence and rob American culture from its founding values” (Kerouac 2601). The freedom of expression and the desire to lead an independent lifestyle were aspects that did not reflect in American life. Kerouac interweaved prudent thoughts that depicted an argument of America being deeply rooted into the culture of conformity. Notably, Cassady stated that the American life was depressing and uninspiring. The individual-oriented mindset and the socially enforced unhealthy practices drove the American life into the sea of despair. Criticizing the redefined American life, the three men blamed the advent of individuality and the plight of achieving economic prosperity as the wheels behind the madness.
There is a grandly sense in how the Beat Generation writers viewed of the American society. Surely Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Cassady became icon figures of who unanimously portrayed how the American life had become vulnerable and awful. Arguably, the rotten American society during the 1950s and 1960s brought vast destructions and devastatingly transformed the American people. With problems ranging from sexuality, individualism, wars and pornography to capitalism, certainly, there was nothing left to be loved about America. Instances of poor political systems became an outcry in the society and trembled America driving it into wars and traumatizing experiences. Even though these Beat Generation writers were violently dismissed by people making their influence to be short-lived, their works remain widespread and mirror the problems facing many societies.
Ginsberg Allen. Howl. Poetry Foundation. 2001. Accessed on18, March, 2017 from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49303
Kerouac Jack. The Vanishing American Hobo. New York City. Grove Press. 1960.