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Exploring Fear In Howl, Basketball Diaries, And Cat's Cradle

2130 words - 9 pages

"yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars" (Ginsberg 11). Like many authors of the modern literature movement, Allen Ginsberg explores the bomb's psychological affects on many Americans during the 1960s. Modern literature describes the chaos of the 1960s, caused by increasing societal problems and fear of the new atomic bomb. Writings such as The Basketball Diaries, "Howl" and Cat's Cradle express concepts of fear, power, governmental control, and death. Government uses society's fear of death and the end of the world to keep control and power over the people. The atomic bomb generates such universal fear and the corrupted government fails to respond to the chaotic behavior of society or the fears of the individuals. This fear that the government achieves not only maintains control, but also causes chaos and the false belief that the government is on the public's side. The chaotic environment is a result of people crying out for help and the conflicting lifestyles arise when people face the terror of death.

Historically, fear has been used to control populations. For example, asearly as the 1700s, white men controlled black slaves through the fear of being killed. During slave days, in the South, the ratio was nine blacks to every white person (Nash and Graves 213). When Nat Turner, a black slave, finally revolted, the United States government responded by sending the army with tanks and guns to resist the black men. The reaction of the whites imbedded the fearof revolts within the slaves. The blacks could have successfully revolted, but were controlled by the fear of the powerful white man. The white man held the power and controlled the slaves with the fear of death.

In the 1960s, the government sustained its power by planting fear into the minds of the people. In his book, The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll reveals his own fear of the nuclear bomb which, for him, signifies corrupt government and wars breeding from hate. Jim Carroll is an innocent war baby who is the target of this corrupt government, paying for war through fear (Carroll 126). He says that fear is a tool that the death-seeking government uses to keep the power(151), to which he proclaims, "It's just the dreams we remember that makes us want to end your nuclear games" (126) These dreams represent the society's fear of bombs and war, which the government uses to control people. These dreams are frightening thoughts of the end of human existence. Carroll gives examples of how his personal fear is ever-present and that, while growing up, ambulances and fire trucks would leave him "pissing with fear in [his] mother's arms" (126). He was surrounded by fear and confusion which were magnified by the question of how to live, today, with the possibility of being killed tomorrow.

Allen Ginsberg's ideas of government and the need for reform, illustrated in his poem "Howl,"...

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