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Ginsberg’s Affinities With Whitman Essay

1016 words - 5 pages

Century apart, Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman share similar cultural, political and moral values, which they express in their literary work. Whitman’s writing is considered controversial for the eighteen hundreds. He sets the stage for generations to come breaking way from the strict Victorian poetic tradition by writing in free verse. Ginsberg follows his footsteps when composing his poem “Howl” by writing in long lines almost resembling prose and subdividing the poem into several parts. Likewise, he uses numerous repetitions to achieve rhythmicity of his verse. Ginsberg’s poem is heavily influenced by Whitman’s philosophy. The works “Song of myself” and “Howl” are similar in ideas, structure and underling themes. The two authors protest against old traditions imposed on the individual by corrupt society, stand against conformity and put emphasis on the need for change. They identify with their generation and dwell on themes such as sexuality, religion and the state of American society.
Whitman has a philosophical approach about religion, religion practices and the journey of the soul. He uses the imagery of nature and other every day attributes to question life beyond death, rebirth and the unison of individual and nature. He is not afraid to die and admits ".... there is really no death, /and if ever there was it led toward life" (Whitman line…. )He finds the Devine power in nature and everything around him rather that in the altar of a church, which can be seen as rather pagan believe. The human soul in Whitman is immortal but in Ginsberg's “Howl” even if the soul manages to liberate itself it is to be crucified in an abyss. In his work he mixes different religious views but does not favor anyone of them in particular. Hipsters are portrayed as angelic referencing Christianity. He also talks about Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated “bringing up Islamic beliefs and mentions Zen which hints of Eastern philosophical influence. He writes “who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second (line 62).He is against conformity and the zealous following of religious practice. He does not deny religion but rather seeks unconventional connection to God and the spiritual world just as Whitman does.
Besides religion, Whitman sets to explore other themes in his work such as sexuality. He plays and stretches the boundaries of the Victorian norms as far as he can. The whole poem is intertwined with subtle hint of sexuality some lines more openly discussing it then others. Similar techniques can be seen with Ginsberg where he tries to press on these touchy subjects and urge people to openly discuss such a taboo theme as sexuality. He uses sexually explicit words such as “pubic”, “waving genitals”, “copulate” as if to draw the reader’s attention if is strays away from the long lines. It seems as though he...

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