“I Am America”: A Psychoanalytical Disruption Of Allen Ginsberg’s “America”

2035 words - 8 pages

The prominent title of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” presents the poem as a political commentary. Poetic evidence supports this superficial political meaning, as the poem is presented as a dramatic monologue between the speaker and the country of America. Despite what seems to be a concrete interpretation, the poem’s meaning can in fact be destabilized through the use of a specific literary lens. Application of a psychoanalytical lens dissects the façade of activism in “America” and shows that it is actually an introspective poem delving into the speaker’s own psyche. Psychoanalytical evidence exists within the poem, and it can be readily supported by biographical evidence of the poem’s author, Allen Ginsberg. The political meaning of “America” is rendered unstable by psychoanalysis because it dissects the political dichotomies between the speaker, America, and Russia into representations of psychological insecurities and metaphors for personal and mental relationships; therefore, superficial meanings are shown to be trivial in comparison to the rich, psychological manifestations that lie beneath.
The political veil placed upon “America” provides meaning to the poem that initially seems stable. At first, the opposition between the speaker and America, a metonym for the entire entity of the United States of America, may be viewed as a way to distance the speaker’s own political position from the embodiment of American ideals and transgressions. This opposition illustrates the inherent evil of America’s actions and heightens the speaker’s own position as superior in comparison; this is suggested by the aggression towards America when the speaker states, “Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb” (Ginsberg 5). The speaker’s repulsion towards America creates a binary opposition between the two entities that prescribes a political message that the speaker is condemning political America. However, through a psychoanalytic lens, the personified America is used to displace and project the speaker’s self-insecurity onto a more easily acceptable antagonist (Tyson 15). That is to say, the speaker has used the image of America as a personification of his own negative mental traits and as an embodiment of the personal feelings he wishes to reject. The speaker has done so in order to eliminate the undesirable feelings he would have to experience in order to directly confront the mental side of himself that is undesirable. The meaning signified in line 1, stating “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing” (Ginsberg), can be viewed to suggest that the speaker has given his money, time, and life to capitalistic America. However, by considering that America is actually a projection of the speaker’s personal undesirable qualities, the line’s meaning changes to representing the speaker’s realization that he is being over powered by his detrimental qualities. Further examples of this conflict between the speaker and America are given when the speaker says to...

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