Redefining The American Dream: The Beat Generation And Its Literature.

1491 words - 6 pages

The financial prosperity experienced by the United States in the years following the Second World War created a new American identity. A television in the living room, a Cadillac in the driveway, one boy, one girl, a wife in the kitchen, and Rex by the fireplace. This is the stereotypical, conservative family of the 1950s whose existence was not without a counterpart. A radical reaction to the conformity and ignorance of the post-war era, later christened "the Beats", sprung up across America. This sparse movement of roaming vagabonds, their experience both captured and defined by such immortal writers as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, utterly rejected the values and ideals of middle class America. Beat literature drastically redefined the American Dream to one which valued individuality and the deeper meaning derived from life experience by popularizing and glorifying anti-heroes who hold closely and act on the Beat ideal.The political and social turmoil of 1950s America was an incubator for the Beat departure from common culture. Our government adopted fascist anti-communist policies under the direction of McCarthy and our troops fought a taxing war overseas in Korea. Almost all public institutions segregated between black and white as racism ran rampant across the country while a large migration to vast homogeneous suburbs coupled with minorities moving to the inner cities furthered the disparity. Elvis Presley helped give birth to rock 'n roll and the television was invented, cultivating widespread conformity by providing young and old with a shared experience reflecting accepted social patterns.Even though the political and social conditions mentioned above helped create the air of rebellion of which beat culture was the most radical extension, he insufferable conformity of the suburbs is what drove the Beats to reject their counterpart's way of life and define a unique dream for themselves. They viewed the "Keeping up with the Jones'" mentality of suburban life to be meaningless, empty, and materialistic. Not surprisingly, the idea of suppressing ones individuality in order to fit in did not appeal to them, consequently their ideas directly opposed those of suburbia's. Many Beats sought deeper meaning in life through the spiritual enlightenment of Buddhism, and many others turned to the road, living a life of spontaneity, excitement, and hedonism. Across the country, the frustration of a "dull, anxious, and pointless middle-class life" severed a sparse group of youths from their sheltered existence (Champney 285). They completely disaffiliated and embarked on a journey to "discover a new self free from social conditioning" (Skerl 103).The sentiments of the social movement were expressed by the literature of quintessential beat authors Jack Keroauc, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. The works of these revolutionary writers created such a connectivity and sense of belonging that when Jack Keroauc's On The Road was published, "there...

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