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The Beat Generation Of America Essay

2266 words - 9 pages

The Beat Generation of America

"But then they danced down the street like dingledoolies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles, exploding like spiders across the starts, and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’" (Kerouac 9)

"Burn, burn, burn," says Kerouac, and that is what the Beats were all about. From the all-night, smoke-filled jazz clubs of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, to the trendy bars of San Francisco, the artists known as the ‘Beats’ were interested in one thing, and only one thing: living. To them, life was a series of adventures to be lived. Going from one high to the next, in search of that thing that will, in the end, transform them into that "blue centerlight" about which everyone says "Awww!" But a few questions must be addressed regarding the Beats. Was theirs the correct choice? Was the fun they had worth the pain that they caused, and the pain that they had to endure? And ultimately, what impact did the Beats have on society as a whole, and was that impact, is that impact, positive or negative? Jack Kerouac, the most prominent of all Beat poets, and the gang hanging out at the famous 115th Street apartment helped to mold two generations of young Americans, and have made a permanent impression on the landscape of American culture through their literature, and most of all, through their lives, and their desire to live. This is the contribution of the Beats: a legacy of striving, in all things, to be alive, regardless of where that took them.

In 1940's America there arose a group of young artists in New York. Starting as a group of friends from Columbia University, they eventually came to be known as the Beats. Led by Jack Kerouac, this group included such artists as Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bill Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and many others. They came from all walks of life. Kerouac was the only surviving son of a French-Canadian family who moved to America in the 1920's. His father ran a print shop, but they often found themselves moving from house to house in Lowell, Massachusetts where they lived. Where they moved depended on whether they were prospering at the time, or suffering due to Leo Kerouac’s (Jack’s father) gambling problems. Burroughs came from a well to do family in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to whom he would often turn throughout his years to bail him out of tough times financially, or legally. They came from all parts of America. Neal Cassady was himself an import coming to New York from Colorado. But they had one thing in common: their desire to live. They expressed this in various ways, some of which were positive, and some of which were negative.

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