Born To The Beat Essay, Research Paper
Born To the Beat
What better way is there to capture history or to sum up a generation of thought,
than through literature? To look back into the past to see what events took place and
what the mood of the people was, people look to literature. It displays the lifestyles of
the time and an intimate peek into the lives of the past. The Beat Generation captures
the attitude of kids that had lived through World War II and their perspective on
everything from politics to personal philosophy. But the Beat Generation did not just
produce a mundane account of this time period…they did not just express their political
views in conventional essay format. The Beat Generation was one of the first group of
writers to break down the barriers of traditional literature and set a precedent for future
writers with their writing style, their way of life and what they had to say; and this is truly
a triumphant time in American history.
“This is the Beat Generation. It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and, ultimately, of
soul…a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness.” (Kerouac)
The Beat Generation was a literary movement born out of World War II. These
“post-war kids” were a counterpart to the “Lost Generation” after World War I, which
included Hemingway. The only people that made up the Beat Generation were Jack
Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady and Herbert Huncke
with the later addition of Gregory Corso and Peter Orlorsky. Any other writers
associated with this crowd were the New York and San Francisco poets.
Herbert Huncke picked up the word “beat” in 1945. It is derived from carnival
or circus workers, reflecting the poor conditions of their nomadic life. “I meant beaten.
The world against me.” Huncke responded to the positive connotation of the word. In
fact, when these poets named it the beat generation, they thought it was a silly name
and weren’t aware of how it would stick from then on. Most didn’t like it. ” -What do
you think about the Beat Generation?- -I don’t think it’s anything. I don’t think it exists.
There’s no such thing as the Beat Generation.-” (Corso)
The beats could be best known for their writing style. It was unique for that time
to cast aside conventional structure of sentences and poetry. They used dashes instead
of commas and periods because it is the way one speaks and hears speech. “No
periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and
timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical
breathing…” (Kerouac) And their poetry had a style of its own, unknown to any other
groups of poets at that time; no rhyming, no structure, non-conforming beauty, and
that is a triumph on its own.
In the 1950’s, it was not common to openly express homosexuality, but the
beats did, as they expressed every aspect of their life so openly. They publicly
protested war before the hippies were out of junior high. Tuli Kupferberg wrote “1001
Ways to Beat the Draft” in 1966 and all of its profits were donated to the peace
movement. They were the heavy drug users before it was “socially accepted”. They
opened doors to different ways of life and freedom of the mind and it was all expressed
through their literature.
Not only was the content of their literature rare for the time which they lived in,
but their way of life was too. When one thinks of the fifties, they think of uptight parents
and good children in poodle skirts. But the beats were the rebels, the kids that dressed
in black that you didn’t want your daughter hanging out with. They were the ones down
at the coffee shop, reading their latest poetry. But this is not to say that the beats were
stupid, high school dropouts. They all had attended some of the best schools and
received very good grades. They were the rebels with a clue.
Because they were basically intellects, their thought is one of the major things
that has affected today’s culture. Most of the beats were Zen Buddhists, but with an
American flair. ” Everything is possible. I am God, I am Buddha, I am imperfect Ray
Smith, all at the same time, I am empty space, I am all things. I have all the time in the
world from life to life to do what is to do, to do the timeless doing, infinitely perfect
within, why cry, why worry, perfect like mind essence and the minds of banana peels…”
(Kerouac) They had a zest for life and a connection with nature, a connection that is
very rare from today’s society. They were Thoreau’s children in mind: the
transcendentalists of the fifties and sixties. A good portion of their poetry is based
around Buddha and the Great Outdoors. Though a lot these ideas they had were
derived indirectly from another source, they added their own personal flavor to it.
Though they were not a very large group of writers, the beats affected a lot of
people, then and today. They gave us insight into the attitude and way of life in that
sensitive time period after the second world war. They broke down the boundaries of
conventional literature in America for future writers. The Beat Generation is truly
something to applaud for its boldness and addition to the thought of the American