Born To The Beat Essay Research Paper

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



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