Moral decay; The Howl by Allen Ginsberg


Moral decay; The Howl

Allen Ginsberg is one of the poets who have written deep literature work full of dramatic tension. There is a lot of friction and peace is sacrificed by a few. This is evident in a number of his poems, for example, the Howl. The poem Howl is the work of Allen’s and portrays some sort of dramatic tone. The poem is in elegiac tone; mourning tone. (Trigilio, 2007) The poet has presented a long list of activities taking place in the literary work; therefore it is termed as catalogue technique. He has accorded it the title Howl which gives a reader an indication of deep cry and sorrow, mourning and such related attributes.


There is protest as cry resulting from all manner of exploitation, subjugation and repression. (Klemens, 2007) The poet suggests and actually asks the audience to cry against social injustices being perpetrated by the ruling class. He wants people to cry against capitalism, exploitation, repression and subjugation. Howl is as such seen as a revolutionary manifesto and social commentary, but it uses an approach that brings disorder in society. The poem comes out and stands strong as the celebration of the movement of counter culture. In this poem, we see that the greatest brains of the 1950s are under threat of destruction by what is seen to be madness. The madness has come out in different types or appearance. These are scholars and great educationists, best mind, and the best generation. The madness came as a counter-culture, which is seen as not their own option but a compulsion.

These best minds underwent deep agony and suffering when the dreams and visions are postponed continuously. They decide to become naked in order to gain good grounds to challenge and oppose the mainstream culture. They moved all the way to the Negro street where they looked with a lot of furies, this fury is indeed but a total expression of the hatred towards the culture of Americans. They looked with a lot of frustration, out a society which had birthed them and now distorting them.

They strongly stood to challenge that society and set up which had given birth to them without having the ability to accommodate them. This poem shows a lot of drama from the actors. Even when we read it without the acting, we see a clear picture of tension in every stage at the back of our minds. We tend to have an image of the actors running up and down into the streets of towns like we are told the case of Negro Street. We have a vivid picture on of people crying and mourning, for what is seen as a desire to restore the society from the demise of cultural stability due to the influence of the American culture. At the back of our minds, we see the audience watching with eagerness the practical bit of crying as howl does.

The poet has therefore skillfully employed the technique of literature to create a tone of dramatic tension. By so doing, the message the poet wants to pass to the society comes out so plainly. Because of the crying, the drama makes the message of the poet sink deep into our hearts through with a lot of pain. We are told that these things are perpetrated by some great brains travel from one town to another without any particular aim, simply because they loved travelling. However, their travelling has no purpose attached except generating fear and tension. They had great interests and opted taking narcotic stuff as a way of doing away, if not reducing the pain and agony resulting from that culture, and challenge this mainstream culture. We are told they wanted to challenge the mainstream culture by writing vulgar artistically work and so is the result of vulgar poetry.


We are told that they wrote all that which came into their minds. Here we see a lot of tension developing in the poetry work. There is tension growing all over as we read the poem. Someone really feels unsecure meeting such kind of people. Imagine yourself going to meet people matching in city streets naked? Imagine having an encounter with people to whom narcotic and other harmful drugs is an obvious thing? Imagine having an encounter with people who are aimlessly travelling from a city to city? Imagine a university lecturer going to teach a class of such calibre of students?

This creates a great deal of tension in that particular society. There is seen to be a lot of friction here, all this resulting from a desire to change the culture.  While other students go universities for the common good of the society, we are told that this category went to exercise indecent behaviours like writing and posting vulgar words on the walls and windows.

Ginsberg tries to paint a picture of a chaotic society. There is a lot of contrast in the poem in the sense that, while we expect the learned brains from the university to address issues in a decent manner and conduct themselves in a manner likely to suggest that they are educated, they did a complete opposite of the expectation of the society. A great deal of fear develops in our hearts when we hear the sort of things they practised. We are told that they would speak and yell for even seventy hours. The nature of the topic of their discussion even draws tension into our heats. We are told that they kept talking about sensitive things like sex and sexuality.

Tension grows in our hearts when we realize that they spoke about these things openly and without any fear. They spoke for long about drugs, sex, memory, marijuana, anecdotes. These are things that trigger some sort of fear in any given environment. All this generates some sort of friction and tension in the poetry work. They would still talk and about things like social taboos, which are things we know very well that are reserved and should be talked in private places. This generates a lot of fear and tension in the hearts of the audience. To make matters worse, they even talked and did sexual intercourse openly. At times we are told they would be found by other people throwing semen to each other. This paints a very dirty picture, characterized by a lot of tension. They broke the ordinary sexual courses.

We are told that they even burnt money as a way of condemning capitalism. To them, killing other people was not a big deal. They would fearlessly give speeches on suicide and throw salad to lecturers. This is a community characterized by very chaotic conditions. One would try to imagine living together or studying in a lecture hall with people who are so chaotic that they even show disrespect to the lecturer (Kerouac, 2011). If they don’t respect and bow to the lecturers who else will they respect? Burning of money to undermine capitalism tells us that if they meet the capitalists they would kill them mercilessly. There is great tension resulting from the fact that these people don’t even look behind when it comes to issues of life. We are told that they encourage death resulting in issues in the society.


These things show or paint a picture of a society dominated by Satanism and evil of the highest order.  However, the author is optimistic of societal acceptance of this kind of “sect.” This poem indicates madness in the society, unfortunately being conducted by the great brains. All this has produced high tension throughout the art.

Work cited


Kerouac, J. (2011). Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: the letters. New York: Penguin.

Klemens, N. (2007). Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” – Poetry or prophecy? München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.

Trigilio, T. (2007). Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist poetics. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.


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