Sunday, December 4, 2011

Howl- Ginsberg

Instead of beginning with the summary, I am going to begin this blog with some background on Ginsberg himself. He wrote this poem in 1955 at the urging of his therapist. He had spent some time in a mental institution, and his therapist felt that he would benefit from writing poetry full time. He talks in great lenghts about his friend from the institution, Carl Solomon. He sympathizes with Solomon due to his mothers schizophrenia.

The poem is written in three parts, not titled.

Part 1
He begins by saying that he saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness. He talks vividly about homosexuality, drug use, suicide. These people are all people he encountered in treatment. In this section, Ginsberg uses the base who. Every other line begins with this word

Part 2
Moloch is definitely the base for part 2. Moloch was a God worshipped by the phoenicians who had associations with child sacrifice. In modern english, it is used to refer to a costly sacrifice. Ginsberg uses Moloch as a god for his characters in Part 1 to be sacrificed to.

Part 3
This is a personal address to his dear friend Carl Solomon. The base in this section is Rockland. Ginsberg says that he is with Solomon in Rockland, the fictional name of the mental hospital that they met each other in. Ginsberg says that he will be there with Solomon through the good and the bad.

Reading this poem, I guess because the background of mental illness, i was reminded of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. She wrote that novel in 1963, only 8 years after Ginsberg wrote Howl. Just like Ginsberg, Plath had her own battle with mental illness. Also like Ginsberg, the characters in her story had mental illnesses as well. The Bell Jar centers around Esther Greenwood. She is a nice girl who is battling depression. The Carl to her Allen is a character named Betsy. These characters did not meet in treatment, but while on an internship in New York. Betsy is Esther's only friend. Plath may have taken some of the ideas from Ginsberg and put them into the Bell Jar.

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