The Beat Generation Subculture Essay Research Paper

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The Beat Generation Subculture Essay, Research Paper Every generation has its middle class, majority, and norm, which are decided by that era’s standards of behavior and thought. Similarly, each generation has a group that rejects these standards and rebels against the norm. In the 1950’s a group of American writers that exemplified this behavior formed. They were called the beat generation. The beat generation was particularly remarkable because although it was began by an exceptionally small group of people, its cultural influence was enormous. The beats rebelled against things like conformity and consumerism in the post World War II society. Their writing challenged both traditional American values and contemporary writing styles. Incorporating influences such as jazz,

art, literature, philosophy and religion, the beat writers created a new vision of modern life and changed the way a generation of people sees the world. However, the beat generation was soon transformed from a youthful rebellion into an elaborate money making tool. The beat generation was a movement that started a cultural revolution in the United States. Despite their small size, a group of early beat writers were able to shape an entire movement. The original group consisted of writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William S. Burroughs, Gary Snyder, and Charles Bukowski. Most of the group’s members met and formed around New York City’s Greenwich Village and later came to reside in San Francisco where they gained fame. “The phrase ‘Beat

Generation’ was invented by Jack Kerouac in 1948. The phrase was introduced to the general public in 1952 when Kerouac’s friend John Clkellon Holmes wrote the article, ‘This is the Beat Generation,’ for the New York Times Magazine” (Levi Asher, 2000). “The word beat had various connotations for the writers, including despair over the beaten state of the individual in mass society and belief in the beatitude, or blessedness, of the natural world and in the restorative powers of the beat of jazz music and poetry” (Microsoft Encarta, 2001). Many writers in the group later renounced the term when they felt it lost its meaning. It took the beats a long time before they gained fame however. Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, went through many different publishers before

anyone agreed to print it. When it did come out it was heavily criticized by the press. In the 1950’s the lifestyle that On the Road explored was considered deviant. “The stereotype that emerged in the mass media was a spaced-out beatnik, dressed in black, pounding on bongo drums and muttering gibberish as poetry” (Microsoft Encarta, 2001). America’s youth, however, identified with the feelings of despair and the need for freedom expressed in their work. The beats created a revolution that began with many young people leaving their conventional lives to hitchhike around American and find themselves. Like most subcultures, the Beat Generation rebelled against the social and cultural norms of their time. For them it was the post World War II society that they rejected.

“Cultural historians point out that acquisition of consumer goods, which had been scarce during wartime, became a central feature of postwar life, driven by the mass media, advertising, and generous loan terms” (Encarta, 2001). The beats refused to be a part of the expanding consumer culture. Not only did they reject changing American values, the beats also rejected the traditional writing styles of the era. “Kerouac spoke and wrote of a ‘Spontaneous Prose’; Ginsberg described ‘poetry adapted from prose seeds, journals, scratchings, arranged by phrasing or breath groups into little short-line patterns according to ideas of measure of American speech’ ” (Allen 1973). This informal writing style made it extremely difficult to get their work published. Along with