Volume 1, Issue 1
By Chelsea Picken
Monsters are the pith of all that is abject. That which is depicted as monstrous simply cannot inhabit the tangible, real-life societies in which it is produced, but instead, in order to be deemed monstrous in the first place, it must be cast off in disgust from all that is viewed by society as “normal.” This results in an extreme “othering” of anything regarded as monstrous into an entirely separate representational space where it is essentially incapable of coexisting with the way in which society makes sense of itself. Monsters therefore embody abjection because they temporarily disrupt the established norms of any given society. Julia Kristeva reminds us that abjection is “what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules” (4). What violates societal boundaries poses a threat to the entire system and the selves existing within the limits of that system, so society must, in response, abject these beings and behaviors from existing in the same domain in order to continue living with their previous notions of self. In the brief state of disruption before monsters actually become monsters, though, there exists a small window of opportunity where norms actually have the potential to be reimagined. If society accepts a new, potentially disruptive idea or behavior into the realm of normative thought, then it cannot simultaneously become monstrous. This being said, once monsters become monsters, they also have the power to reinforce and define the same social norms they are abjected from by specifying what society is inherently not.
Furthermore, women have long been portrayed as monstrous in literature and film, often due to their stepping out of the roles society has placed them into and transgressing into the boundaries of the male sphere. When this happens, these women start to show up as monsters, expressing the anxieties of the ordered society that they are attempting to disorder. In order to counteract this seemingly disastrous boundary crossing, these transgressors (women) must be metaphorically put back into their expected roles through monstrous fiction. One early example of this is the 1872 vampire novella Carmilla, but even over a hundred years later, society still cannot allow women to successfully operate in male dominated roles, as reflected in modern monster fiction like the popular television series The Walking Dead.
Identifying what is feminine with what is monstrous is nothing new when it comes to literature. Even the biblical story of Adam and Eve, according to one influential interpretation, portrays Eve as the weaker sex who deceives Adam into sin, resulting in the fall of humankind, and it seems male writers throughout history have taken that idea and run with it in their literary representation of women. Women appear to be destined for failure from the very beginning, because even when they are not the ones committing the monstrous acts themselves, they can always be held responsible for the initial downfall of the human race. Alletta Brenner agrees that “this tendency for badness is given to be a result of woman’s weaker mind and morals, consequence of an inferior degree of development inherited all the way back from her ‘grandmother Eve’” (173). This inheritance of a seemingly natural inadequacy of all women has then played into the various ways in which different periods throughout history have attempted to make sense of the world around them, specifically with the issue of gender. Brenner notes that, specifically in early modern England, there was a shift from taking everything that occurred as a result of divine providence to trying to categorize everything into its distinct and separate group in order to determine the essential qualities of all existence (174).
As one would imagine, this caused some difficulty when it came to determine the essential qualities of gender because it only allowed for certain attributes to define what it meant to be a woman. Therefore, any woman breaking these rigid boundaries of their category of existence was transgressing into areas that did not constitute what a woman was thought to be in early modern England and disrupted the way society was ordered. This led them to be viewed as monstrous and “unnatural.” Brenner adds to this idea saying “for only when ‘natural’ is confined to strict limit, can something become monstrously ‘unnatural’” (174). If women act outside their limited category of existence, or that which is seen as “natural” behavior, they not only disrupt what society thinks they know about women, but they also begin to disrupt what society claims to know about life in general. If women are not what they are supposed to be, then it is possible that nothing is what it seems, and suddenly everything becomes a complete and utter uncertainty. In order to avoid such widespread chaos, monsters have to come into play to remind society what it is fundamentally not.
In J. Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, it becomes extremely apparent how the possibility of a woman transgressing her gender roles has the initial potential to break down the current female gender code and restructure what it meant to be a woman existing in the 19th century. In fact, LeFanu all but spells out the perfect recipe for women to redefine themselves and exist outside of the male chain of power. That being said, Carmilla also exemplifies the attempt to resist these alterations to traditional societal norms in order to retain a sense of order in the way people made sense of the world at that time period. In her article “Repossessing the Body: Transgressive Desire in Carmilla and Dracula,” Elizabeth Signorotti discusses how “Laura and Carmilla’s lesbian relationship defies the traditional structures of kinship by which men regulate the exchange of women to promote male bonding,” allowing “Laura and Carmilla to usurp male authority and to bestow themselves on whom they please, completely excluding male participation in the exchange of women” (607). For the majority of the novella, as Signorotti suggests, the women appear to have significantly more power over the male characters, which absolutely defies the established gender codes of the time. As much as the men try to exert their power over the women in the story, they fail to have any real influence on the events that make up most of the plot, and the women take every chance they get to discredit any form of male authority. One of the first things revealed about Carmilla is that she cannot tell anyone anything about her past, including her family name, where she is from, or what the nature of her mother’s journey is (LeFanu). This is not just in place to conceal herself as a vampire, but it also undermines a very distinct male concern of gaining power through a patriarchal set of values. Signorotti agrees that “Carmilla’s refusal to bear her ancestral name is just one example of her refusal to be subsumed by male authority. She is less interested in sharing with Laura her lineage – a primary concern in male systems of exchange – than her sexuality” (614). Without knowing Carmilla’s ancestry, it becomes nearly impossible for her to be constrained by a system of patriarchy, decreasing the overall power men have over women.
Another area where women seem to undermine the masculine in Carmilla is the multiple failed attempts by men to utilize medicine’s power to protect the female characters around them. It seems that nearly every time Laura’s father comes into play in the story, he calls a doctor to the house for one reason or another, but the doctor’s powers are ultimately useless against Carmilla’s very different and much stronger kind of power (LeFanu). Discussing the way women are often aligned with monstrosity, Valerie Wee recognizes that the Western portrayal of women often “codes the female as a malign force that is closely associated with the unnatural, the mysterious and the irrational, while equaling the male with the benign, the rational and the logical” (158). This perfectly applies to the way Carmilla is set up. Even though Laura’s father’s attempts to save his daughter by incessantly bringing in doctors, who prove completely ineffectual, his consulting science in this setting aligns him with the rational and logical thing to do, as Valerie Wee suggests. Therefore, whether or not his actions have any real authority over the events of story, he is still associated with the good and sensible, while Carmilla, who in actuality holds all the power, is seen as an unnatural, evil force corrupting the established laws of society. This theme of the women in the text controlling nearly every situation while also undermining any aspects of male power persists throughout nearly all of Carmilla and only deviates from this when Carmilla is finally killed at the end, creating a peculiar contradiction. If Carmilla can possess all the control up to this final endpoint and leave the men virtually powerless, how do they manage to muster up the power to find and destroy her? Logically, it makes no sense. Yet, thinking back to why female monsters appear in the first place, Carmilla never really had a chance of survival. As an independent powerful woman existing in 19th century England and defying all forms of male authority around her, she simply had to be exterminated in order to define the limits of what was and what was not acceptable for a woman living at this time in society.
Shifting forward about seventy years, another era that most definitely addresses female monstrosity is the period between the mid 1940s and mid 1950s, when noir became a very prominent style of film in America. This period is particularly relevant to female monstrosity because it was also a time where the way society was ordered, especially in relation to gender, was being gradually reimagined. Women were acting outside of their previously accepted gender code, and society’s reaction to their new behavior can be seen in various pieces of art and literature of the time, one being film noir. In previous years, while men were off fighting in World War II, women were expected to step out of their roles as housewives and homemakers, fill the jobs the men left vacant, and do their duty supporting the war effort. This gave them a sense of purpose and autonomy, so that by the time men returned home from war, people were beginning to see the emergence of a “new woman,” one that existed outside of the home. That being said, after the war most women were expected to return to their roles as housewives, and those who remained working were forced into lower paying positions as men reclaimed their’s. Nevertheless, this idea of the new independent working woman was one that left much of the male population with a great deal of anxiety. Because this woman did not correlate with society’s conception of the world once the war was over, film noir displays an attempt to cast them off as evil and dangerously seductive monstrous women in order to redefine womanhood and preserve a former notion of the way society was previously constructed in relation to gender. Often portrayed as the infamous femme fatale, these “women in film noir are presented in a narrow range. Either they are masked malevolence or desperately conventional housewives” (Hirsch 155). In other words, if women did not conform to the “little Suzy Homemaker” ideal, they were verging on transgressing into territory that had not been previously designated to them, attempting to break the very foundation of the structured society they were a part of. As a result of this failure to conform, these transgressors could not be allowed to freely operate in society simply as self-assertive, positive feminine figures, but rather, they were portrayed as unnatural and fiendish forces working against the good of humanity.
Some scholars disagree on the emergence of the femme fatale as a reflection of the independent working woman. Mark Jancovich instead argues:
The monstrous female is often closely associated with domesticity and directly opposed to the independent woman of the war years. As a result, rather than a demonization of the independent woman of wartime, the female monster is actually associated with the figure of the slacker, a figure that wartime propaganda presented as an arrogant, self-absorbed woman. (134)
He goes on to give multiple examples of films that portray monstrous women as housewives instead of independent women. In one particular film the woman becomes “a monster of ‘possessive love’, a woman who is destructively dependent on her husband, and on her role as his wife,” (141) and in another “a kept woman, a gold digger who has married into wealth and power and manipulates others in order to protect her position” (141). Jancovich argues that because these women are operating in the domestic sphere and being portrayed as monstrous, the idea of the femme fatale representing the anxieties over the emerging “new woman” is inaccurate. Instead he claims that the independent woman of wartime was in actuality a respected figure in society, while the traditional housewife was looked down upon as lazy and self-absorbed.
Although Jancovich makes a valid argument, he fails to recognize that these monstrous housewives are not being portrayed as monstrous because they embody the idea of the exemplary domestic woman. They are also transgressing their prescribed gender roles in society, just as the new woman was. Each of his examples shows this; he just fails to address it. Neither the destructively dependent housewife nor the gold digging housewife mentioned previously represent the ideal woman operating in the domestic sphere. Both present a threat to society by abusing their traditional role of housewife and undermining the men around them. Therefore, the idea that women essentially become monstrous for transgressing their established societal roles still applies here. Because American noir “had no use for a straightforward presentation of the newly enfranchised woman” (154), the femme fatale is, in fact, a reflection of this woman. That reflection has just been distorted. Thus, Jancovich’s monstrous domestic housewives are just another breed of monstrous women, not because the independent woman of the time was the ideal, but because these women also do not remain within the confines of what a domestic woman was supposed to be in the 40s and 50s.
Fast-forward to modern society, and many would likely claim that this monstrous women business has become rather irrelevant. After both first and second wave feminism, it appears that women have progressed leaps and bounds when it comes to the understanding of gender in today’s world. However, after an in-depth analysis of the depiction of women in modern literature and film, this becomes a much more debatable claim. This is precisely why modern society’s numerous depictions of zombie-ridden apocalyptic worlds in literature and film serve as the perfect means for understanding how the way gender functions in modern society may not be all that different from how it did in the 19th century one that Carmilla was produced from. An apocalyptic setting has no use for many of the social norms that exist today, yet gender is one of the few that persists throughout the majority of zombie fiction, making the consequences of stepping out of one’s gender roles that much more apparent. Zombie fiction is a relatively contemporary venture, and one that seems to have spurred somewhat of an obsession over the last decade or so. The Walking Dead, the widely popular television series following a group of survivors through a zombie apocalypse, has a lot to say about the role of gender dynamics when society has become virtually nonexistent. Whereas Carmilla and the classic femme fatale woman have displayed a resistance to change preconceived notions of how society is supposed to be structured, in zombie fiction these preconceived notions have not only changed, but they have been violently and permanently destroyed. So what does this mean for women existing in such a world that appears to no longer be preoccupied with trivial matters such as social norms? Surprisingly enough, they still cannot seem to catch a break.
Jessica Murray addresses this very issue of how living in a zombie apocalypse contributes to the understanding of gender. She claims that this zombie-filled world is a completely “generic space in which human characters, male and female, behave monstrously and transgress the social rules and roles that usually confine them” (4). This understanding is therefore completely foreign to any society in the past. Whereas before, when women were doing the transgressing on their own, thus leading to their being cast off as monstrous from what was “normal’ in society, in a zombie apocalyptic society, monstrosity itself is the norm. Not only do the literal monsters (the zombies) outnumber humanity, but for the humans themselves, it becomes normative to behave in a manner that is also monstrous in order to survive. For example, in the 4th season of The Walking Dead, Carol, in order to protect herself and those around her, makes the unfathomable decision of killing a child, Lizzie (“The Grove”). In any other societal setting, regardless of time period, this would be seen as murder and, therefore, not in any way acceptable behavior. Pre-zombie apocalypse, Carol would have undoubtedly been portrayed as a monster, yet in this setting, viewers are actually inclined to rationalize why Carol, in fact, had to kill Lizzie because that is the kind of action such a society calls for in order to survive. Because all humankind is forced to transgress the social boundaries of their previous world, gender boundaries are broken down along with them. This allows for a drastic reconstruction of what it means to be a man or woman living in a zombie apocalypse.
Although women are more freely allowed into the realm of the male sphere in this fictional society, they still remain the lesser, weaker sex of the two. Take the character of Andrea from The Walking Dead. In season two of the series, she is seen beginning to operate more so in the masculine realm by being trained to shoot with the men and choosing to protect the group by keeping watch, rather than take part in the traditional women’s duties like cooking, cleaning, and watching the children. Yet instead of being allowed to excel in this role as an equal to her male counterparts, the show takes a disappointing turn when she accidentally mistakes Daryl for a walker and makes the irrational and unnecessary decision to shoot him. But not to worry, she cannot even be allowed to succeed in that because her inferior shooting skills only result in the shot grazing the side of Daryl’s head. If this were not enough, Andrea also gets a good scolding from Lori for burdening the other women with her share of the “women’s chores” because she prefers to “work on her tan,” keeping watch with her gun on top of the RV instead (“Chupacabra”). So even as women have more freedom, in that what is acceptable behavior for them in a zombie apocalyptic society has expanded to include a much broader range of activities in the reimagined gender boundaries, they still are not permitted to exist on equal grounds with the men in such a society. Although maybe not seen as monstrous, they definitely are not viewed in an overly positive light. It seems then that, while existing in a zombie apocalyptic society allows for drastic alterations to societal norms, the impact of old world norms can still be seen to have a significant effect on how gender is reimagined in this new world.
Female monsters ultimately have one thing in common: no matter what time period they originate from, they usually attempt to transgress the boundaries of a social norm put into place by their respective societies. As a result of playing this role of transgressor, we see these monsters forced into abjection with the intention to preserve the accepted normative expectations of a society that can only exist within the constraints of these boundaries. All monsters, regardless of gender, disrupt the established order of the world, but when these monsters happen to be female, they are almost exclusively portrayed in that manner because of their unwillingness to conform to a standard, and not because they are committing any heinous, unforgivable acts. As one would expect, this feminine monstrosity clearly manifests itself in literature of the past, as women have long been understood as inferior in patriarchal systems. Yet, as modern society would like to think it has overcome these injustices, they are still being reflected in contemporary literature and film. Furthermore, even as gender binaries are broken down in extreme cases such as the zombie apocalyptic society, a distinct representational space where men and women can exist on an equal ground has yet to be conceived.
Chelsea Picken is an English literature major and a member of Sigma Tau Delta. In 2014, Chelsea presented a paper on the alienation of women in Gothic literature at the Midwest Undergraduate Conference in the Humanities and a paper entitled “Victorian Sexuality and the Myth of Virginity in Tess of the d’Urbervilles” at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference in Ogden, Utah. Chelsea hopes to earn a Ph.D. and become an English professor.
By Joseph Webb Sr.
In Book I of his well-known work The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, the Scottish moral philosopher, describes the propensity of man to have an ability above all other species of beings. Smith describes this ability as man’s inclination to truck, barter, and exchange for profit through the use of reason and speech. Smith claims this is a trait unique to man and says: “It is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals, which seem to know neither this, nor any other species of contracts.” In essence, Smith argues that men have a natural sense of reliance upon each other for what one cannot gain alone, that men have a natural cognitive ability to truck, barter, exchange, and do business with one another, and that this ability separates us from all other animals. However, I propose that other animals, contrary to Smith’s assertion, have business cognition which is analogous to humans in that working as a group they move possessions, negotiate, and trade, even if it is minimal in contrast to humans.
The first issue Smith presents is that men are created with qualities allowing them to divide labor for a profit. Not only does this division profit the individual, but the community as a whole. This is stated most distinctly in paragraph three where Smith discusses how a person excelling in a trade can, through business cognition, make more than he needs in goods and services allowing him to fully devote himself to his trade rather than serving multiple functions, whatever they may be. Geoffrey .M. Hodgson, a leading researcher in evolutionary economics, sees these economic functions as rooted in cooperation more than any other human function (261). It appears Smith was possibly a student of human nature as well as philosophy as he details this cooperation throughout his article. Smith identifies such establishments as a tradesman who makes arrows to supply the hunter in return for meat allowing him to fully devote himself to making the arrow. In addition, a carpenter may also build for a herdsman in exchange for meat. While this supports Smith’s claim of the human propensity to do business, it does not support his claim that this propensity is found in “no other race of animals.” What is true is humans can each do a specific task, master that task, and benefit the community as a whole through our abilities to reason and talk with one another. However, Smith’s claim that this kind of business cognition is unique to humans could be proven false through recent research. It is apparent humans have business cognition. It is not apparent, as Smith claims, that “all animals apart from human” lack such cognition.
It appears the more in detail we get in regards to this argument, the more psychology, evolution, and natural selection come in to play, both environmentally, and economically. Michael C. White and others imply laws of complexity create a cooperative order among humans (White et al. 1387). Could these same laws of complexity apply to non-human animals in a less intricate way? Smith differentiates between humans and other living organisms based on the fact humans show a complete and absolute propensity to profit from this type of division of contractual labor and cooperation, while other animals have no ability at all, and any profit that does occur is fortuitous. Smith claims non-human animals have no sustained profit or ability to perpetually profit from individual strengths, whatever those strengths may be. However, if we can prove just one species of non-human animal profits from teamwork, moves product from one place to another, and can give and take, Smith’s claim that business cognition belongs to man, and man alone, can be disregarded.
My analysis of Smith’s declarations can be supported by distinguishing between the deductive and inductive elements of his claim. The deductive elements address man’s ability to enter a trade or skill, master it, and produce a profit while benefiting the community as a whole, and/or purchase the fruits of another man’s talent through the use of reason and speech while utilizing trucking, exchanging, and bartering. The inductive component of this argument is based on observation and on Smith’s unsupported declaration that non-human animals do not work together because they do not speak or reason as man does. Smith claims but does not prove non-human animals lack reason or speech, and his conclusion that business cognition exists “in no other race of animals” is born on this unproven assumption. What separates instinct from cognitive ability is the desire plus aptitude to reason for a profit, institute life sustaining practice, and to deviate from norms when necessary to produce positive results. Instinct is a driving force while cognition is determinative. Animals can act in a precise and rational way at times, and I will prove this now through expert testimony and research.
Discussing the work of F.A. Hayek, Sandra J. Peart and David Levy note that Hayek viewed Mill’s utilitarianism as one in which “Design theories necessarily lead to the conclusion that social processes can be made to serve human ends only if they are subjected to the control of human reason” (1). This affirms what Smith was saying some 234 years ago and shows the continued relevance of his work even today. We can find plenty of examples of divisions of labor occurring where men profit and purchase goods from others through social processes. Smith’s conclusion about man’s business cognition follows from provable premises: men use reasoning and speech skills to provide goods and services which they need; men move product from one place to another; and give and take relationships allow men to commit full-time to their practices as each man commits to a skill other men have need of (division of labor).
In regard to Smith’s claim that non-human animals are not capable of business cognition, this is a hotly contested area where multiple opinions can be generated. However, the work of expert animal trainers and zoologists such as Barbara Heidenreich has revealed that animals can and do practice behaviors involving business cognition. Heidenreich, working at length with Quaker parrots, has revealed these birds work together and profit through their ability to build nests. This can be defined as calculated and determinative. In addition, Quaker parrots have the ability to change habitats and continue in their home-making processes among new groups of parrots if removed from a habitat, such as being released from being a pet. While the need may be instinctual, it is a cognitive and precise approach, which leads to its success. The business cognition is revealed through the determinative factors of teamwork, transporting nest material, and determining they can live with one another in large groups and still survive.
Heidenreich concludes that birds, such as the Quaker parrot, can communicate and profit from the work of other Quaker parrots in a determinative fashion rather than by accident. Therefore, Smith’s assertion that this function of business cognition can be found in “no other race of animal” is called into question. Birds can talk. Birds can profit from the work of other birds, etc. At this point, Smith’s argument based on observation weakens because there are many instances where some animals, including dogs, do work together to hunt, stay warm, and provide other amenities of living such as police dogs working to find illegal contraband. Wolves hunt in packs, male penguins keep eggs warm after the female lays them, a bear hunts, and the coyote licks the carcass. Even elephants raise young incorporating the values of a herd into the young. Naoko Irie and Toshikazu Hasegawa explain that elephants have an incredible amount of cognition potential that has yet to be studied (178). These observed facts could all be used as counter claims against Smith’s claim that men are unique in regards to reason, speech, and the division of labor amongst a group of species, etc. Smith’s claim that business cognition is found in “no other race of animals” can therefore be refuted using the examples mentioned above.
Going a step further beyond refutation of Smith’s inductive claim, let us build an argument to protect our maxim stating animals can conduct business. If Quaker parrots talk and build a large nest suitable for a colony of parrots, then Quaker parrots communicate and reason they will need a nest for their young, share the duty of building such a nest, and profit from this duty sharing creating a sort of division of labor. This would disprove Smith’s inductive argument and show some grounds for believing animals such as birds do have a distinct division of labor. They, in essence, profit from the strengths of each other (labor division and intelligence in regards to nest building as well as an inherent ability to communicate through body language).
W.H. Thorpe says some species of birds have highly functional vocalizations (443-44). These vocalizations could be used to communicate a desire or attitude towards certain behaviors while nesting in large groups. Frans De Waal further explains about Darwinism, in regards to evolution, that evolution gives animals that help each other long-term favor if the help they give one another creates a better benefit, than it would if they did it alone. Note that when explaining this evolutionary process coined by Darwin, De Waal states that “animals benefit” and not that “humans benefit (15). Is it possible in a wolf pack, that one hunts and another searches for a habitation, allowing their species to last longer on the life continuum? Therefore, we see that Smith’s assumptions that men have reasoning skills and use speech to reason amongst each other are true. But we also see that animals have reasoning and deliberate functions like vocalizations which allow them to prosper, i.e., business cognition, making Smith’s assumptions about animal’s lack of propensity for business cognition false.
In conclusion, we know birds communicate because experts like Barbara Heidenreich relay this information. We have seen some evidence of birds talking and profiting from some duty-sharing in an unsigned contractual way. These birds profit through their communication skills and ability to bring material to a site for nesting, all the while working as a community. As Smith has detailed, humans also profit through communication skills, reasoning capabilities, and divisions of labor, which allow us to build homes and possibly expand our diet for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Some psychological critics, which have been named herein, base the reason for human situations such as what Smith has discussed as relying on just those functions: cooperation, speech, and reason. However, bird/animal experts assert that animals do communicate through body language, work together, and, in effect, that they profit from those abilities in what could be labeled cooperation. Whether Smith’s claim was based on limited observations, or advancement in research and documentation of animal behaviors has diminished his statement, the recent research has contributed to changing our animal cognition theories. We now know, and can prove, animals do possess business cognition, profiting them individually, or as a group. As a matter of fact, we still have much to learn about the world around us.
Joseph Webb Sr. is in his third year at Ashford University. An avid researcher with many interests, Joseph is a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, enjoys writing on a daily basis, and is particularly interested in current issues in the humanities. Upon graduating from Ashford, Joseph plans to pursue a Master’s degree.
By Paul Odom
American imperialism is a term that is foreign to the ears of most Americans. If they are familiar with the term, it is likely to be only from speeches they have heard on TV given by America’s many detractors in the Middle East. The fact is, though, that American imperialism was a very real, powerful, and dangerous movement that most historians would say began with America’s defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War. However, I argue that this movement began much earlier with the systematic invasion of native territories by white settlers, and was cemented with President James K. Polk’s campaign to seize much of Mexico’s remaining territory. From then on, American imperialism would continue to grow and taint much of American history.
Imperialism has changed throughout history, particularly American imperialism. During the first half of the nineteenth century, American imperialism was territorial in nature, but over time it became cultural and economic. The changing nature of American imperialism makes it difficult to define precisely. For this paper, imperialism is defined as the doctrine of territorial and cultural expansion by any means necessary. American imperialism was born as white settlers moved onto land ceded to Native Americans in treaties with Britain. The goal of imperialism was never officially endorsed by the government, and President Polk never clearly stated that he wanted to create an American empire; however, the results were the same. The footprints of imperialism in the invasion of native lands are clear.
With a cursory examination, a pattern emerges. First, the government turned a blind eye, allowing settlers to claim land that was not theirs. Then, when the rightful owners sought to remove them, the army would intervene under the guise of protecting innocent settlers. A brief campaign would soon follow resulting in a new treaty, with the natives losing more territory, or seeing the virtual destruction of their tribes. The shadow of imperialism is even clearer in an examination of Polk’s presidency. In his inaugural address in 1845, Polk used many of the same justifications for coming actions that past conquerors have used before; statements such as, “the annexation of Texas was the taking back of territory that was previously lost,” and, “that land that is in dispute was already ours,” bear the hallmark of imperialism (qtd. in “Inaugural”). Clearly more examination is needed to build a complete picture of American imperialism.
The Indian Territories
From the very birth of our nation, Americans looked on Native American lands with greedy eyes, wanting more and more of the land for expansion and settlement (Sterba 428). Almost every encounter held some imperial overtones. Even in the throes of the Revolutionary War, natives were seen as pawns by both sides. Each side made treaties with the various nations for aid in fighting the war, yet it was the Americans that made a concentrated effort to destroy not just the natives fighting in the battles, but their societies as a whole (Athearn 11-2). America made no distinction between the Indian Men fighting in the battles and the men, women, and children simply living in their villages. This view was established early on by no less than General George Washington himself in his orders for the Sullivan campaign:
The Expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more. I would recommend, that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with a sufficient quantity of provisions whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed. But you will not by any means listen to any overture of peace before the total ruinment of their settlements is effected. Our future security will be in their inability to injure us and in the terror with which the severity of the chastisement they receive will inspire them. (Washington)
When reading these orders, it is clear that Washington wanted the total destruction of the Indian tribes that had sided with the Loyalists in the Revolutionary War. To accomplish this, he commanded soldiers to commit acts that would have earned him a war crimes trial today. This was not the first time soldiers would be ordered to lay waste to native territory, what is commonly called a scorched earth campaign, but it is one of the earliest in our nation’s history. It is also a pattern that was to be repeated again and again throughout our nation’s history.
The systematic invasion of native lands followed a typical pattern for much of our nation’s early history. First, settlers moved into the frontier region that borders native territory (Athearn 16-7). As their population increased, they began to encroach on native lands, claiming a piece here or there and generally coming into conflict with the natives. Then the second phase began, in which the army was dispatched with orders to “protect” settlers from the natives. Army commanders at the time were given great leeway when determining how best to do this, but what usually occurred was a border war with the natives with raids being committed by both sides. Eventually the native tribe was either wiped out or weakened to the point where it agreed to a treaty in which the tribe gave up territory in exchange for peace and a guarantee that no more settlers would cross onto their land. This pattern would repeat time and time again, slowly increasing America’s territorial holdings. It is a pattern seen throughout history as one empire after another began taking territory from a smaller, weaker nation or people. In time, when the Native Americans could be pushed no further, the government shifted its policy of treating the various tribes as independent nations and viewed them instead as wards of the state, under the control of and answerable to the federal government (Williams 811).
As the idea of natives being wards of the state expanded, they were forced onto smaller and smaller reservations on land that was of less and less value. The natives were placed under the authority of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its local agents. If the territory was discovered to contain valuable resources, then the natives were forced to move again. President Andrew Jackson was very adept at forcing natives from their land, as he proved when he circumvented the U.S. Supreme Court and helped the State of Georgia remove the Cherokee from their remaining lands in Georgia (Sterba 429). Thus began a long period in which natives would suffer from a new form of imperialism, one based on culture. Natives living on reservations were subject to this newer and, in many cases, more brutal form of imperialism. The goal was not to take their remaining territory, but to wipe out their cultural identity by any means necessary. To this end, native children were commonly forced to attend schools run by the government or church (Talbot 13-7). The sole purpose of these schools was to rid the children of the last vestiges of their culture before they were too old and engrained. Indeed, up until 1935, it was illegal for natives living on reservations to practice their traditional religions, which were closely related to their very culture (Talbot 7). All of this was possible because, as Williams states, the Indians had become subjects of the United States and subjects have none of the rights of a citizen This fact was confirmed by Chief Justice John Marshall in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia 1831 (Williams 811). With this ruling, Marshall declared natives to be wards of the federal government, with no protection under the constitution and subject to the whims of the federal government or its representatives.
Thus, the seeds of imperialism had been sown prior to the treatment of the native Filipino population after the Spanish-American War of 1898. America legitimized its treatment of Filipinos the same way it had Native Americans; they were wards of the state that could not be trusted with self-rule, thus it was the white man’s burden to care for and manage them. The only difference between the way Filipinos were treated when compared to Native Americans is that Congress never made the mistake of recognizing any native government in the Philippines through treaties (Williams 813).
The Mexican-American War
The Mexican-American war is a largely forgotten part of American history; most school textbooks do not even mention it. Until recently, it was the most aggressive action taken by America with the sole purpose of claiming more territory. The war was and is one of the most controversial actions ever taken by an American president. At the time it started, however, it enjoyed broad support from the American public. It enjoyed so much support that then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln was forced to return to Illinois in shame as a political pariah for calling the war unconstitutional (Lincoln). In his inaugural address, President Polk invoked the aid of God to support his actions, since it was God that shaped the destinies of nations and of men (Polk qtd. in “Inaugural”). Here again, the seeds of imperialism were sown, for this statement bears striking similarities to those made by future champions of the American empire, who claimed it was manifest destiny that our nation should extend beyond our shores.
The manifest destiny connection is not the only one to be made with the imperialist movement, though. Many actions taken in the Mexican-American war were similar, if not identical, to the ones in the Spanish-American War that came many years later in 1898. Texas had won its freedom from Mexico over a decade earlier, yet most of the settlers who fought against Mexico were Americans who had settled in Mexico (Haynes 57). This fact was one of the main points of contention between Mexico and the United States. Mexico viewed the Texans’ War for Independence as an insurrection started and fought by foreign fighters. When America annexed Texas, it only confirmed Mexico’s suspicions. When U.S. troops moved into disputed territory, they confirmed the belief that the U.S. wanted more than just Texas. This ultimately led to what would be called the Thornton Affair, wherein a squad of U.S. troops was ambushed by Mexican soldiers as they patrolled in disputed territory. The sinking of the USS Maine in Havana caused the same public backlash as Mexicans firing on American troops in a disputed part of Texas. Polk ordered troops there to provoke just such a response from the Mexicans. Upon learning of this skirmish, Polk demanded Mexico release its claim not only to the disputed region but much of its remaining territory. Just like the Spanish later on, the Mexican government could not agree to any such terms, giving Polk his justification for war. By claiming American soldiers had been fired upon in American territory, Polk was able to use the broad public support for the war to guarantee the support of Congress when he sought a formal declaration of war against Mexico a day after learning of the Thornton Affair. Following the declaration of war, fighting quickly broke out as U.S. soldiers pushed Mexican troops out of Texas and continued on to invade Mexico. The war itself was over relatively quickly. America soon captured the port of Veracruz, one of Mexico’s largest and most important cities. From there, soldiers moved quickly to defeat the Mexican army and capture Mexico’s capital, Mexico City. In time, a new Mexican government would give in to many of America’s territorial demands, thanks in large part to the work of Nicholas Trist. Trist blatantly ignored President Polk when Polk recalled him to Washington in anger, due to Trist’s apparent lack of progress. In doing so, Trist bought enough time for the new Government of Mexico to be established and to settle on terms for the treaty.
Although Polk claimed we fought the war to defend ourselves from a Mexican invasion of Texas, it actually was American soldiers who invaded Mexico. It was Mexico’s capital that was occupied by foreign soldiers, and the Mexican army never did come close to succeeding in this supposed invasion of Texas. This has all the hallmarks of imperialism, i.e. a larger, more powerful nation forcing its will on another for some material gain. This war clashed greatly with the dream of what America was, and the people in power at the time were fully aware of that. Historians and politicians alike quickly began to paint the war in a more patriotic light, as Harstad and Resh clearly show (290).
These methods varied greatly. Some argued that in their deep distrust and hatred of the very idea of a republic, monarchs in Europe planned on installing a monarch in Mexico, descended from European royalty, and using him to fight America (Johannsen 305). Though it sounds a little far-fetched, this narrative did have some truth to it. Others simply overlooked the causes of the war, stating that now that war had come, it was every American’s patriotic duty to support the war by any means necessary. This was the view of most American churches at the time of the war, including the American Catholic Church, which was expected to condemn the war since Mexico was a Catholic country (Ellsworth 302). Many of the facets of this war would be repeated, especially in the Spanish-American War. Like the Mexican-American War, the war with Spain enjoyed broad public support. This was inflamed by less-than-scrupulous journalists and members of the government, forcing President William McKinley to seek a declaration of war. Cuba took on the same role in the Spanish War that Texas had in the war with Mexico, although Cuba was not annexed. America chose to seize the Philippines and Guam to satisfy its territorial ambitions. In the end, Polk accomplished his ambitions, claiming much of Mexico’s remaining territory, including California. Yet due to the methods he employed in gaining the territory and the Civil War that followed, he remains one of the more obscure presidents. As a result, most Americans have little knowledge of America’s early imperialist actions.
It is evident that the roots of American imperialism have been present from the early days of the republic. From the first time America stripped natives of their territory, to the first time America stripped an independent sovereign nation of its territory, an imperialist ideology played a role. The Spanish-American War was merely the first time the idea of an American Empire was openly expressed. America had embraced the idea of manifest destiny, and with it, imperialism long before that.
Paul Odom received his Master’s of Education from Ashford University in November of 2014, while working as an estimator and purchasing agent at a manufacturing facility in Michigan. His first love has always been history, with a focus on American military history, which he hopes to teach in the future.
By Eddy Wilson
Throughout history there have been those that have defied the normal and accepted ideals of their society. Socrates, Galileo, da Vinci, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thoreau are only a few examples of the individuals throughout history who questioned authority and humanity’s purpose, and who thought outside the box. These social dissenters have significantly impacted the world. Art, in all its forms, provides a means for nonconformists to express their ideas. The modernism movement that started in England at the end of the nineteenth century and migrated to America less than 20 years later (most notably the Armory Show of 1913) was an excellent platform for artists (writers, musicians, painters, etc…) who wanted to turn away from conventional methods of expression and subject matter (McMichael and Leonard). Two world wars and approximately 30 years later, another form of modernism developed: the beat generation. They overcame censorship, jail, lack of dependable communication, and expected norms in an effort to change this country for the better. An examination of the history and ideals of the beat generation, as well as an analysis of two influential pieces of literature from this era, will reveal the social and political impact they have had on American society and the necessity of dissidents like them to prevent our society from becoming stagnant and uninformed to the needs of all its citizens.
The beat generation, or beatniks (term to describe individuals of the beat generation), and their future counterparts (hippies, punk rockers, Goth, emo) fueled the fires of non-conformity by questioning the existing state of affairs. Through poetry and other forms of literature, certain realisms that were currently being ignored or condemned were brought into the light. These realisms included, but were not limited to, addiction, homosexuality, and the horrors of war. Their use of symbolism, metaphor, and rhyme created poetry that usually “spoke” about the underside of life and the errors in American policy (political and social). The phrase “beat generation” is identified with Jack Kerouac from a 1948 conversation with fellow beat poet and author John Clellon Holmes. The term beat referred to the downtrodden, or beaten down of spirit and estrangement many young adults were experiencing after WWII; by the early 1950s, the term was redefined to mean reaching a state of spiritual transcendence (“beatific”) “after being beaten down to the point where he or she is psychologically desolate” (Bochynski). Therefore, it was the members of society that did not fit in (beaten down) that wanted to change the existing state of affairs by bringing certain injustices into the light through their literature.
At the center of the beat movement were authors Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs; they sought to instill a “New Vision.” This New Vision was characterized by “unfettered self-expression, sensory derangement as a means of perceiving truth, sexual experimentation, and the idea that art transcends conventional morality” that was opposite the conformist views of the 1950s (Bochynski). They abandoned the conventional literary norms and experimented with free verse poetry, unstructured composition, colloquial speech, and spontaneous prose embedded with jazz rhythms to express their ideals. They used literary techniques in an unconventional manner to express unconventional ideas. Mr. Kerouac’s famous semiautobiographical novel On the Road was originally written on sheets of paper taped together forming a scroll; it is considered “one of the most famous performative writing manuscripts of the twentieth century” and in 2001 sold for 2.4 million dollars at auction (Trudeau 1). Not only is this manuscript’s content an example of the New Vision, but the scroll form it is written in screams nonconformity as it is not the normal structure of published literature. Unfortunately, unconventional medium made his book unpublishable for many years.
Problems with publication often prevented the beatniks from maintaining a forum to express their ideals through literature read by the public. Two of the most influential works of beat literature – On the Road and Naked Lunch – had differing reasons for not being accessible to the public. On the Road, as mentioned, took years to be published in a conventional form that the public could purchase and read. On the other hand, Naked Lunch was prevented from reaching the public through banning. In 1959, The Chicago Tribune printed nine pages from the book, and it was considered indecent by the powers that be; this led to a ban on any future publications of the book. In 1962, the novel reappeared in the United States and was immediately banned on grounds of obscenity. The case was appealed, and in 1966, it was overturned by the Massachusetts Supreme Court; “this landmark ruling ended literary censorship in the United States” (part of the first amendment right to free speech) (Bochynski). Although the beat movement did not gain much mobility until the 1960s when the hippie culture started to flourish, in 1967 Jack Kerouac stated that “the hippie movement was a continuation of …and better than the beats” (qtd. in Johnston 122).
One explanation for this slow movement is the beatniks’ lack of a foundation to clearly develop political and economic positions and their inability to communicate their ideals to the masses; their ideals were shared through the “social ritual of reminiscence and retelling” (qtd. in Johnston 104). In other words, their messages were spread by talking to a friend, that friend speaking to another friend, and so on; this changed when the music of the 1960s created a forum for the articulation of the beatnik philosophy.
Musicians (aka poets) who started in the 1960s, like Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Jerry Garcia, had personal ties to the beat poets; Dylan was a close friend to Allen Ginsberg and Janis’s famous hit “Oh Lord, Wont You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” was written by Michael McClure (Bochynski). Jerry Garcia and Neal Cassady were part of a group called the Merry Pranksters who traveled America in a psychedelic bus eating hallucinogens while filming a movie whose exploits were chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s best seller The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (“Outsiders in a Conformist Society”). Following in the footsteps of Ginsberg and his supporters, Dylan and other musicians of the period continued to try to change the accepted policies of the United States throughout the 60s and early 70s by speaking out on issues like gay and religious rights, the legalization of marijuana, freedom of expression, and against the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War; many of which are still aggressively debated today. During the Civil Rights Movement, Bob Dylan wrote “Oxford Town” which contain the lyrics “He went to Oxford Town / Guns and clubs followed him down / All because his face was brown.” This song was his way to criticize the riots that occurred when the first black student was admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962 (Harks). Many of these musicians were criticized for their lyrics and some were labeled communists because their ideas did not fit in: they were beatniks as well.
Moving away from the history of the beat generation, I will briefly analyze two poems that reflect their ideals and attitudes. One of the most influential pieces of literature during the beat years was Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” Through his use of metaphors, symbolism, and other literary devices, Allen Ginsberg relays some of his political and social opinions in his poem “Howl.” Mr. Ginsberg read “Howl” publicly for the first time in 1955 at the San Francisco Six Gallery event mentioned previously; it quickly became the single piece of literature that encapsulated the ideals of the beat generation, their “manifesto,” and continued its influence on the hippie movement of the 1960s (Horvath). “Howl” is divided into three parts, each carrying a theme of “the personal and social consequences of trying to achieve … transcendence amid a materialistic culture” (Horvath); this can be seen in the tone, imagery, and symbolism used throughout. A brief analysis of each section will show how each part reflects this theme.
The first part of Mr. Ginsberg’s poem speaks out for those who are oppressed by the inability, or desire, to conform to society’s ideals and their self-destructive behavior to transcend this conformity (Horvath). Usually, when people refuse to or cannot conform, they are ridiculed and often abused; this often leads to social and emotional issues that can result in drug abuse, criminal activity, sexual promiscuity, and other activities that further their exclusion from conventional society. This situation can be observed in the first three lines of “Howl”:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterically / naked / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix (qtd. in Poetry Foundation 1-3)
These lines also set the tone of despair with their negative connotative imagery. This continues in lines 15-16 with “who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of / marijuana for New York” (symbolic for pot smugglers), and “who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome / farms in grandfather night” (qtd. in Poetry Foundation 45-46). This section is written as one sentence with the rhythm emphasized by the word “who”; this and the negative connotations (single words and phrases) used throughout conveys a tone of despair; i.e. “angry fix”, “darkness”, and “obscene” (qtd. in Poetry Foundation 2, 5, and 11). The tone of despair is continued in the second section.
The second section of this poem uses Moloch as a symbol for the reason for the feelings of alienation and despair endured by the outcasts in the first section. Moloch was a god from the Old Testament who, in the poem “Howl,” symbolizes “the false values, spiritual and social bankruptcy, and technological menace of the 1950’s that threatened to swallow America’s youth whole” (Bochynski). In other words, Moloch is used as a metaphor for everything the beatniks were against; for example, lines 8 – 9 read “Moloch the vast stone of war! / Moloch the stunned governments!” (Moloch is the cause of war and an unproductive government), “Moloch whose blood is running money” (Moloch is capitalism) (10), and “Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and / banks!” (Metaphors for industrialization) (qtd. in Poetry Foundation 16). In other words, Moloch is the reason for all bad things, and according to the beatniks, this included materialism, apathy towards the undesirable, industrialism, and conformity.
The third part of this poem directly addresses beat author and close friend to Mr. Ginsberg: Carl Solomon. Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon met while they were patients at Columbia Presbyterian Psychiatric Institute, and Mr. Ginsberg’s mother was diagnosed schizophrenic when he was younger (Bochynski); this allowed the two to build a very tight relationship based on their “craziness.” In the third section of the poem “Howl,” Mr. Solomon epitomizes “all oppressed members of his generation driven crazy by the world in which they are forced to live” (Horvath); this refers to the previously mentioned ridiculed and abused people. Throughout the third section, the phrase “I am with you in Rockland” is the beginning of every stanza; this symbolizes his solidarity with Mr. Solomon and others in similar situations. The repetition of this phrase is intended to convey the feeling of solidarity to the poem’s readers. The diction used in “Howl” is street language; this gives the poem a rough rhythm with jazz undertones which mimics the contrast between accepted and unaccepted ideals of the period. This type of language is specifically used to show this contrast, and it literally shocked the public into seeing reality without the glamour. All three sections of this poem express the sentiment of the beat generation: oppression, non-conformity, and rebellion.
Now I will briefly analyze another piece of literature from the beatniks. Another revolutionary poet was Gregory Corso who expressed his thoughts about the nuclear bomb in a very innovative manner. In his poem “BOMB” (1960), Gregory Corso uses shape, satire, metaphors, and symbolism to protest the nuclear bomb. The first thing that is noticeable about “BOMB” is its shape: a mushroom cloud. This example of concrete poetry reflects the beatniks’ anxiety towards the coming nuclear era. This is also an indication of the theme for his poem: a satirical and prophetic view of the love/hate relationship conformist America has for the nuclear bomb (Howe); e.g., “All Man hates you” (9), “They’d rather die by anything but you” (11), “That I am unable to hate what is necessary to love” (110). Lines 161 – 162, “O Bomb I love you / I want to kiss your clank eat your boom,” also emphasize this love/hate relationship (qtd. in American Poems). The theme is accompanied by a satirical tone that is revealed through connotation and metaphor. For example, line two compares the bomb to a “Toy of universe [metaphor] Grandest of all snatched sky…” putting the bomb in a positive light while line three states “Do I hate the mischievous thunderbolt [metaphor] the jawbone of an ass” which sends a negative impression using a biblical reference (qtd. in American Poems). There is also a prophetic undertone relating to man’s ability for violence. For example, the speaker mentions the earlier history of weapons using fictional and non-fictional references, in lines 4 – 7:
The bumpy club of One Million B.C. the mace the flail the axe / Catapult Da Vinci tomahawk Cochise flintlock
Kidd dagger Rathbone / Ah and the sad desparate gun of Verlaine Pushkin Dillinger Bogart / And hath not St. Michael a burning sword St. George a lance David a sling” (qtd. in American Poems)
This undertone climaxes in the last four lines of the poem with the idea that bigger and better weapons are yet to come:
that in the hearts of men to come more bombs will be born / magisterial bombs wrapped in ermine all beautiful / and they’ll sit plunk on earth’s grumpy empires / fierce with moustaches of gold” (qtd. in American Poems)
Mr. Corso’s sarcasm is also evident in lines 126-129 where he writes “There is a hell for bombs / They’re there I see them there / They sit in bits and sing songs / mostly German songs [metaphor for Nazis implying Nazis go to hell]” (qtd. in American Poems). There are many other examples supporting the tone and theme of this poem, but now I will focus on how the rhythm and structure of this poem reflect the attitude of the beat generation. The rhythm of “BOMB” is not set; it is erratic like some jazz music, and the sentence structure helps maintain the rhythm. Although there are no punctuation marks, a line beginning a thought or statement is capitalized; that thought or statement stops at the end of a line; for example, lines 123 and 124 are written as:
I need not then be all-smart about bombs
Happily so for if I felt bombs were caterpillars (qtd. in American Poems)
Pauses where commas would normally be used are expressed with extra space between words as seen above in line 124 between the words so and for. Sometimes, but rarely, Mr. Corso uses rhyme; for example, “like the fox of the tally-ho / thy field the universe thy hedge the geo” (71-72) and lines 73-74 “Leap Bomb bound Bomb frolic zig and zag / The stars a swarm of bees in thy binging bag” (qtd. in American Poems). Mr. Corso’s use of connotation on certain stressed words adds to the fluctuation in tone and helps infuse the jazz tempo; i.e. “a child in a park [positive] a man dying in an electric-chair [negative]” (112) and in lines 119 – 120 “a man pursuing the big lies of gold [negative and positive] / or a poet roaming in bright ashes [positive]” (qtd. in American Poems). Also, the word BOOM is repeated throughout the poem adding to the jazz-like rhythm; this is unlike the first section of Mr. Ginsberg’s “Howl” with its unending monotonous rhythm only slightly interrupted by the word “who.” Even though both poems represent the voice of the beat generation, they do so in different ways.
The similarities and differences between these two poems are obvious. Although the authors both use a generous amount of metaphors and imagery to convey their meaning, and both pieces offer perspectives of the beatniks, their theme, tone, and rhythm are very different. The tone in “Howl” is one of despair, while the tone in “BOMB” is sarcastic. The rhythm used in “BOMB” is unpredictable like modern jazz (and the bomb), and the rhythm in “Howl” is less musical. Although they were deemed misfits, the beatniks continued a legacy of non-conformity that began with Socrates and endures today. Both poems helped spark the protest movement during the 1960s and 1970s and continued to be inspirational to their causes; e.g. homosexual rights, Vietnam, the love generation, anti-nuke rallies, and the Green movement (Bochynski). Thirty-five years later, the precedents set as a result of the obscenity trials regarding “Howl” and Naked Lunch helped fight censorship when, in 1990, a Florida judge banned an album by the rap group 2 Live Crew that was overturned in 1992 (Phillips).
Political and social principles changed as a result of the beat generation’s influence. An analysis of the origins of beatniks and the purpose of their literature shows the past and present influence they have had on America’s social and political ideals. They are the voice for those who feel they cannot speak, the eyes for those who cannot see, and the ears for those who cannot hear. All brands of beatniks, whether they are hippies, Emos, or Goth, stand outside society’s norms and challenge the current way of thinking; they are the dissenters and the world desperately needs them. Although certain groups among the youth of America have been deemed undesirable, or thorns in the backside, they are urgently needed. Without the constant challenge they provide, it would be easy for a society to become stagnant in its ideals, or worse: become an over-oppressive one-size-fits-all society. Unfortunately, speaking out for change is a continuous challenge in the face of the opposition, and the opposition does not hold dissenters in high regard. This quote from Mr. Ginsberg’s “Howl” sums up the establishment’s viewpoint on beatniks: they are the people “who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the / windows of the skull” (qtd. in Poetry Foundation 12-13). This describes them quite well I believe, and it is probably one of the few points on which the establishment and the beatniks would agree.
Murphy, Timothy, S. “Intersection Points: Teaching William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, College Literature 27(1), 84-102. Ebsco. Web. June 2014.
Eddy Wilson is in his fourth year at Ashford University, and is due to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in May, 2016. In his time at Ashford, Eddy has discovered his passion for literature, its place in history and culture, and its power to instill sociopolitical change. Upon completing his undergraduate work, Eddy hopes to pursue a Master’s degree with the goal of teaching college courses in literary analysis.