“Howl” and “Huck Finn” are stories told in or around wars in American history; however, the timing of both to a lesser extent is during a period of civil unrest. “Huckleberry Finn” is written just after the end of the civil war and “Howl” is written between the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Clemens is dealing with the new America; as seen through the eyes of everyone that had to deal with the end of the old world as they knew it. Slavery was being abolished; reconstruction was in full swing, the expanding of the American west. National Parks were being set aside by President Roosevelt, conservationism vs. preservationism was at its height; included in all was every form of corruption available. America was looking for an identity.
Clemens used subtle satire, and humor to explore and attempt to bring human nature and social issues to the mainstream or forefront of consciousness. Clemens also used cynicism, hyperboles, euphuisms, and metaphors to get at what might be considered “psychological observations of human nature.” His early years growing up along the Mississippi; watching and learning from gamblers, riverboat captains, and travelers from the world over gave him insight and helped create the distinct voice that we know as today as Mark Twain. Faulkner himself stated that Twains’ influence on his work.
“Howl” was written and published just after the end of the Korean War. It resonates with the sound of America still searching for itself. Only a short decade before, the United States was still living in the shadows of WWII. The quiet majority had begun to sprout its wings. Gone was the idealistic family unit; Leave it to Beaver, type of family. Hundreds of thousands of young men had gone to war; thousands never to return; the high-high price of freedom where names like Omaha Beach, D-Day, Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord would become everyday household references. There is a reason that these song lyrics from 1861 were immortally entombed at a graveyard in France. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord,” which; is written at the feet of the sculpture of the fallen soldier at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.
Ginsberg takes on who, what, and where in this epic poem with an in your face style. It makes the visualizations almost seem to dance before your eyes. Each stanza is more than a rambling rhetoric of senseless dialogue. The poem is a direct relation to the men and women lost in war, or who have become part of the machine, corporate America; never to grow old or become anything more than sacrificial lambs to Moloch.
Both are works of conceptual genius that is missed by most people who can’t get out of their own way; they only read them from a small minded and limited modern day moral-ethical standpoint, not in the time that they were written. The reason “Howl” was taken to heart during the 60s, in the same manner as why “Huckleberry Finn” is on the banned book list: Racism, major civil unrest that included the Civil Rights Movement, Detroit riots in 1968, and Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as a socially contentious war in Vietnam.
As I sat and listened to the things that were being thrown out as reasons to what the meaning of the poem meant and who the Beats were and why; of course some rich privileged kids were learning to rebel. Yes, there was some of that; however, the vast majority of those that went into the Korean peninsula and Vietnam jungles weren’t the privileged; they were the lower class; dropouts, musicians, writers and the working class—non-college students. What happened at Kent State May 4, 1970? Men or more the point boys of fighting age (the average age was nineteen) were forced to go fight a ‘police action’ in a country no one wanted. The Soldiers that did come home were spit on; called baby killers and worse (think Rambo). This police action wasn’t called a war until the late 70’s. Hence, for example the draft was in effect like being “fucked in the ass!” Lest we forget; as time does to all memories; what our class and most people under the age of thirty-five don’t want to remember, war is HELL! For me the true meaning of “Howl”; is Freedom comes at a high price and we will never know the true effects.
“Description of Twain’s Style as a Writer of Narrative Prose | The Classroom | Synonym.” The Classroom | Synonym. Web. 10 Mar 2015. http://classroom.synonym.com/description-twains-style-writer-narrative-prose-3562.html.
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 10 Mar 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_Hymn_of_the_Republic.
“What elements are unique to Mark Twain’s style? How could you identify a passage as Mark Twain if it were… – Homework Help – eNotes.com.” Study Guides, Lesson Plans, Homework Help, Answers & More – eNotes.com. Web. 10 Mar 2015. http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-elements-unique-mark-twains-style-how-could-90233.