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by Allen Ginsberg

America Theme of Madness

Does the world just drive you crazy some times? And not in that fun Britney Spears sorta way? The speaker of "America" is definitely not having as much fun as Brit is in that song. In fact, he's so bothered by the problems that he sees in his country that he struggles with his own hold on sanity. And in a world of atom bombs and unjust persecutions, what does it mean to be sane anyway? Maybe all it takes to be labeled insane is to be sane in an insane world. That's just one of the big picture questions our speaker is dealing with.

Questions About Madness

  1. Can one truly be sane in a country that behaves in an insane fashion? How do you think our speaker would answer that question?
  2. Who's to blame for the speaker's mental state: America, or himself? Is there a ratio that you would use (30% him, 70% America)? Why?
  3. Is the speaker's "obsession" healthy or unhealthy? How do you know?
  4. At the end of the poem, what is your honest assessment: is the speaker sane, or insane? How can you tell?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker's admission of his mental trouble undermines the validity of his criticisms. He's nuts, so how can he expect us to take him seriously?

By acknowledging his own mental issues, the speaker makes himself a credible critic of his country.

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