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America

America

by Allen Ginsberg

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 38-41

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.

  • The speaker reminds us whom he's addressing. On the one hand, that's obvious: he's addressing America in another apostrophe.
  • But think a bit more about that "you." Aren't you a part of America, too? Could you (or any other reader) also be guilty of the things he's accusing America of?
  • One of these things is reading Time magazine. The speaker wants to know if America is going to let this news magazine dictate the emotions of its citizens.
  • In other words, should Americans really care so much about what media outlets (like Time) have to say? You know who does care? The speaker. Huh? Didn't he just say he had a problem with that? Well, it looks like even the speaker himself is not immune from his own criticism. He reads these magazines, too.

Lines 42-43

Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.

  • Hmm. It looks like the speaker is a bit ashamed of his interest in Time. Can a magazine cover really stare at you? (Leave us alone, Cosmo!)
  • Giving an inanimate object human abilities like this is called personification, and it highlights the speaker's fraught relationship with Time.
  • It seems that the speaker feels guilty (think about the connotation, or emotional impact, of a word like "slink") about his reading habits. Maybe that's why he has to go to the basement of the public library to read the magazine.
  • He knows better than to read Time, but for some reason he just can't help himself, kind of like how we only watch Love in the Wild in our basement.

Line 44

It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.

  • What's the speaker's problem with Time magazine? It's just that it's so…serious. (In fact, it almost seems to be nagging him, which could be another example of personification.)
  • See, the magazine is a kind of reminder of the way he should be behaving in society, but it seems he just can't bring himself to join in. He's the only non-serious one.

Line 45-46

It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

  • In line 38, we wondered if the speaker included his reader as part of this America he keeps jawing at. In these lines, we understand that he also includes himself when he uses that word.
  • Just as he's not immune from self-criticism with his love of Time magazine, he also suggests that he himself bears part of the larger blame for his complaints about America.
  • In short, when he addresses America in the poem, he's also talking to himself. In some way, that makes us see the poem as not just a laundry list of criticisms, but also a kind of pep talk. He's cutting himself some slack, but also gearing up for some major changes.
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