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Themes

When reading Allen Ginsberg's "America," it's helpful to see the speaker not as some ranting lunatic, but (and stay with us here) as an artist, painting a national landscape. As he details his complaints about the country, and what he'd like to change, you can get a clear of sense of the way he sees the country. What would end up in this painting? Atom bombs? Exploited workers? Victims of racial prejudice? That weird blue dog that was so popular a while back? Okay, probably not the dog. But all the other details that Ginsberg's speaker includes in the poem combine to represent his vision of the country. It's not a particularly upbeat vision, but, as we'll see, there is hope for something better.

Questions About Visions of America

  1. Do you think that the speaker's description of America's libraries is an accurate (if not literally correct) description? Of has the rise of the Internet made Americans smarter, even without libraries?
  2. Do you think that America should give more money and resources to other countries in need, as the speaker suggests? Why or why not?
  3. Does the speaker's use of a personal story (about Uncle Max) help to strengthen his criticisms of America? Or does he seem too personally invested to be an objective, credible critic?
  4. Think about your views of America today. How do they compare with the speaker's views of 1950s America? How are they different? Similar?

Chew on This

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

The speaker's vision of America is simply his holding up a mirror to the disturbing realities of his surroundings. He's just as bad as the rest.

The speaker's visions of America are manufactured through his own writing and personal experience, and only reflect his own point of view.

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