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Howl

Howl

by Allen Ginsberg

Religion

Symbol Analysis

The speaker of Howl expresses interest in many kinds of religions but does not ascribe to one in particular. Along with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are references to Native American spirituality and various mystical sects. Ginsberg belongs to the mystical tradition poetry, following his hero William Blake, who came up with far-out prophecies and visions using religious symbols of many kinds. Also, the speaker of Howl is hostile to organized religions or dogma of any kind.

  • Line 3: The "hipsters" have heads like angels, which could mean they have a halo.
  • Line 5: The phrase "bared their brains" is one of many examples of alliteration in the poem. Also, they imagine they see "Mohammedan angels" hanging out on rooftops. These angels are Islamic, not Christian.
  • Line 24: Features allusions to several religious mystical traditions, including Plotinus, a neo-Platonic philosopher, St. John of the Cross, and Kabbalah, a sect of Judaism that has recently become something of a Hollywood fad.
  • Line 77: An extended metaphor likening the transformation of poets into jazz musicians to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Line 80: The name "Moloch" is an allusion to a sacrifice described in ancient Hebrew scriptures in which children are burned to appease a false god.
  • Line 83: The speaker creates an elaborate extended metaphor that explains what the various body parts of Moloch represent.
  • Line 108: An allusion to the Christian doctrine that Christ is part-man and part-God. The speaker predicts that Carl Solomon will "resurrect" the "human" part of Jesus, which has been overshadowed by the "superhuman" of the God-like part. He compares the superhuman element of Christ to a "tomb," a metaphor.

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