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Analysis

There’s more to a poem than meets the eye.

Madness

Howl shows madness to be a kind of elevated state filled with hallucinations and visions. But it can also be simply terrifying, as when Carl Solomon thinks he is losing "the game of the actual ping...

Drugs

Howl describes the lives of drug addicts and alcoholics, and though these folks might be "angelic" for other reasons, the consequences of their drug use are not pretty. Most of the imagery of drug...

Sex

There's lots of sex in this poem, both gay (see: line 37) and straight (line 42), and even, um, with inanimate objects (line 41). No widely distributed American poem had such graphic descriptions o...

Politics

Ginsberg was a leftist who (at least in the 1950s) supported Communism as an international worker's movement, if not its manifestation in the Soviet Union. In On the Road, Jack Kerouac named Ginsbe...

War

In keeping with his Marxist beliefs, Ginsberg was a pacifist who believed that war always serves the interests of the rich and powerful. Howl is freighted with images of Cold War anxiety, the Atomi...

Religion

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 spi...

Machines

We think "Dynamo" could be the name of one of the X-Men. For the speaker in Howl, "machinery" can be a good thing when used as a metaphor for natural systems, or a bad thing when associated with wa...

Windows

OK, so there really aren't that many mentions of windows in the poem, but it does make us think of how Ginsberg got kicked out of school for writing obscenities on the windows of his dorm room. In...

"The American River"

The end of the section II is a long extended metaphor about a river that sucks up all the worthwhile things in the world. Traditionally, rivers symbolize the passage of time.Lines 90-93: These line...
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