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Symbol Analysis

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 Atomic age, and the military-industrial complex. The poem's heroes, such as the patients of Rockland psychiatric hospital, must fight back against society with their own "symbolic" weapons.

  • Line 46: This line contains a metaphor comparing the light of the moon to a "wartime blue floodlight." Floodlights were used in WWII to find enemy airplanes in the sky.
  • Line 56: An extended metaphor comparing the advertising industry on New York's Madison Avenue to a war zone.
  • Line 79: "Moloch" is a symbol of war and violence, among other things.
  • Line 85: A metaphor compares Moloch's fate to "a cloud of sexless hydrogen," which alludes to the invention of the Hydrogen Bomb several years before this poem was written.
  • Line 88: Moloch is a symbol of "monstrous bombs."
  • Line 111: Another extended metaphor, in which the struggle of patients to escape from a mental hospital is likened to a war, in which their souls are airplanes dropping bombs.

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