Study Guide

America Visions of America

By Allen Ginsberg

Visions of America

America why are your libraries full of tears? (12)

What does it mean if a country's libraries are filled with tears? To start general, we're guessing that's bad, mmmkay? Crying in the library is not the best way to spend an afternoon (believe us), but we don't think that the speaker is being literal here. Instead, we think he's on about a general lack of knowledge, and a poor regard for books and learning. In short, American libraries aren't the happening joints that this speaker feels they should be. They could be, though.

America when will you send your eggs to India? (13)

Come on, America! Quit bogarting the eggs! This line criticizes America's lack of aid to foreign countries in need. In this case in particular, the speaker wants America to help India, which suffered through a terrible famine in 1943 that killed millions.

America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world. (16)

Here the speaker is being sarcastic, pointing out that America is really quite pleased with itself as a rule. In fact, he says, America is sooooo great that it's even better than heaven. Sweet. You know who else is that great? The speaker—what with his myriad mental problems—is that great. See what we mean? The speaker does not excuse himself from the same criticisms he levies at America; he thinks that they're both the pits.

I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
murder. (26)

Wow. What sort of vision does this line paint? Without even checking the news, the speaker can just tell that Americans will go on killing each other, or at least go on trial for killing each other. So, let's take stock so far: he's got an ignorant, overconfident, violent country on his hands. Good times for our speaker.

America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
from Russia. (37)

Now the speaker gets personal. We're guessing that, since America did something to his Uncle Max, rather than for Uncle Max, the experience was not a positive one. What's more, America takes the blame for whatever hardships poor Uncle Max suffered through. This is particularly bad, given that America is historically supposed to welcome the "huddled masses" of immigrants to its shores. We mean, it's on the Statue of Liberty for criminey's sake!

America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct? (75-76)

It's interesting to consider that the vision we get in this poem of the speaker's view of America is, in many ways, a received vision. In other words, he gets his ideas in part by watching America on TV. Now, we're guessing that our speaker (a history buff and a book fan) is not just watching TV, but he does say that even television contributes to his vision of America as a place that is just not living up to its promise. Importantly, he wants to know if America would want it that way. Implied in the question "Is this correct?" is a kind of hope that the speaker may indeed be wrong. He hopes America might realize that the impression it's giving is the pits, and so straighten up its act.

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