Study Guide

America Summary

By Allen Ginsberg

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America Summary

Our poem begins with the speaker addressing America. Yep, America.

In short, things ain't good. He feels let down. He's broke (mentally and financially), and he's tired of all the warring that the country does. Basically, the whole country (in his view) is going to the birds. He wants to know when America will straighten up and fly right.

The speaker tells us that he knows what he's doing, that he misses the good old labor activists and the communists. Now, he just sits around all day and tries to go against the grain, which frankly sounds exhausting.

Here's what going against the grain looks like for him: staring at flowers in the closet, smoking weed, and getting drunk while failing to hook up. To which we say, do not try this at home. Still, the speaker admits that he's just as much to blame as everyone else. After all, he reads Time for criminey's sakes. Talking to America, in some ways, is just like talking to himself.

That's not enough to let America off the hook, though. The speaker makes a sarcastic plea for poetic originality, and then an impassioned plea to free jailed union activists and other downtrodden folk. He remembers all those wonderful communist meetings he attended as a boy, but then it's all gone wrong since then (much like how Family Matters went wrong after Urkel hit puberty). The speaker makes fun of the paranoid, ignorant folk who think that Russia is out to get them at every turn.

Finally, he says enough is enough. If you want something done… call a professional. No wait! Do it yourself. In the end, our speaker resolves to go out there to help fix all these problems, personally.

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