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The Beat Generation

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 8 years, 3 months ago

Summary of the Beat Generation

 

It was in this climate that the young generation was seeking meaning. Amidst all the conflict and contradiction, the Beats were seeking out a way to navigate through the world. As John Clellon Holmes put it,

 

 

“Everywhere the Beat Generation seems occupied with the feverish production of answers—
some of them frightening, some of them foolish—to a single question: how are we to live?”

 

The idea of what it means to be “beat” is still difficult to accurately describe. While many critics still consider the word “beat” in its literal sense of “tired and beaten down,” others, including Kerouac himself promoted the generation more in sense of “beatific” or blissful.

 

Holmes and Kerouac published several articles in popular magazines in an attempt to explain the movement. In the November 16, 1952 New York Times Sunday Magazine, he wrote a piece exposing the faces of the Beat Generation. “[O]ne day [Kerouac] said, ‘You know, this is a really beat generation’ ... More than mere weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and ultimately, of soul: a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness. In short, it means being undramatically pushed up against the wall of oneself.” He distinguishes Beats from the Lost Generation of the 1920s pointing out how the Beats are not lost but how they are searching for answers to all of life’s questions. “How to live seems much more crucial than why.” In many ways, it is a spiritual journey, a quest to find belief, belonging, and meaning in life. Not content with the uniformity promoted by government and consumer culture, the Beats yearned for a deeper, more sensational experience.

 

Holmes expands his attempt to define the generation in a 1958 article in ''Esquire'' magazine. This article was able to take more of a look back at the formation of the movement as it was published after On the Road. “It describes the state of mind from which all unessentials have been stripped, leaving it receptive to everything around it, but impatient with trivial obstructions. To be beat is to be at the bottom of your personality, looking up.”

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