HIST 17BSHORT PAPER #2On The Road -The late 1940’s and earl 1950’s were a time of conformity. TheUnited States was emerging as a world power after World War II and therewere strong feelings of patriotism, nationalism, and overall consensus ofunity. There was little room for radical ideology during the beginning ofthe Cold War. This was the time period that gave birth to the ‘Beatniks’.Sitting around in coffee houses reading their own poetry orplaying/singing jazz, sometimes sitting in the dark with just a spotlighton you, wearing dark clothes like Goths do today, of course, they didn’twear the make-up and the jewelry, just the dark clothes.
This is the imageI get when I think about what Beatniks are. I don’t know if it was becauseof the time, being after the war and all, that things were still a bitdark. Some people were still feeling down about the war. It didn’t matterto them who won or lost; it was just the overall feeling.The Beat Movement was more of a literary movement but the Beatniksweren’t necessarily writers. They just told their stories. Stories aboutlife whether it’s their own life or someone else’s.
Sex, drugs, poetry and jazz. That’s what the Beat Generation was allabout. People were having sex with whomever they wanted and didn’t thinktwice about it. It was sexual freedom. Sex was the one and only holy andimportant thing in life. Hetero, homo, and bisexual, it really didn’tmatter to the Beatniks.
If you were to read any piece of beat literatureyou are sure to find a story or reference to lewd sexual acts, homosexualencounters or casual sex. It just wasn’t something the Beats foundobscene. The Sexual Revolution would have occurred eventually but theBeats were the ones who get the credit.Drugs helped them deal with life. I think it gave more oomph totheir lives. Made their stories more interesting and worth telling. Thisperiod reminds me a little of the sixties with the sex, drugs and rock &roll.
It was a freedom thing. Being doped-out, you had noresponsibilities; at least that’s probably how you felt at the time.The Beats didn’t hate America; they just had no respect for laws andmoral codes that they didn’t agree with. The Beats accepted blacks andembraced their culture, especially jazz music. The Beats also embraced,and to some extent, advocated the use of illegal drugs. In a time when afamily and hard work were revered, the Beats idolized hobos and junkies.When you spoke about politics one could say that Beat politics were morelike anti-politics.
There wasn’t any real platform for beat politics; itwas basically whatever opinion was unpopular at the time.The Beats had an extreme dislike for authority. I guess you couldsay that authority was much of a fan of the Beats either, though. Justlike today people who acted and/or dressed different were singled out andsometimes arrested, it didn’t matter if they had broken the law or not.The Beats were followed and watched by everyone from the local police tothe FBI. Why would the police and other law enforcement officers wastetheir time on a bunch of dumb kids? For the same reason they harass kidsfor skateboarding and listening to rap music now.
It was a challenge tothe value system at the time. The Beats didn’t waste their time at a jobor career either. They had better things to do, like write poetry andabuse illegal drugs. While some would find nothing wrong with this way ofliving the government saw it as a huge threat to the American way of life.Dean was the main protagonist and antagonist. Dean’s fanaticpersonality races from journey to journey and pulls the other charactersalong. His various fixations with drugs, women, his father and familylife, provide milestones of emotional growth for everyone involved.
It’s hard to say where we would be without the Beats. The influenceof the Beats is all around us. Beat writings have permanently changedmodern literature and poetry. Some musicians have been influenced by theBeats. Modern American slang would sound completely different if itweren’t for the Beatniks. Not to mention today’s films, sexual moralityand our work ethic.
I don’t know if the Beat Movement was positive ornegative. Maybe it was both. How can you really pinpoint which withouthaving