You don’t need a destination to run away. All you have to know is what you are leaving behind. In the 1960’s, young men and women in the United States, especially on the west coast, made a mad dash away from almost two centuries of American tradition. They ran to so many different places that it would be impossible to generalize about their aims and philosophies. What they had in common was the running itself.
America was drowning in materialism. In “A Coney Island of the Mind,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti characterized the land of the free and the home of the brave as
“a concrete continent
spaced with bland billboards
illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness” (New American Poetry, ed. Allen, p131).
John Sinclair criticized a country that needed “Eighty-seven different brands of toothpaste” and “Millions of junky automobiles” (Takin’ it to the Streets, ed. Bloom, p303). After the novelty of cars and other products wore off, some Americans began to feel that the emphasis on production was changing the character of the country. Economic prosperity had gone to America’s head, and in the scramble for profit idealism had been left behind. Kafka is quoted by Richard Brautigan in his novel Trout Fishing in America as having said that “I like the Americans because they are healthy and optimistic.” (Takin’ it to the Streets, p280) The new generation of Americans, however, was nowhere near optimistic about the future of their country. They saw the land of the free and the home of the brave degenerating into a production line of television sets and plastic gizmos.
The loss of individuality was what many feared. In …
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…ad all the enthusiasm and all the rebelliousness. They were the ones who, according to Ginsberg, “howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts” (p185). However, all their manuscripts said different things. Mainstream America had two hundred years of tradition behind them, and in addition to that they had force of habit and a leader in the form of the United States government. The new generation had only their conviction that a change must take place. But their passion and their flamboyance made people listen up.
Allen, Donald, ed. The New American Poetry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.
Bloom, Alexander and Breines, Wini. Takin’ it to the Streets. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Kerouac, Jack. The Dharma Bums. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1986.
Loss of Faith in Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown
Loss of Faith in Young Goodman Brown
In the Bible, God commands Moses to go up Mount Sinai to receive divine instruction. When he comes back, his people, the Israelites, have gone crazy. They have forgotten Moses, and forgotten their God. They form their own god, a golden calf, and build an altar. They even had a festival for the golden calf. “Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and sat down to indulge in revelry” (Exodus 32:6). Moses then went down the mountain and got so angry that he smashed the tablets with the Ten Commandments on them. The Israelites lost faith because they could not see the God they were worshipping, so they forgot him and began worshipping a false idol. The Israelites are not very different from modern man. In his short story, “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne shows why man loses faith. Man loses faith because of pride, weakness, and erroneous values.
Pride causes man to lose faith. Often man tries to handle situations on his own. He seeks to contend with evil by himself. In “Young Goodman Brown,” the title character becomes crazy and confronts evil, “Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powwow, come devil himself! And here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you!” (Hawthorne 324). Goodman Brown feels that he will be the demise of sin. He assumes that he is strong enough to conquer it all single-handedly. Pride also prevents man from realizing his own imperfections. When wandering in the wilderness, Young Goodman Brown says, “A marvel, truly, that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness at nightfall” (Hawthorne 320). The wilderness symbolizes any sinful place. Young Goodman Brown fails to realize that the only reason…
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…ke Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who cast off the beliefs of post World War I America. Many of these thinkers moved to Paris and try to make find meaning in their meaningless lives. They would throw wild parties, “drink excessively, and have scandalous love affairs (Kaiser).” They gained prominent places in the twentieth century because of their spiritual alienation. Loss of faith may cause fame and fortune, as it did for the lost generation, but with this loss came inescapable emptiness.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. Ed. Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson. Harcourt College Publishers: Fort Worth, 2002. 316-328.
Kaiser, Nancy. “The Lost Generation.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 29 October 2001.