Many documents have been shot, many books written and many words said about the phenomenon of the beat generation. What are the main causes of adoring the beat generation all around the world by people of all races and nationalities? Does the name correspond to the main idea of the movement? Are their ideas valid 50 years later? Is it possible to live like they did?
The beat generation was undoubtedly one of the most significant literary movements of the last century. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti have become almost mythical personalities in minds of many people. They were the symbols and representatives of nonconformist attitude to life and literature. But times have changed and the values admired in the 50’s are exposed to prove if they are still valid.
Why “beat” generation?
The term “beat” has been discussed by many scholastics but also the writers and “members” of this group. Jack Kerouac, the most significant personality in the literary world of the 50’s, defined the word “beat” as “sympathetic” in Steve Allen’s Show. The other definitions talk about the connection between “beat” and “beaten” which has actually three meanings: 1) to hit or strike repeatedly 2) to move or sound rhythmically (this reminds of an inspiration from jazz) 3) to be in ecstasy. The first man who said this word was Herbert Huncke – “Man, I’m beat”. It was in the Joan Adam’s flat and Jack Kerouac felt that it was the characteristic of people who were beaten and pushed to the edge of society. This word brought him together with black people in Virginia, loafers and fools in New York and all this laid foundations for the leading topic of the beat writing. All the meanings are surely perfectly related to the lifestyle of the beatniks. Norman Mailer in his article Hipster and Beatnik puts forward the thesis that
“beatnik came into existence a year later, in the summer or fall of 1958, the word coined by a San Francisco columnist, Herb Caen. The addition of ‘nik’ however – ‘nik’ being a pejorative diminutive in Yiddish – gave a sense of condescension to the word which proved agreeable to the newspaper mentality.”
In the 50’s, most people felt more sure when they belong to certain social milieu, but the society forgot emotions, young people were feeling estranged and so that’s why they were looking for a kind of escape from the reality. According to William S.
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The Beat Generation
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