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In what ways does Ginsberg's "Howl" illustrate the vision of universal sympathy?

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hinsani | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 2, 2013 at 9:45 PM via web

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In what ways does Ginsberg's "Howl" illustrate the vision of universal sympathy?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 3, 2013 at 6:20 AM (Answer #1)

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The vision of universal sympathy in this otherwise bleak poem can be seen in the third and final section, which the poet addresses to his friend Carl Solomon, who was a man the poet met when they were patients together. Solomon is used by the poet as an example of somebody who has managed to use a series of ingenious and somewhat bizarre methods to nurture his spiritual life and also resist the face of totalitarian censure described as characterising the rest of America in the poem. A repeated refrain in this final section of the poem is the line "I'm with you in Rockland," which states the poet's sympathy and also unity with his friend. Note how Ginsberg paints a picture of a better, brighter society in the future where he sees hope of walls being broken down and everybody being able to live together in peace:

I'm with you in Rockland

where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory forget your underwear we're free

The expression of universal sympathy is something that is seen in this image, with release and freedom being captured in the various words that are used and the images that vividly present themselves. Note how the poet describes humans as being in a "coma" that in this utopian future, they are "electrified" out of. The bombs that are dropped are "angelic" and the image is dominated by the strong words of "imaginary walls collapse." Universal sympathy is thus conveyed in the final section of this poem where Ginsberg paints a picture of a possible future where all people, even those who feel most stunted and repressed in America in the 1950s, can experience freedom.

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