How would you explain the Beat Movement of the 1950? I am trying to create a power point for my history class over The Beat Movement, and i need some help with more info and understanding. I myself...

How would you explain the Beat Movement of the 1950?

I am trying to create a power point for my history class over The Beat Movement, and i need some help with more info and understanding. I myself never really understood how or why the beat movement came about.

-- Please answer by Monday, December 5th--


Krissy Cos

Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator



The Beat movement was a response to and protest of the conformity which dominated the 1950's. It also was a precursor to the 1960's counterculture. Conformity was expected of everyone; which included conservative dress, membership in civic clubs, churches, etc. Religion was especially important, particularly "feel good" religion as expressed by Norman Vincent Peale in The Power of Positive Thinking. Life Magazine described the typical 50's housewife as:

A 32 year old mother of four, who had married at sixteen, an excellent mother, volunteer, and home manager who made her own clothes, hosted dinner parties, sang in the church choir, worked with the school PTA and Campfire Girls, and was devoted to her husband. She attends club or charity meetings, drives the children to school, does the weekly grocery shopping, makes ceramics, and is planning to study French


The Beats were a group of young intellectuals who were disillusioned with the conformity of the age. Rather than looking to "likeness" they looked inward within themselves for the meaning of life. Most lived in Greenwich Village, New York. They experimented with free sex, recreational drugs and alcohol, and transcendental religions. They wore ragged clothes, beards and long hair when the typical young man was clean shaven and never let his hair touch the top of his ears. They were called "Beatniks" by the mainstream, and were the forerunners of the "Hippies" of the 1960's. Their major influence did not become apparent until the 1960's; primarily with a musical group from Liverpool, England who called themselves the "Beatles."  

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two previous answers are very good, but there's always more to say about the Beats, who including some of my favorite American poets.

For one, the term "Beat generation" was probably in use some years before the term "beatnik" came into existence. As explained in the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term "beatnik" was

coined 1958 by San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen during the heyday of -nik suffixes in the wake of Sputnik. From Beat generation (1952), associated with beat (n.) in its meaning "rhythm (especially in jazz)" as well as beat (pp. adj.) "worn out, exhausted," but originator Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) in 1958 connected it with beatitude.

The origins of the word beat are obscure, but the meaning is only too clear to most Americans. More than the feeling of weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of the mind. ["New York Times Magazine," Oct. 2, 1952]

Second, the general values of the Beat poets might be summarized in Allen Ginsberg's short poem "A Supermarket in California" (1956). The Beat poet -- weary, down-and-out, and yet somehow saintly -- stands apart from the idealized nuclear family and the conformity and consumerism of post-WWII America: "Whole families / shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avacados, babies in the tomatoes!"

Good luck with your PowerPoint!

et0414 | Student

The Beat Generation, also known as the beat movement, were a group of American writers who emerged in the 1950s. Among its most influential members were Gary Snyder, the radical poet Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.

Jack Kerouac was the acknowledged leader and spokesman for the Beat Generation. What could be loosely described as the underlying philosophy was visionary enlightenment, Zen Buddhism, Amerindian culture. The Beat Generation were centred around the artist colonies of North Beach (San Francisco), Venice West (Los Angeles) and Greenwich Village (New York City). The Beat Generation rejected the prevailing academic attitude to poetry, feeling that poetry should be brought to the people. Readings would take place in the Coexistence Bagel Shop and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, often to the accompaniment of Jazz. A common theme that linked them all together was a rejection of the prevailing American middle-class values, the purposelessness of modern society and the need for withdrawal and protest.