The sixties are now viewed as "a long decade" by most historians today. Actually, they cover a span of twenty years, a continuum, from the mid-fifties with the public reading of Howl in San Francisco by Allen Ginsberg, the prominent beat poet, to the withdrawal of the last troops in Vietnam in 1975. A lot of historians lay stress on the years 1968 and 1969, after Nixon's election, during which the action of countercultural and radical movements reached a peak.
From then on, the youth movement experienced a sort of "utopian descent", a far more pessimistic and bitter phase which saw the surge of violence : social uprisings in ghettos, bomb attempts...
Merry incarnates "the hippie-turned-mad bomb-thrower". The end of the novel is at the crossroads of the sexual revolution (and exploitation of sex) and political corruption with the dicussion on Deep Throat and the film industry in addition to the Watergate scandal.
Thus, the pastoral is turned into a counterpastoral and the American Dream takes on a distinctly nightmarish character that plunges all the characters into an abyss of despair, into a modern version of Bunyan's "slough of Despond".
Yet, I wonder where the sixties are. Surely, the sixties must be somewhere else. The sixties are Elsewhere...