Analysis of "America" by Allen Ginsberg

Updated on June 5, 2019

“America”, a poem based on political theory with resentment towards the Democratic way, is at the very least graphic and very opinionated towards the greater portrait of society. This is coupled with the author’s rebellious nature, his mother originating from Russian lands, and so a sense of heritage emerges in his persona, thus his views of a Socialistic society in United States were based off Russia’s Communism. The inquiries the author asks America as a whole helps to define his steadfast hold on his views, marking him as an extremist in that accord, but not in that the world was locked in a Cold war scare that helped reveal the true natures of each country involved.

To fully grasp the context of the poem as a whole, the history of American-Russian Relations must be discussed in intricate detail. From 1945-1960, the Cold war was roaring strong between the democratic west led by the America, land of capitalistic dreams; the other end of the spectrum consisting of nations led by socialistic ideas by Karl Marx, and so Russia took to the forefront as the Leader of the great Soviet Union. An excerpt from the poem gives insight to the tensions of the two ideas of government,

“America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind…”(America)

This excerpt gives realization into how Allen Ginsberg’s emotions are directed in an almost revengeful hate toward America, one example found with his statement, “…America when will we end the human war, Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb… “. This gives a sense of resentment towards nuclear testing and America’s bloody destruction of Hiroshima, revealing the authors more liberal view of human peace in wake of war. To go deeper within the excerpt, you must bring to light a specific phrase, “…America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17th, 1956…”, the emotion from this line striking the very heart of the reader. The phrase brings a history of wealth, the most prominent definition portraying America as it soaked in the economic wealth because of Wartime manufacturing. As it was in that time period, the average wage was under $1.45 an hour for the average individual, women slightly lower, and so the $2.27 related to the poem gives the swelling number toward America a almost greed thriving trade portrait amongst the nations of the world that had participated in wartime.

The Russian aspects of historical socialistic views soak the poem, it’s basis comprising worker’s rights, elimination of government, and the creation of the power vested in the state to distribute jobs and plots of land. There is one such stanza however that gives an increased clarity of Communism at its core,

“…America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have
been a spy…”(America)

The stanza, as a whole, gives an almost flawless definition of Communism, but slightly altered to give a more fundamental approach of socialistic expansion. The line, “America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings…”, shows the realism of communism being suppressed in light of Democratic ideals and the line continues, “…the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers…”. This last line gives reference to the enlightened thoughts about the main core of socialism designed by the practical Karl Marx, its core values representing the state over the individual, but in its process giving every person within its control economic prosperity. The main goal of Socialism, or in the Author’s description, Russian Communism, is found in 1835 with Scott Nearing, an American radical whose parents were participants in the Russian advancement of Socialism. Nearing helped to present ideas such as worker’s rights, feminism, social caste issues, and various environmental concerns that affect government (Nearing)

Other aspects of this poem extract the true nature of the emotional standpoint of the author, giving much directed emotions towards America itself as a political system and also portraying aggressive power maintenance of itself. A few lines direct a fuller picture of emotional hate,

“…America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?” (America)

To start, the first phrase asks a question of religious morals, a direct criticism against America’s Sphere of Influence among the various nations, a controlling nation pitted deep in deception and manipulative greed. In respect, the religious metaphor directed at America reveals a spiritual point of view within the writer, most likely of a Catholic faith that is stated in another line amongst the poem, “…My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I'm a Catholic…”. The author then proceeds to criticize America’s flaunting of economic monopoly, asking of a date when the Democratic system will stop the inflation of it’s egotistic fundamentalism. The greedy economic expansion of America was found in the manufacturing explosions throughout WWI and WWII, war materials exported to other countries thus allowing a massive boom in capital, this proving contradictive to the Communism the Author knew through the political heritage of Russia. The last line as it demands attention to the death of a democratic society through the declaration of Communistic ideals, this defining the aggressive nature of Ginsberg’s personality and pushing his political theory of socialist worker expansion (Cold War).

In a latter set of phrases, Ginsberg asks questions of literary deviations and economic dictation toward America,

“…When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears? “(America)

The first line gives a very severe criticism of social structure, as the author gives reference of Trotskyites, or Leon Trotsky’s theory of proletarian freedom, rather than a dictatorship of the former, in which the author places America as a Dictatorship through economic strangle. The next line gives a very disturbing comment in the distribution of America’s literary works as only a metaphor for dictating the sad history of the Great capitalist. During America’s history, there has been numerous negative events that have put a mortality among it’s blood stained timeline, from the revolutionary and Spanish-American war, to the civil and world wars (Trotsky).

The social basis of any government is control of affairs, whether direct or indirect, and use of propaganda is used to help create a sense of security and also to manipulate general assembly, as is displayed in the following excerpt,

“…America you don're really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader's Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?”(America)

The first few lines depict an American propaganda that presents motivation driven by fear of another nation/s, the very center of it defined by opposing social ideals, and so allowed the American people to be manipulated to fear Russian influence. This had at a great extent shut down economic ties and caused sanctions in quite a few countries that defied American justice and manipulative power. There are a few things that stick out in the latter half of the except, a reference to economic fear of the natural price of things, a theory composed by the world economic genius, Adam Smith. The reference to filling stations controlled by government agencies, the author proposing that if economics can’t be for the state, then balances are disrupted by proletariat and bourgeoisie castes of the social structure. The author then with the last three lines attack America with a statement of serious concern towards government stability, and also questions it as well, giving credit for his dissection of American Propaganda during the Cold War (Cold War).

In conclusion, the poem, “America,” is the milestone in terms of freedom of speech and thoughts, but in his reflections toward democratic capitalism, Allen Ginsberg gives America alternative statement, and in it’s wake in social reforms and economic monopolies. This poem helps to open the reader to unique ideas of governmental variables. To wrap up, you must only state that this poem, with all its unique abrasion, gives credit where it is given, and with the author’s sharp lashes toward government, the reader is prone to see further manipulation and greed depended upon government disposition.

Works Cited

"Cold War 1945-1960." . N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

"Scott)Nearing." WikiPedia . N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

"America." . N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2011. <

"Trotskyism." WikiPedia . N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


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    • JC Scull profile image

      JC Scull 

      10 months ago from Gainesville, Florida

      Although I never knew him, I went to the same high school in Paterson, N.J. that Allen Ginsberg attended. He was quite older, so by the time I started school there, he was long gone. Obviously, he was a legend in Paterson. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      "...most likely of a Catholic faith that is stated in another line amongst the poem, “…My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I'm a Catholic…”.

      Ginsberg is Jewish, the line you are refering to is meant to be ironic humor.


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