Since the primitive times till the modern era, the world is filled with enthralling illustrations of numerous diligent, skilled and gifted individuals, who, via their imbedded talents paved new ways and courses for their respective domains. Somewhat similar was the case with Allen Ginsberg. Crashing the existing norms and standards of not only the society, but articulation of the views in his literary endeavor with eloquence, did nothing less than paving a new pathway for the American literary canon. Entangled in both adulation and criticism, Allen Ginsberg and his most renowned literary endeavor Howl, definitely provided the critics of the American literature to substantiate their views with this masterpiece.

Prime American Literary Canon

Before assimilating an association of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl with the American literary canon, it is highly imperative that at the outset, an astute comprehension of the prime specs of the American literary canon is attained. Over time, the American literary canon has undergone numerous changes and revision, primarily pertaining to the alterations and evolutions the nation was going itself, in terms of its culture, social norms and most importantly the changing dynamics of the basic connotations attached with the notion of liberation of different people belonging to different categories.

Overview of Howl by Allen Ginsberg

It will not be inaccurate to eloquently articulate that not only the American society, but even the world reveres this masterpiece to be one of the best endowments pertaining to the beat generation. Welcoming intense criticism and disapproval over its embarkment in the arena of literature, Howl had even gone to the extent of being rated as the propagation of obscene literature, which later on was ruled out.

At the outset, the poem emits the impression of a straggling and rather disorganized poetic endeavor, which to an artistic mind clearly seems to be the contradiction of the tradition poetic literature. However, the case turns out to be fairly opposite, neither does it catch itself the position of a straggling poetic endeavor, nor does it strive to rebel the American literary traditions; it merely seeks to carve its own course into the American literary canon.

Spread over three extensive sections, each catering to a different subject, the poem articulates the feelings and manifestations of the poet himself, where the author claims to have witnessed the utmost destruction of his generation, by witnessing the deterioration of the best minds. Interestingly, the focal point of this poem does not rest at the greatest minds in terms of lawyers, doctors or other successful professionals, but on the contrary, the poet cries out for the ones whom the current circumstances of the society has completely rappelled, such as political rebels, the dropouts, musicians, drug users and, most importantly, the poets (Prima, p. 13).

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The Significance of Howl by Allen Ginsberg in American Literary Canon

It will not be wrong to state that for a long time individuals with artistic minds and capabilities have seen and considered their talents to be an outlet or a way out of their inner feelings and views of the ongoing and contemporary political, social and other circumstances that have entrapped the society. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl serves the same purpose, as not only does it seek to speak out his inner feeling of the deprivation that the society has caused, but also how the changing dynamics of the American society, via its key players, such as politicians and CIA, have been pivotal in paving the destructive ways for his generation.

The basic cultural significance of the Howl pertaining to the American literature canon, resides at the fact, as though how has he used the symbolic references to deliver his point and stance. The astute utilization of the locations in this poetic endeavor may not attribute to the conventional American literature canon, but does adequate justice to the basics of the literature canon, as well as the Beat literature of that era. The ease of travelling and witnessing numerous places and their specs or observations was the central theme of the beat literature (Pozen, p. 54).

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The prime literary essence of Howl compels a cognitive mind to acknowledge that the literature employed in this endeavor clearly rebels against the literary canon of their parents’ generation, which posted a significant taboo over open articulation of the changing social dynamics of the society, such as that of sexuality and other aspects. Therefore, it can be stated that where Howl did assemble certain aspects of the conventional American literary canon, it at the same time paved its own way in the new directions of the literary canon. The literature employed in this poem is rather open and bolder than what the American society had previously witnessed. The open articulation of sexuality, drug use and setting major domains of the society culpable for its destruction is a clear example and manifestation of the advent of new direction of the literary canon in American literature and its significant impact on its existing culture.    


The prime cultural significance of Howl in the American literature canon resides at the sole advent of new directions of open articulation of expressions pertaining to the changing societal happenings, as it undertakes the endeavor to break the taboos of the society and the American literary arena, to be less articulate about the prevalent pressing, yet controversial matters of the society. Therefore, this position earned by Howl enables it to gain the reverence and place of the variable aspect of the American literature. 

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