Subject Howl II
Posted by EK
Posted on Wed Jan 13 20:19:11 1999
From IP  

EK Tan
American Poetry
Howl II
  The second part of Allen Ginsburg's poem, Howl, is actually the cursing of the Moloch by the speaker of the poem. The purpose of the speaker is to criticize the exploitation of human beings by the inhumane industrialization.
  The poem starts with the explicit criticism of the harm caused by Moloch. The "sphinx of cement and aluminum" clearly symbolizes Moloch, the character of discussion in the poem. Moloch is a divinity to whom the Israelite worshipped in the 6th and 7th centuries BC. The Israelites, particularly the Canaanites sacrificed their newborn babies to Moloch as a form of tribute in their worship. This is record in Leviticus (18:21) of the Old Testament. Moloch actually "bashed open" the skull and "ate up" the "brains and imagination" of human beings, where "brains and imagination" are the major substance human beings need to organize their world.
  Moloch apparently is associated with "Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars!" Children filled with fear; boys joined the armies sobbing; even old men were affected with grief. The human world is upon destruction. Moloch is "a nightmare," "loveless," he dealt with the mentality of his worshippers; he also have the power to judge men. Moloch takes up the image of a stern, uncompassionate figure of judgement when being described as a "incomprehensible prison," "soulless jailhouse," "Congress of sorrows!" "Moloch whose buildings are judgement!" shows the association of industrialization with Moloch; "Moloch whose mind is pure machinery!" further binds the two together, by further explaining the issue to be explored in the poem.
  Moloch's "blood is running money!" depicts the desire of money which was to corrupt human mind, for industrialization involves money. A vivid image of invasion industrialization has on the human world is portrayed by the fingers of Moloch which are like "ten armies." The juxtaposition of "dynamo" with "cannibal" is on purpose to explain the danger of electricity. Further comparison of industrialization to the body parts of Moloch includes "smoking tomb" (probably factory chimneys) and "blind windows." It could be rather ironic, for Moloch "whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!" failed to see the destruction of humanity in his worshipper.
  Moloch have skyscrapers high like God (Jehovah is Yahweh), standing tall and having control over the human world and is unreachable. The word "factories" appeared in the mist of "fog" created by its own production. "Smokestacks" and "antennae" are evidences of industrialization.
  Moloch loves his worshipper by providing them with oil and stone, resources to improve industrialization. "Electricity and banks" works as the soul of Moloch to further his exploitation of that human world. However, Moloch lacks intelligence, because his "poverty is the specter of genius." He did not realize that his destiny is air pollution upon the human world, which is the enclosure of the sky by "a cloud of sexless hydrogen." Indeed, the name of Moloch is the Mind, for it is in control of the mind of his worshippers.
  The speaker realizes that he too is trapped in the solitary world of industrialization. His dream of Angels, is the desire to escape from this unpleasant state, because Moloch involves craziness, the lack of love and the potential to be human. The speaker perceives the unpleasant state he is in; however, due to the fact that he is "a consciousness without a body," he has no support to fight against industrialization. He tries to abandon it, but wakes up still being enclosed in it. Seemingly, the speaker is saying that industrialization could not be challenged, like the unreachable Moloch, besides death, conformation is the only way to solve the problem.
  The speaker next points out that human beings are still sacrificing themselves to modern objects and features like "Robot apartmentsíK demonic industriesíK monstrous bombs!" These are merely false idols to which human beings are still sacrificed to. In order to have the divinity of their worship raised to Heaven, human beings broke their backs. Having not the notion of Heaven existing everywhere around them.
  "Visions! Omens! Hallucinations! Miracles! Ecstasies!" like chemical waste went "down the American River!" This is another image of pollution; but also the specification on "American River" seems to show a sense of sarcasm by referring to the fulfillment of the American Dream reversing as destruction. The next line of the poem acts as the evidence: Dreams! Adorations! Illuminations! Religions! The whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
  The speaker soon reaches the highest point of his curse by howling overlapped images of high and low ("gone down the flood! Highs!"), joy and grief ("Epiphanies! Despairs!). He emphasizes the importance of "Minds! New loves!" but is disappointed with the "Mad generation" which is going "down on the rocks of Time."
  The poem ends with an imagery of suicide, for he perceived the death of the worshippers who are ignorant of their present disastrous state. Human beings who worship industrialization are just like what described in the poem, biding farewell, jumping off the roof "to solitude" (an image Moloch), "waving," "carrying flowers" (as tribute to the dead), into the deeper world of industrialization, sustaining further exploitation.
  Ginsburg realizes the threat industrialization have on human society if it is over emphasized. He too sees it as a threat to promotion of humanities as in the form of Literature, History, etc. His aim is to remind people not to give up his or her human traits for the needs of progress.

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