Sunflowers and Locomotives

In “Sunflower Sutra” Ginsberg contrasted the industrial, unnatural expansion taking place in the 1950’s and how American priorities had become predominantly artificial. My only question is when was America not like that? I feel like America was the place where people were walked on by others for others to get ahead and a place where rapid expansion and progression was inevitable. The contrast between the sunflower and the locomotive is very interesting in the poem because it shows transition from the pure to the powerful and potentially unstoppable. According to Ginsberg,

we’re all beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we’re blessed by our own seed & golden hairy naked accomplishment bodies

But we’ve lost touch with our inner spirit and have aquired

that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black mis’ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance of artificial worse-than-dirt–industrial–modern–all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown–

The industrial shadow had overwhelmed the bright, resilient “skeleton thick sunflower” and now America was overrun with “human locomotives”. The prevailing American middle class with their values could be viewed as mechanical due to rules without a sense of compassion for their fellow man. The operation of any society without the presence of heart and brain can be viewed as mechanical. In the beat movement, individuals didn’t wish to mindlessly act to keep the American machine running. It was a movement of liberation from the machine; liberation of the gays, the African-Americans, women. It was a movement to prevent from unjust censorship. It was also a movement that promoted awareness of the natural world which in why “Sunflower Sutra” is such a good example of the time. It addresses how America has raped their resources in order to build industry. According to Amiri Baraka, “The so-called Beat Generation was a whole bunch of people, of all different nationalities, who came to the conclusion that society sucked.”

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