All terms

What is the Beat Generation?

A group of writers and artists in the 1950s who rejected mainstream society and its values.

Finding the Beat: An Introduction to the Beat Generation Movement

The Beat Generation refers to a literary movement that emerged in the 1950s which emphasizes spontaneity, spirituality, and a desire to break away from mainstream culture. Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, often challenged traditional forms of literature and experimented with new practices such as jazz-inspired free-form poetry. Rejecting the conventions and norms of the time, the Beat Generation sought a more authentic form of expression, often exploring themes of sexuality, drug use, and spirituality in their work. Though the movement was short-lived, it left a lasting impact on American literature and culture, inspiring future generations of writers to embrace individuality and abandon societal expectations.

Legendary Literature: Two Examples of Beat Generation Works

While the Beat Generation as a literary movement was short-lived, its influence can be seen in two major works of literature that embody the movement's themes and values.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

One of the most famous examples of Beat literature, On the Road follows protagonist Sal Paradise and his friend Dean Moriarty as they travel across America seeking meaning and adventure. Through its stream-of-consciousness style and emphasis on freedom and spontaneity, On the Road embodies the ethos of the Beat Generation.

Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Considered one of the most influential poems of the 20th century, Howl is a passionate and powerful critique of American society and culture. Ginsberg's use of free verse and vivid, often explicit imagery challenged traditional poetic conventions and reflected the Beat Generation's desire to break away from conventional forms of literature.