Christina Period 6
Ted Berrigan mocks the post-World War II American society in his poem, “Red Shift,” because the country becomes a living example of a broken dream. The setting of the poem takes place on a cold, February night in the streets of
The speaker’s tone changes throughout the poem. First, he is calm, but disappointed while recalling his present surroundings. The air and smoke represent pollution. Berrigan is unhappy with the filthy American lifestyles—the way they are taking care of their communities and each other. He writes, “…smoke to have character and to lean/In.” (5-6) The poet is disappointed in how easily Americans conform. They smoke to look cool and to fit in with the crowd as if non-smokers are outcasts. Without a difference in beliefs and opinions, the country goes unchallenged and the people lead purposeless lives.
Then, he becomes depressed when observing the conditions that some Americans are forced to live in. The poet writes, “The Calvados is being sipped on
Finally, he hardens with rage when blaming the people for allowing this national catastrophe to occur. He uses anaphoric repetition to emphasize his determination. Berrigan writes, “I will never die… I will never go away…and you will never escape from me.” (34) He sees the weakness of the American society and strives to warn people not to keep making the same mistake. He’s well aware of this, but it’s up to those who have already conformed to redeem themselves and those who haven’t conformed to remain so. He claims, “I’m only pronouns, & I am all of them, & I didn’t ask for this/You did…”(37-38) It is not the duty of one man to remake
Like Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan worked to prevent Americans from being corrupted and accepting materialism. The Beat Generation and the anti-conformist movements influenced Berrigan by making him step back and look at the world he is living in. He wants Americans to maintain their individualities and hold on to their beliefs. Ted Berrigan breaks away from traditional poems by following the rhythm of his own voice and emotions. His pauses in the poem make the audience stop a moment in their lives to register his message and hopefully take action. This movement against conformity must carry on.
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