Manhattan Thirties Flash

The poem Manhattan Thirties Flash is exactly what the title states. It is a quick description of Manhattan in the 1930’s. The author, Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was a well-known firebrand, Ginsberg was a leader of the “beat movement” of the 1950’s and of the cultural and political protests of the 1960’s. He often writes about spiritual survival in a dehumanized, repressive society. You can see the dehumanization throughout the poem for example in line one when Ginsberg writes, “repetitive machine Crash cookie-cutting.” When he says, “repetitive,” this lets you know that the same thing is being done over and over again, like it is a program. “Cookie-cutting,” says that there is a template and it is being mass produced. Line two and three state, “dynamo rows of soulless replica Similitudes brooding tank-like in Army Depots.” The mention of the tank-like Army Depots means that what he sees is just an area filled with orderly components. Then again in line four, “exactly the same exactly the same exactly the same with no ..” Not only is Ginsberg directly telling you that there is no variation, but by him repeating, “exactly the same,” he further pushes his views. In line six, “overwhelming force of robot obsession, our slaves are not alive,” by him saying robot obsession he means that people are being forced into this dehumanized environment, and that we are just slaves of society. Once again in line nine, “crowds of executive secretaries alighting from subway 8:30 A.M.,” one could clearly see that by stating this, Ginsberg wants you to see how we are part of a system, a repetitive system. He leads you to believe that these secretaries exit the subways every day at the same time, although he never states that.

When examining the punctuation, you notice in lines one through three that there are several words unusually capitalized. The words are Crash, Similitudes, and Army Depots. They signify a central theme that these comparisons of society are perfectly arranged. The comparisons are of society and how it is ultimately a machine. In lines ten and eleven, “bloodflow in cells thru elevator arteries & stairway glands to typewriter consciousness,” Ginsberg uses the text to resemble an analogy. Bloodflow in cells is to elevator arteries as stairway glands is to typewriter consciousness. Finally, he mentions the Con Ed skyscraper in line twelve. This random insertion of a company’s name means that we are a slave to the systematic society. A society controlled by businesses but run by men.