Mr. Gershman Eric McGowan
ILA 9 Honors November 14, 2008
The Beat Generation:
Tired of White Picket Fences
How nice would it be to get married in a church then take a trip to Niagara Falls for your honeymoon? Then how about you buy a home in the suburbs, put a white picket fence around it, then build a family with two children, and a stay at home mom? This
situation was becoming more and more well-known during the 1940’s and 50’s and some
opposed this uniform way of life. One of these people was Beat poet, Gregory Corso who wrote his poem “Marriage”, to show the true side of life after wedlock. This poem,
published in 1959, was written during the Beat Generation (Young). This time in history was dominated by the questioning of conventional ways and values which are reflected through the poem, “Marriage”. Within the poem Corso depicts a young man’s indecision
on whether or not he wants to wed. Corso illustrates three different social backgrounds for the man, the lower class, middle class, and upper class (Duff). Corso’s strong poetic
techniques help him convey his message in the poem. Housewives and station wagons were no way to live according to Corso, and he expresses his opinions through themes and figurative language in his poem “Marriage”. Gregory Corso uses his poem
“Marriage” to speak out against the ideals of multiple societies.
During the Beat Generation people were reluctant to accept ideals that had been so prominent only a decade before. The main point that Corso addresses in his poem is that he won’t admit to the idea of a couple getting married, moving to the suburbs and ultimately fitting in with society. In “Marriage” Corso writes, “How nice it'd be to come
home to her/ and sit by the fireplace and she in the kitchen/ aproned young and lovely
wanting my baby” (Corso). In these lines Corso mocks suburban life which had become overwhelmingly famous years before (Duff). Corso once more expresses his unwillingness to fulfill the terms of society when he writes:
“And in their eyes you could see some obscene honeymoon
going on- Then all that absurd rice and clanky cans and
shoes Niagara Falls! Hordes of us! Husbands! Wives!
Flowers! Chocolates! All streaming into cozy hotels All
going to do the same thing tonight The indifferent clerk he
knowing what was going to happen” (Corso).
Corso describes a honeymoon as only a popular fad of suburban life that he outright denies in his poem, “Screaming: I deny honeymoon! I deny honeymoon!” (Corso).
Although Corso shows his dissatisfaction with suburban ways, he explains how one might feel without marriage. Corso writes “Because what if I'm 60 years old and not
married,/ all alone in a furnished room with pee stains on my underwear/ and everybody else is married! All the universe married but me!” (Corso). This excerpt describes how
many young men felt during the Beat Generation and Corso expresses this thought with tremendous talent.
“Marriage” portrays a young man struggling to make a life changing decision, whether or not to get married. However, Corso shows this same young man with radically different social statuses (Duff). For example, he shows how life with a wife and children would be if the man was in the lower class when he writes:
“but hot smelly tight New York City seven flights up,
roaches and rats in the walls a fat Reichian wife screeching
over potatoes Get a job! And five nose running brats in
love with Batman And the neighbors all toothless and dry
haired like those hag masses of the 18th century all
wanting to come in and watch TV The landlord wants his
In these lines, Corso describes a moneyless marriage in which he lives in a dirty apartment building with an angry wife, sleazy neighbors, and kids running around who he labels as “brats”. This moneyless marriage shows how bad the quality of life may have been back then with out money and Corso is possibly mocking people’s underlying belief that money is needed to have a good life. Then he writes of the typical middle-class, suburban wedding in which he despises:
“asking me Do you take this woman for your lawful
wedded wife? And I trembling what to say say Pie Glue! I
kiss the bride all those corny men slapping me on the back
She's all yours, boy! Ha-ha-ha!” (Corso).
When he writes about the priest asking him whether he takes his wife to be his lawfully wedded wife he’s pointing out that this tradition makes the marriage “lawful” or socially acceptable (Duff). Then he accurately describes the men at his wedding “corny” when they come and slap him on the back. The last depiction of a marriage that Corso gives is one of the upper class:
“But-imagine if I were married to a beautiful sophisticated
tall and pale wearing an elegant black dress and long black
holding a cigarette holder in one hand and a highball in the
and we lived high up in a penthouse with a huge window
from which we could see all of New York and even farther
on clearer days
No, can't imagine myself married to that pleasant prison
Corso writes this after he writes of the lower class marriage, explaining why he starts off with “but”. He portrays a picture of a sexually appealing wife, living with her in his New York penthouse. However, he also makes her seem somewhat cold, she is pale and has no children. Lastly he writes that he can’t imagine himself “married to that pleasant prison
dream” deeming that even thought this marriage is filled with wealth, it is still unsatisfactory (Duff). Corso uses financial position to show that no matter how much money a couple has, life after their marriage will never be perfect.
In order to enhance his message, Corso uses essential poetry techniques and figurative language in “Marriage”. The first thing noticeable in “Marriage”, was the end
rhyme in the first two lines, “Should I get married? Should I be good?/ Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustus hood?” (Corso) rhyming good with hood.
Corso uses great imagery of the typical American honeymoon when he writes “Niagara
Falls! Hordes of us! Husbands! Wives! Flowers! Chocolates!” (Corso). Niagara Falls was
and still is a popular honeymooning site for newly married couples and Corso describes it with all the facets of the most normal cheesy honeymoon imaginable (Duff). Later on, repetition is used to express Corso’s absolute disapproval “Screaming: I deny honeymoon! I deny honeymoon!” (Corso). Repetition is also used when Corso writes “Penguin dust,
bring me penguin dust, I want penguin dust-“ (Corso). The next essential poetry
technique in the poem is a simile when Corso compares his neighbors in his run-down apartment building “And the neighbors all toothless and dry haired/ like those hag masses of the 18th century” (Corso). One last EPT is another simile where Corso compares love “It's just that I see love as odd as wearing shoes” (Corso). This line is odd because of
course wearing shoes isn’t at all out of the ordinary.
“Marriage” is considered one of the best poems that Corso has ever written. He
uses it to get a simple message across, which is that it’s ok to do things the way that you want to do them, the overall message of the Beat Generation. He breaks off from typical society and goes into his own world, which is what he wants people to do in their lives.
Despite this poem, it turns out that he was married four times and had three children.
“Marriage” is a representation of breaking the norm, the idea that Corso and other Beat
poets centered their lives around.