“The Only Rebellion Around” by Paul O’Neil


November 30, 1959 yielded an edition of LIFE Magazine which featured an article about the Beat Generation. Paul O’Neil’s article, “The only Rebellion Around” captured the essence of the Beat Generation, but showed it in a light of disapproval and near-contempt. In the beginning of his piece, he writes of the beats as “some of the hairiest, scrawniest and most discontented specimens of all time: the improbable rebels of the Beat Generation, who not only refuse to sample the seeping juices of American plenty and American social advance but scrape their feelers in discordant scorn of any and all who do.” This tone of distaste continues as he writes more of the general agenda of the beats and outlines short profiles of significant beat poets. O’Neil paints the Beatnik as a soldier in the Six Year War Against the Squares. He describes the Beatnik view of the Square: “The industrious square, he cries, is a tragic sap who spends all the juices and energies of life in stultifying submission to the “rat race” and does so, furthermore, with no more reward than sexual enslavement by a matriarchy of stern and grasping wives and the certainty of atomic death for his children.”

Throughout the article, O’Neil slanders the Beats as low-life, good-for-nothing, rebels. He includes few complements for them beyond the fact that they were effective in accomplishing what they wanted: stirring society to question social constructs.

~Kendall Reasons~


Paul O’Neil, “The Only Rebellion Around,” Life (30 November 1959): 114-130

Picture: http://www.vlib.us/beats/beatslifemag.html


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