Which of these best explains the paradox presented in the poem “Homework”?

A. Though many famous monuments need restoration, rescuing wildlife needs to be prioritized.

B. Though there are countless global crises that require attention, the most important one is reducing pollution.

C. Though an international clean-up is needed, the solution is not as simple as cleaning laundry.

D. Though many countries have problems that need attention, the United States cannot address them all.

The answer is C: Though an international clean-up is needed, the solution is not as simple as cleaning laundry.

The paradox in the poem “Homework” is presented as (C) ‘Though an international clean-up is needed, the solution is not as simple as cleaning laundry’.

The author writes there is a lot wrong with the world that needs to be “cleaned up” like a load of laundry. This is because the author pretends that he is doing laundry with the ‘world’ but cites many instances or nations that need ‘cleaning up.

About the poem “Homework”

Allen Ginsberg’s “Homework” is a work of metaphor that talks about various issues that nations around the world were burdened with such as corruption, economic issues, and socio-political developments.

The poem gives a clear reflection of the thoughts running inside the poet’s head as he continues his movements against violence in the world. The strength of the writing and the use of words presents a distinct reflection of the military unrests as well as economic, environmental, and socio-political issues that the nations around the world were faced with.

The period depicted in the poem coincides with the time of the Vietnam War. Be it Asia, Africa, or the United Nations, war, corruption, and other political and social issues were plaguing various places around the world.

The poet expresses grave concern about the disturbing and troublesome situation in the world as well as dramatic changes taking place on the international front.

Reading the poem creates an impression of the poet taking care of his laundry at home. However, close inspection suggests that he is actually expressing concern about global events.

Written in a glorious form, “Homework” offers a critical mockery of the world with a developing willingness to bring about a feeling of goodness and harmony among the various nations.

About the poet: Irwin Allen Ginsberg

Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born in New Jersey, USA, on June 3, 1926. He was the son of a Russian expatriate and an English teacher. Ginsberg grew up to become a poet, earning fame as an extremely recognizable figure of the 1950s Beat Generation as well as the subsequent counterculture.

He was opposed to the ideas of sexual repression, economic materialism, and militarism. His works came to exemplify openness to Eastern religions, hostility towards bureaucracy, and his personal opinion on drugs as well as several other facets of the prevalent counterculture of that era.

Although he had written a few poems by then, the 1956 publication of “Howl and Other Poems” was the spotlight moment for Ginsberg. His work, “Kaddish” is among his purest creations that spearheaded his rise to fame.

He was a man taking non-violent stands against a host of issues such as drugs and the Vietnam War. His own homosexual relationships had led to numerous controversies, especially where Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner, was involved.

Allen Ginsberg won the 1986 Golden Wreath at the Struga Poetry Evenings International Festival held in Macedonia, only the second American poet since W.H. Auden to earn this recognition. Complications arising from hepatitis and liver cancer led to his demise on April 5, 1997.

Paradox presented in Homework

The poem talks about the changes taking place around the world, mostly at national levels. The issues and reforms facing the nations at an international level is the primary focus and concern that the poem deals with.

The first lines of the poem show the poet talking about his desire to wash Iran, an amazing transformation to international level thinking from more domestic concerns. Moving through the lines, it gradually becomes evident that his intent is not only to purge Iran but also the ills prevalent in the United States.

His concern shifts to the numerous environmental hazards that have been around for generations. He is keen to regain the environmental equilibrium of yesteryears, the counterpoise that had made the planet habitable in the first place when he writes:
“put all the birds and elephants back in the jungle.”

The poet also expresses a desire to clean the global waterbodies that were reeling under the burden of pollution, as well as all manners of pollutants from the soil and the air.

The Western United States housed a production facility for nuclear weapons known as Rocky Flats Plant while Los Alamos in the Los Alamos County of New Mexico in the United States is regarded as the place where the first atomic bomb took shape.

More relatable paradoxes in the poem

A short canal connecting the upper and lower reaches of the Niagara River is called the Love Canal, a source of electricity. It was later abandoned and turned into a dumping ground with a massive explosion taking place many years later.

Talking about these, Ginsberg expresses his desire to eradicate the human-made events and weapons that were not only resulting in death and destruction for the humans but also for the environment.

He cites the example of acid rains that had led to the destruction of the limestone structure of the Egyptian Sphinx and dissolved the magnificent marble panels in the Parthenon of Greece.

There are a lot of beautiful things that the poet aims to recover from the clutches of all this destruction – Lake Erie, Thames, the white snowy clouds flitting in the blue sky, and a clean basin of the Mediterranean. The crippling corruption and disastrous pollution are some of the things the poet is keen to get rid of.

Agent Orange is a well-known chemical that defoliates and can be used as a herbicide. The US military had made widespread use of this chemical during the Vietnam War as part of Operation Ranch Hand. The poet expresses his intent to wash out Agent Orange that caused a great deal of harm to the Vietnamese nationals.

The rest of the stanzas in “Homework” describe the poet’s thoughts on changing the nations, their corrupt practices, and the wars that always seem to be the end result of it all.

He suggested how the planet should be put “in a drier” and washed clean off all the wars, socio-political issues, and hazards, in the process bringing back the peace and harmony that had once inhabited every corner of the planet.

Final thoughts

The poem “Homework” is a work that highlights the style that was typical of the Beats Generation. It follows an idealistic and unconventional approach that points out the various crisis tormenting the people of the world and stands out supreme of its era for the thoughts, ideas, and strong message of anti-violence that Allen Ginsberg aims to put across.


  1. About the poem, Homework: Taken from poetryfoundation.org
  2. Paradox figurative language in the poem “Homework: Taken from sde.idaho.gov
  3. Summary of the poem “Homework: Taken from hellopoetry.com


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