The tension between conforming to what is perceived as “normal” and maintaining individual liberty is always a big issue in American literature and culture, but it seems particularly prominent in later 20th-century writing. What do these texts suggest about ways to successfully negotiate this problem? Writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Gwendolyn Brooks emerged from the apparently “conformist” 1950s with works and ideas that challenged the status quo in a number of ways, but which also reflected the existence or emergence of subcultures (or countercultures) that provided a sense of community and belonging to their members. How important are such communities in providing support for individuals who may not fit into “mainstream” society? Would the existence of some sense of community have helped, for instance, Darl or Blanche…? Moreover, does the fragmentation of postmodern America into an assortment of subcultures undermine or strengthen the culture as a whole?