"On The Road" By Jack Kerouac The Roots Of On The Road. An Examination Into The Influences Jack Kerouac Drew From For His Most Well Known Novel, "On The Road"

2108 words - 9 pages

Jack Kerouac's On The Road is a novel based on Kerouac's cross-country travels that include stories of hitch-hiking, criminal behavior, drug-use and other forms of unconventional behavior, especially in terms of post World-War II society's norms

Jack Kerouac's On The Road is a novel based on Kerouac's cross-country travels that include stories of hitch-hiking, criminal behavior, drug-use and other forms of unconventional behavior, especially in terms of post World-War II society's norms. The book with its frenzied tone was apparently written by Kerouac in a short span of weeks, during a passionate writing spree. " In Kerouac's essay "The ...view middle of the document...

Although Kerouac himself tries to achieve the Dionysian state, he is a product of his own Apollonian, traditional values and he struggles to detach himself from them completely.

Kerouac uses his own friends as models for the characters in On the Road and by describing them and their adventures, paints a picture of the Beat lifestyle which is bohemian, unstructured and often drug-induced. This free-sprit attitude is in line with the Dionysian spirit, a backlash to mid-20th century conservative and consumerist values. "The Beat Generation is perhaps the most significant American example of a universal trend: the reemergence in the twentieth century of the Dionysian spirit" (Emerson, 151) In the essay, "Dionysus and the Beat Generation" Barlett reemphasizes this claim:

"The Beats were a backlash to previous Modernist poets who drew from Apollonian values `culture', `education' and `ego' with the Beats promoting Dionysian values "the primitive" "the ecstatic" and "the unconscious" (156) Although the characters in the novel are Beats, they represent both the Apollonian and Dionysian ideals. The main character, Sal Paradise, is based on Kerouac himself. Sal is the observer in the group. Like many Beat writers and poets, Kerouac is on a quest for enlightenment both in his own life and through his character in the novel:

What differentiated the characters in On the Road from the slumbered petty criminals (…) which have been something of a staple in much modern American fiction- what made them beat- was something which seemed to irritate critics most of all. It was Kerouac's insistence that actually they were on a quest, and that the specific object of their quest was spiritual. Though they rushed back and forth across the country on the slightest pretext, gathering kicks along the way, their real journey was inward;(…)Holmes, 229

Beat Down to Your Soul: What Was the Beat Generation? by Ann Charters

In the novel, Sal travels across the country on three separate occasions in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment but it does not seem as if he ever is able to truly do so except for small pockets of time. Although he is entertained by his friends' antics, he can also step back and understand their immaturity. He often feels disillusioned and annoyed by their inconsiderate and phony ways. Sal's primary reason for leaving "the East of my youth" for "the West of my future" is to escape the cold and pervading culture of sophistication in the East (17). In the first part of the novel, he introduces his New York City friends, Carl Marx and ___Chad__________ (based on Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs) in an opposing view to his untamed friend from the Western United States, Dean Moriarty ( based on the writer Neal Cassady):

All my other current friends were "intellectuals"- Chad the Nietzschean anthropologist, Carlo Marx and his nutty...

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