Jack Kerouac's On the Road as a Beat Generation Fiction

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During the Post-War era, a group of authors whose work explored and influenced American culture and politics started a literary movement called the Beat Generation. Throughout the 1950’s the vastness of their work was popularized and published. The rejection of standard narrative values, making a spiritual quest, the exploration of American and Eastern religions, the rejection of materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs and sexual liberation and exploration are the central elements of the Beat culture.

The best known examples of Beat literature are Howl (1956), the work of Allen Ginsberg, Naked Lunch (1959) the work of William S. Burroughs and On the Road (1957) the work of Jack Kerouac. Howl and Naked Lunch was the works which focused of obscenity trials that ultimately helped to free up publishing in the United States. A reputation as new bohemian hedonists was developed by the members of the Beat Generation, who were the ones who distinguished peculiarity and impulsive ingenuity. Herbert Huncke, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Lucien Carr, and Kerouac were the core group of authors who met in the year 1944 in and around the Columbia University campus in New York City. These central figures except Burroughs and Carr met later in the mid-1950s in San Francisco and became acquaintances of figures allied with the San Francisco Renaissance.

During the 1960s, the essentials of the Beat movement were included in the hippie and larger counterculture movements. As the driver for the Ken Kesey’s bus, Neal Cassady was the reason for the further development and a bridge between these two generations. A fundamental component of the early 1960shippie culture was the Ginsberg’s work.

In order to exemplify an apparent secretive, anti-conformist youth movement in New York, Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in the year 1948. A conversation raised with the writer named John Clellon Holmes regarding the name. Kerouac permits that it was Huncke, who was a street hustler who at first used the phrase “beat” during the previous discussion with him. During that period, in the African-American community the adjective “beat” colloquially meant “tired” or “beaten down” and at last it formed out of the image “beat to his socks”, but Kerouac, in order to include the connotations “upbeat”, “beatific” and the musical association of being “on the beat”, and the “the beat to keep” from the poem of the Beat Generation.

Beat Generation’s birth can be traced to the Columbia University and it also includes the meeting of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr, Hal Chase and others. Columbia was attended by Kerouac through a football scholarship. Most of the ideas of the beats were created as a response to the professors like Lionel Trilling and Mark Van Doren, though they were considered as anti-academics. The necessity for a “New Version”, which was a term borrowed from W.B.Yeats, was discussed by the classmates, Carr and Ginsberg, in order to frustrate what they have professed as their teachers’ conventional, formalistic literary ideals.

Based on the travels with his acquaintances, On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac. With its protagonists dwelling a life allied with a milieu of jazz, poetry and drug use, this work is measured a defining work of the post war Beat and Counterculture generations. In inclusion of several key figures of the Beat movement such as William S. Burroughs as Old Bull Lee, Allen Ginsberg as Carlo Marx and Neal Cassady as Dean Moriarty represented by characters in the book, including Kerouac himself as the narrator Sal Paradise, the novel was published in the year 1957, which is a roman a clef.

For writing the second novel, On the Road, the idea arose to Kerouac during the late 1940s in a series of notebooks and then it was typed in a continuous reel of paper during three weeks in April 1951 and it was first published by Viking Press in the year 1957. And when it originally published, the book was hailed by The New York Times as “the most beautifully executed the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat’ and whose principal avatar he is”. In the year 1988, On the Road was ranked 55th on the list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It was also chosen as one of the 100 best English-language novels from the year 1923 to 2005 by the Time magazine.

Being dropped out from the Columbia University, Kerouac worked on various sailing vessels before returning to New York to write. And then he joined and mixed with the Beat Generation figures Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Neal Cassady. When Kerouac was writing his work The Town and the City in the year 1950, Kerouac involved himself in the road adventures which were the reason for writing the work On the Road. He always had with himself some notebooks in which he had made notes of several road trips. As early as in the year 1948, Kerouac worked on the various versions of the novels based on the several road trips he had undergone in the year of 1947, in which he was finally dissatisfied.

Later, being inspired from the 10000 word rambling letter from his friend Neal Cassady, Kerouac, in the year 1950, confirmed to narrate the tale on the road with his acquaintance, Neal Cassady on the road adventures, in the form of writing a letter to his friend which reflected the improvisational volatility of jazz. In the year 1961, Kerouac wrote in a letter to his student that his friend Neal Cassady and he went on a road trip through the post-Whitman America in order to find that America and the inherent goodness in the American man. He also mentioned that it was a real story about two Catholic buddies who roamed throughout the country in search of God and finally they have found it too.

Sal Paradise, the narrator and his friend Dean Moriarty were the two major characters in the book. Dean Moriarty was much well-liked by the narrator, throughout the novel for his cheery outlook and sagacity of quest. He was also a free-spirited individualist who was much eager to explore all kicks. He was the sole insight and catalyst for Sal’s travels. The novel consists of five parts, in which three of them explain Sal’s travels with Moriarty. Specializing an era in the Jazz history, between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and the other period which began with Miles Davis, the narration takes place entirely in Americana between the years 1947 to 1950. This work is a major autobiographical novel, in which Sal is the alter ego of the author and Dean Moriarty stands for Neal Cassady.

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Sal’s first trip to San Francisco is being described in the first section of the novel. The narrator who was enormously disheartened due to a divorce, changes himself when he meets Dean Moriarty who was tremendously excited with life and begins to long for the freedom of the road. Then he sets off for his adventure in July 1947 with fifty dollars in his pocket. He arrives in Denver after a long time journey through buses and hitchhiking and there he gets acquainted with Carlo Marx, Neal Cassady and their friends. Gradually, the narrator leaves to San Francisco. There he meets Remi Boncoeur and his girlfriend Lee Ann. A job as a night watchman was arranged by Remi to the narrator at a boarding camp where the merchant sailors used to wait for their ship. But Sal could not hold on with that job for a long time. So he continues his journey on the road.

He travelled on the road wondering where and when he could meet his girl as his love for life. Soon he met a girl named Terry who was the cutest little Mexican girl as mentioned by the narrator on the bus to Los Angeles. They travelled together back to Bakersfield and then to her hometown Sabinal and met her family who were dwelling there by working in the fields. Ricky, Terry’s brother teaches the narrator about the true meaning of tomorrow. Sal worked with Terry’s family members in the cotton fields and confirmed that it was not the exact type of work for him and leaves back Terry and moves to his Aunt’s house in Paterson. All these days the narrator just missed Neal Cassady who came all along to see him by two days.

Sal was celebrating Christmas in December 1948 with his relatives in Testament, Virginia when he was interrupted b the arrival of his friend Neal Cassady who had come with Marylou leaving behind his second wife Camille and their newborn baby, Amy in San Francisco. And here the narrator mentions Neal Cassady as a bug and also adds that all his Christmas plans have been shattered. They started to travel together. The first place they drove to be New York. There they met Carlo and partied happily. Neal Cassady here compelled Sal to make love to Marylou for which the narrator denied. Then they took off from New York in Neal Cassady’s Hudson in January 1949 and made their destination to New Orleans. Then they met Old Bull Lee who was addicted to morphine and his wife Jane. There Galatea Dunkel joined her husband while the narrator, Neal Cassady and Marylou headed their way.

Later, Neal Cassady again leaves Marylou and heads back to his second wife Camille. There is when Marylou advices Sal that Neal Cassady could leave him at any time since he had enormous interest in doing so. Then they stayed together in hotel for some days, after which Marylou leaves him alone by moving along with a nightclub owner. Sal felt all alone. Then Neal Cassady again finds Sal and invites him to stay along with his family. They enjoyed visiting nightclubs and also by listening to Slim Gaillard and other jazz musicians. Sal ends his stay with Neal Cassady and his family with a sour note saying that he could not understand what he had attained by staying with them in Frisco and leaves back to New York by bus.

In the year 1949, during the spring Sal leaves from New York towards Denver by bus. He was highly depressed and felt lonesome as friends were not with him. When he got some money he leaves from Denver and headed to San Francisco for seeing his acquaintance Neal Cassady. When he went there he could feel the atmosphere in trouble because Camille was pregnant and unhappy. Also, Neal Cassady was injured in his thumb while trying to hit Marylou for having misconduct with other men. Then they were thrown out by Camille. After that Sal invited Neal Cassady to come to New York so that they could again begin their trip on the road by heading towards Italy. Then they met Galatea who warned Sal about his attitude that he cares none other than himself and his kicks. After which Sal realizes himself that Neal Cassady is a person with mess up attitude. But still Sal defends him by saying that Neal Cassady has known about the thing which is the secret and has it in himself for which all the human beings were seeking around for. After spending an entire night in enjoying Jazz and getting drunk in Little Harlem in Folsom Street, they decided to depart from that place.

When they were heading towards Sacramento they were intended to meet a fag who was propositioned them. Neal Cassady made a crooked plan of obtaining some money from the fag in which he failed. This specific trip was special to the narrator and his acquaintance as they had deep discussions about IT and TIME. During which the narrator could feel a fissure between them as Neal Cassady reminded the narrator of his age as he was two years elder to him in Denver. Then they got a 1947 Cadillac which was to be brought to Chicago from a travel agency. It was driven crazily all the way by Neal Cassady often speeding over one hundred miles per hour, finally delivering the car in a messy state. With a biggest hope in finding his homeless father Neal Cassady, along with narrator moved to Detroit by bus and spent a night on Skid row. Then they decided to share a ride towards New York and arrive at Sal’s aunt’s new flat in Long Island. As they were enjoying their life by partying hard in New York, Neal Cassady met a girl named Inez and gets her pregnant while his second wife Camille was an expectant for their second child.

As soon as the spring arrived in the year 1950, Sal again got up with the urge of travelling whereas Neal Cassady was working in a parking lot attendant in Manhattan. There Neal Cassady was actually living with his new girlfriend Inez. Here the narrator himself recognizes that he had given up himself to the simple worldly pleasures like listening to the basketball and also at looking at playing erotic cards. Sal gets back to his adventure on road by bus by travelling to Denver by passing Washington D.C., Ashland, Cincinnati and St. Louis. At Denver he was intended to meet Stan Shepard. The narrator as well as Stan Shepard destined to travel towards Mexico where they heard from Neal Cassady that he had bought a car and was also willing to join them on the road.

The car which Neal Cassady had bought was ’37 Ford Sedan. In a unsteady manner the three of them headed towards Laredo crossing across Texas. They were overjoyed and had started living their life very lavishly leaving everything uncared and were highly excited in entering a new and unaccustomed way of life. The narrator was spellbound to get involved with the nature. When they met Victor who was a local kid in Gregoria he showed them way for enjoyment to thereof them. They enjoyed well by boozing around by dancing to the mambos and enjoying well with prostitutes. After when they reached Mexico Sal felt ill in dysentery and became feverish and insentient. At this time the narrator came to know the real nature of Neal Cassady when he left him all alone when he was suffering from illness. Also the narrator clearly understands what nature of life Neal Cassady was living as he had various complexities with his wives and girlfriends.

Neal Cassady, after receiving divorce papers from Mexico he headed towards New York to marry Inez. But the reality was that he won’t live with Inez too. His intention was to marry her and after few days he would again head back to Camille. After getting recovered from his illness Sal returned to New York during fall. There he met a girl named Laura and planned to move with her to San Francisco. Again Sal gets a letter from Neal Cassady that he was willing to join them in San Francisco. But Sal was unable to locate and invite Neal Cassady to his residence due to lack of money. After hearing about the situation of Sal, Neal Cassady decided to go back to Camille.

Disheartened Sal requested his friend Remi Boncoeur to take Neal Cassady as a lift and drop him at the Duke Concert which was held at the Metropolitan Opera House in the 40th street. Unfortunately Remi Boncoeur denied the narrator’s request. Laura, Sal’s girlfriend realized that the narrator was in dismay and asked him about Neal Cassady, for which the narrator replied that he would be alright. But in the deep of his heart, the narrator missed Neal Cassady and the moments he enjoyed with him during the trips on the road to various places.

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