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Essay Topics Jack Kerouac

  • 1

    Discuss Kerouac's vision of individuality in On the Road. Is such a vision of individuality healthy or hurtful?


    Kerouac's vision of individuality relies on a person's willingness to separate from the conventional lifestyle of the culture. For Kerouac, this was white American culture. In the novel, Sal often wishes he could become part of another culture and race, a true separation, yet whether or not Sal would be able to remain an individual while becoming part of another group is not discussed in the book. One could also question whether Sal was truly being an individual through much of the book, since his goal, as he stated it, was to follow Dean and Carlo around to be a part of the fun they were having. Towards the end of the novel, Kerouac seems to be suggesting that separating himself from Dean and the Beat lifestyle had become necessary in order to retain his own notions of self.

  • 2

    In the novel, what does it mean to be "Beat," and how does this concept change over the course of the novel?


    At the beginning of the novel, Sal describes a person as Beat who is mad, "mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles." By this definition, someone who is Beat is a person who lives in the moment, always attempting to experience life at its fullest.

    Yet the notion of Beat changes through the novel. This change is best characterized by the persons Sal finds himself surrounded by in a Detroit movie theater, a place he and Dean stop to sleep because they cannot afford a room. These people he describes as trash, persons who have been discarded by society, an image Sal himself comes to identify with.

  • 3

    Discuss Kerouac's use of the passage of time in the novel.


    Kerouac's notion of time seems to be that of an entity that is constantly moving and constantly taking others with it. During the novel, Sal feels many different emotions concerning this reality. As he sees his friends growing smaller in the rear window of a car as he leaves them, he laments not being able to be a part of their lives permanently. Yet, the madness he seeks makes such permanence impossible. This is also the case in the memories that Sal and Dean continually share. They cannot conquer the past, so they continually try to relive it.

  • 4

    Sal and Dean discuss "it" throughout the novel and believe that each of their journeys is going to bring them closer to this "it." What is "it"? Do Dean and Sal ever find "it"?


    Dean's and Sal's notion of "It" is best summed up by Dean as he watches a jazz musician preform. The musician has "it" because he is living completely in the moment. He no longer cares for the conventions of society because when he has "it," he is able to live outside those conventions. He no longer cares about things like money, family, or shelter and the other necessities of life. For Dean, finding "it" means living in a pure state.

    Arguably, the closest Dean and Sal come to finding "it" is during their trip to Mexico. During this trip they have literally taken themselves out of the American landscape and immersed themselves in a new culture. They head to Mexico City, a place that could truly be a Beat haven for them, but they find they cannot live in "it" for very long after all.

  • 5

    What is the novel's vision of the American dream in relation to 1950s America and today?


    The novel's vision of the American dream as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is interpreted as meaning that one is constantly moving through the American landscape. Adventure and exploration are the tenets of this dream, though through the novel Sal and Dean often find there are fewer and fewer places to explore.

    Kerouac's characters speak harshly to those who find happiness in consumerism and the conventional life of family and job. Kerouac also could see the American landscape, particularly the old frontiers of the American West, quickly turning into tourist attractions. This transformation has continued into the present day, and Kerouac's novel promotes traveling to get to know a culture rather than being a tourist who never changes.

  • 6

    Discuss the relationship between men and women in the novel. Are Sal and Dean justified in the ways they treat women?


    For those who see conventional middle-class life as a burden to be challenged by a bohemian lifestyle, the way Dean and Sal treat the women in their lives might seem necessary. Family and wives were, and are, part of the bedrock conventions of society.

    Yet, in the novel, Sal begins to see the toll such a lifestyle can take on one's loved ones. During their last journey, both Dean and Sal have sentimental moments when relating to children, and they begin to see that ideas of family might be more important than they realize. The novel suggests that family ties are a natural part of human life, beyond mere convention. Sal and Dean are constantly torn between the love they feel for women and family and the freedom they desire.

    Nevertheless, treating women who are not going to become family seems to be a different matter, and here the conflict is about basic respect and equality versus individual aggrandizement. In that sense, the male beatnik treatment of women is part of the larger beatnik lifestyle of disrespect for the lives and property of others.

  • 7

    Is Sal's interpretation of African American culture fair?


    Kerouac's novel has been criticized for being a glorification of a caricatured African American culture. Sal sees this culture as one that does not have to deal with the pressures of white middle-class conformity precisely because of the marginalization of African Americans in his experience. Through the novel, Sal often does not see the burden of this marginalization on African Americans.

  • 8

    What does law enforcement represent in the novel?


    Law enforcement officers are truly the "bad guys." During the multiple traffic stops that Dean and Sal have to talk and beg their way out of, law enforcement officers are not seen as the guardians of society but as a force that is attempting to control society and take away an individual's freedom. In one section of the novel, Dean characterizes police officers as being a part of a national conspiracy to spy on Americans. For Dean and Sal, the military and law enforcement are the antithesis of what it means to live in America. Other contemporary dystopias take a similar view (consider Orwell's 1984), a reflection of anti-totalitarianism during the Cold War.

  • 9

    Compare the "old" Sal of New York with the "new" Sal after his journeys.


    The "old" Sal of New York was primarily interested in following around characters such as Dean and Carlo Marx in order to "burn" with them in their madness and to catch some of that himself. Yet, by the time that Sal crosses the Mississippi River on his first journey, and continuing through his second and third journeys, Sal ceases to simply follow people around and becomes one of the madmen himself. While Dean remains the catalyst for these bouts of madness, Sal finds that he too possesses the power to experience life for himself in such a way. His first journey takes him everywhere from drinking on the back of a truck to picking cotton in California. The "new" Sal is a person who experiences life firsthand, not only through others. He also gains in wisdom about some of the effects of libertinism on oneself and others.

  • 10

    How might Kerouac's novel have influenced the cultural upheaval of the 1960s?


    The cultural revolution of the 1960s reflected a time in which the more strict morals and conventions of the 1940s and 1950s were examined and often tossed out by younger adults. The novel provided a guide for much of the spirit of individual freedom from convention and power that was sought. In its depictions of drug use, loose sexual morality, and lack of regard for authority, it helped to plant the ideas of revolution that fueled much of the social changes of the time. The novel showed that subcultures could and did exist alongside the allegedly conformist life of the American white middle class, and it romanticized some of the alternatives by suggesting that greater freedom might exist through a subculture or Beat lifestyle.

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    Born Jack Kerouac Jack Kerouac Born in the town of Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922, Jack Kerouac was born to Leo and Gabrielle Kerouac, a French-Canadian couple in which Jack didn t even learn to speak English until age 6, when he was enrolled in school. Jack Kerouac would aspire to be one of the most inspirational writers of his time and in American history. Although, through his younger years, and while he was in school, he took a more athletic approach to life. Jack played Football in high school and was among the popular crowd, despite his shy personality. Like many young and disinterested students, he would ditch school at least once a week, all while managing good grades in his classes. What was unusual about his behavior was that he didn t ditch with his friends to go see girls or get into trouble, he went to the town library where he read books by Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, William Penn and scholarly books on Chess (he was on a chess team in school. ) Jack was born as a third child, but lived as a second when his brother died of rheumatic fever at age nine.

    Jack was heartbroken. The real magic began when Jack started writing. Influenced by those he read about as a child in the Lowell Town Library, Jack wrote about his own life experiences and visions of his life. One could consider Jack a philosophical writer, but most classified him as a poet of the beat generation.

    Jack s poetry opened a new path for him. Jack had been writing novels such as Maggie Cassady and Vanity in Duluoz and more famous ones such as The Town and The City and On The Road. Jack wrote poetry which was later compiled into books before he died. Jack Kerouac took risks and adventures, traveling with friend and writer, Neal Cassady through the Southern Atlantic Ocean on a boat. Jack wrote about these adventures and used them in his novels which were published when he returned home.

    After Jack had formed his vision of America, which stemmed from both World War I and World War II, as well as his friends and family, he continued to write his novels about everyday life in America. He wrote about the wealthy people and the poverty stricken streets during the stock Market crash. Jack also spent a lot of time in India where he studied Buddhism, Kerouac took a strong liking to the religion and for a while considered himself Buddhist. Jack began writing and experimenting with oriental writing styles which later inspired him to write haiku poems. However, Jack didn t appreciate the laws involved in haiku poems, so he took it upon himself to develop his own writing style called literary Prose or beat writing. Jack described it as: American Haiku (Copyright 1959) The American Haiku is not exactly the Japanese Haiku.

    The Japanese Haiku is strictly disciplined to seventeen syllables but since the language structure is different I dont think American Haiku's (short three-line poems intended to be completely packed with Void of Whole) should worry about syllables because American speech is something again bursting to pop. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi Pastorella. Jack Kerouac Here are some wonderful examples of Jack s American Haiku's: All day long wearing a hat that wasnt on my head. Early morning yellow flowers, thinking about the drunkards of Mexico.

    Snap your finger stop the world rain falls harder. The bottoms of my shoes are clean from walking in the rain. Glow worm sleeping on this flower your lights on. Jack s ability to create such vivid pictures about such common things was amazing and at the same time very hard to do. Kerouac didn t like limits on his writing, so he made up his own style, he didn t realize how popular it would become until it happened. Music styles such as pop and rock and many others stemmed from beat poetry, and artists used Kerouac s style to write their lyrics and tunes.

    This unusual writing style brought more attention to Jack and helped him realize what creativity was all about, he knew he could embrace his own opinions and experiences and shape them into works of art that brought the American Society to listen to him. Another risk Jack took was stating his opinion about controversial things such as politics and the flaws in the American government. He voiced his opinions through his work and was able to gain the support of thousands of readers who shared his same ideas and opinions on political issues, etc. There are few people in the world who are talented and willing enough to take such dangerous risks.

    Jack is one of the few. He had enough courage in him to stand up against political correctness and stand up for what he truly believed in. Kerouac often encouraged others to be daring and artistic, to say what they felt, without violence, using their own thoughts. Jack always knew where he stood in the hands of literature and fortunately, he knew how to take advantage of his situation. Here are some of Kerouac s writing tips on how to use your mind to create Modern Prose: 1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy 2.

    Submissive to everything, open, listening 3. Try never get drunk outside your own house 4. Be in love with your life 5. Something that you feel will find its own form 6.

    Be crazy dumb saint of the mind 7. Blow as deep as you want to blow 8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind 9. The unspeakable visions of the individual 10.

    No time for poetry but exactly what is 11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest 12. In trance fixation dreaming upon object before you 13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition 14. Like Proust be an old teased of time 15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monologue 16.

    The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye 17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself 18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea 19. Accept loss forever 20. Believe in the holy contour of life 21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind 22.

    Don t think of words when you stop but to see picture better 23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in your morning 24. No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language &# 038; knowledge 25. Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it 26.

    Book movie is the movie in words, the visual American form 27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness 28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better 29. Youre a Genius all the time 30.

    Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored &# 038; Angeles in Heaven Decades after Jack Kerouac died on October 21 st, 1969 in St. Petersburg Florida, Allen Ginsberg, another poet of the beat generation, gave a tribute to Jack Kerouac and described his passion for the writing style Jack created. Ginsberg expressed his support for Kerouac and all of the memorials made in his honor. This was quite amazing to learn that such a person could be recognized for there work so long after it had been analyzed and awarded. There was little room left for praise but somehow, Mr. Ginsburg and other renowned writers and artists found a way to express their appreciation for Jack Kerouac s inspirational work.

    Jack Kerouac s message to do what you feel inspired writers everywhere and today, his words of advice can almost be looked upon as a writers bible. There is no limit to what you write, how you write or when and where you write. Kerouac has taught me so much in so little time that I hesitate to say that I have even remotely researched him. There is always more to discover about the world, and about Jack Kerouac, and writers everywhere, and it is impossible to see it all in one lifetime, somehow, Jack Kerouac s writing allows one to open their minds and absorb each and every word spoken, and then use it towards everyday life.

    Somehow, Jack was able to write about things that never change and allow others to realize it decades later. Jack Kerouac can only be described as a mastermind. Not only a poet, author, or thinker, he used every part of his mind and life and then went and lived it to the fullest. 320

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