On The Road Jack Kerouac: On the Road Jack Kerouac is the first to explore the world of the wandering hoboes in his novel, On the Road. He created a world that shows the lives and motivations of this culture he himself named the Beats. Kerouac saw the beats as people who rebel against everything accepted to gain freedom and expression. Although he has been highly criticized for his lack of writing skills, he made a novel that is both realistic and enjoyable to read. He has a complete disregard for developed of plot or characters, yet his descriptions are incredible.
Kerouacs novel On the Road defined the post World War II generation known as the beats. The motivation behind the beat movement was their thirst for freedom. They desired freedom from almost everything we take for granted today. Central to the beat writers, though little noticed, is the desperate flight from the lower middle class life and its culture of anxiety (Jack Kerouac. Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol.
14, 305). The beats also had trouble dealing with the social aspects of living. In both On The Road and The Dharma Bums this fugue, or flight, is portrayed on the realistic level as an attempt to escape from an intolerable personal or social situation (Freied 253). They couldnt deal with the values and expectations of society. These men and women reject existing social values largely through misunderstanding them; in the social sense, they are infantile, perversely negative or indifferent (Baro 281).
Sometimes it was theirselves they needed to escape from. Freied states, Kerouacs hoboes are seeking escape- escape not only from the threats of a hostile society, but escape from their own inadequate personalities and unsatisfactory human relationships (295). What most of the need for escape amounts to is an outlet from life. Their much touted ideal of freedom is in reality a freedom from life itself, especially from rational, adult life with its welter of consequences and obligations (Vopat 304). Vopat also says, Kerouacs characters take to the road not to find life, but to leave it all behind: emotion, maturity, change, decision, purpose, and, especially, in the best American tradition responsibility (303).
They feel any kind of knowledge will be a restraint. They avoid anything- self-analysis, self awareness, thinking- that would threaten or challenge them, for with revelation comes responsibility for change, and above all they do not want change (Vopat 303). Another more universal fear that they felt the need to escape was the red scare. In the great McCarthy hysteria, flight is the only means of expressing their dissent (Feied 293). They also do not want the commitment of a real relationship with the opposite sex. Free love is rather freedom from love and another route down that same dark death wish (Vopat 303).
They feel if they can escape these bindings of life than will achieve a better way of living. Inwardly, these excesses are made to serve a spiritual purpose of an affirmation still unfocused, still to be defined, unsystematic (Millstein 279). They want to just experience the joys of life to the fullest without worrying about any responsibilities. They seek to make good their escape in moment to moment living, digging everything, pursuing kicks with a kind of desperate energy that passes for enthusiasm (Feied 295). They want for everyday experiences something that will give them an exalted, intensified sense of life- that will make them live, that will make life real; they want to transcend, not their actual limitations, but their sense of limitation (Baro 281).
The beats were looking for an easy way out of dealing with the pressures of having a real life. To gain freedom from the restraints of life they rebelled against everything that seemed normal to regular citizens of society. Kerouacs novels are more readily summarized than Ginsbergs poetry or the Beats innovations in lifestyles, but all three manifest a rebellion against the establishment- the goals and habits of middle class America (Neil 306). Most see this as a combination of ignorance and stupidity. These young haters of everything can seem nothing more than spoiled brats, rejecting a civilization they have not bothered to understand and done nothing to deserve, wrecking lives and other peoples Cadillacs with equal relish and for no reason at all, sponging on relatives they despise, pretending a superiority which is only a big bag of loudmouthed nastiness (Champney 285).
One of the major parts of being a beat is constant movement from place to place. For Kerouacs hoboes the very act of going on the road amounts to a kind of turning of ones back on society as constituted (Feied 293). Some say they arent just making a statement, but actually trying to separate themselves. Champney states It has been says this group is not so much in revolt from society as in permanent secession (285). Beats also rebelled not just against society, but deeper things.
Bowering states, The beat writer and/or character rebels not against anything so sociological and historical as the middle class or capitalism or even respectability (299). They find fault in the character of people in general. Kerouac retreats to such atavistic rebellion as that against the crushing of the human soul, sensitivity, and communication (Bowering 299). Through their rebellion they wanted a change or a means to escape, but all they gained was the loss of any respect. They tried to express themselves through their abnormal actions. The beats . .
. saw themselves as outcasts, exiles within a hostile culture. . . rejected artists writing anonymously for themselves (Gussow 310). They tried to gain recognition through any means necessary.
Their frantic flights across country, their rootless and disaffected behavior, but above all their profound sense of disaffection, testified to a growing spirit of discontent (Feied 293). Feied relates that In going on the road they gave expression, in the clearest and most direct way possible, to all the repressed longing and vague dissatisfactions abroad in the populace at large (293). Their goal is to live as unpredictable, fun, and careless as possible. Outwardly these may be summoned up as the frenzied of every possible sensory impression, an extreme exacerbation of the nerves, a constant outraging of the body. (One gets kicks; digs everything, whether it be drink, drugs, sexual promiscuity, driving at high speeds or absorbing Zen Buddhism) (Millstein 279). They are also described similarly by Baro as the Sexually promiscuous, drink and drug ridden, thieving, lying, betraying, they belong to volatility, to movement, to sensation (281).
They try to show what they are about so the rest of the country will be awakened by them. The beat generation and its artists display readily recognizable stigmata (Millstein 278). They make judgments about each other not by their achievements, but by how reckless they are. They measure themselves against one another: the maddest and the least predictable is most admired (Baro 6). It would seem that this lifestyle would drain them of anything they had, but they manage to survive as bottom feeding parasites.
They get by on pickings from the imprisoned relatives, while they shout obscenities at the horror of it all (Champney 286). This behavior is what really makes the otherwise tolerant citizens enraged at the beat generation. There is irony in the fact that it is our lush abundance which enables a beat generation to avoid imprisonment in the system of work, produce, consume (Champney 286). They beats lifestyle is one of an immature, cowardly, parasite who cant handle the everyday values and pressures of living a normal life. They flee any responsibility to live a careless life, and then sponge off of people who work for a living. Kerouacs Characters in On The Road definitely explain the beats as a culture, but he has taken considerable criticism for his writing style.
To fully understand Kerouacs writing one must look at the circumstances of his writing along with his beliefs. Millstein states, There were four choices open to the post world war writer . . . the course I feel Kerouac has taken- assertion of the need for belief even though it is upon a background in which belief is impossible and in which the symbols are lacking for a genuine affirmation in genuine terms (279).
He has an original style for the time period which is misunderstood and criticized. On the Road belongs to the new Bohemianism in American Fiction in which an experimental style is combined with eccentric characters and a morally neutral point of view (Dempsey 279). In looking at Kerouacs mind the reason behind the actions of beats can be seen. Curley assertes: Reason is the formal principle of human vitality. But in Kerouacs vision, reason is subservient to time. Thus all uncertainties, morals, scientific, and metaphysical, become slaves of process.
That is why people in On The Road drink and eat, fornicate, marry, divorce and dance in chaos of mechanical ecstasies. (280) With this in mind one can greater understand how Kerouac thought and will be able to look at his novel with a more open perspective. As a key figure of the . . .
beat movement . . . Kerouac coined the term beat meaning both beaten down, or outcast, and beatific or full of spiritual joy, to describe the condition of his generation (Jack Kerouac. Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol.
61, 277). With the knowledge of his opinions of the movement it is easier to analyze his writing style. He has been criticized, however; there are many positives of his writing. His novel has opened the eyes of some people to exactly what beats are. On the Road depicts the counter culture lifestyle of the Beats, which was marked by impulsive traveling and experimentation with sex and drugs (Jack Kerouac.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 61, 278). With this kind of analysis of the people comes great impact. The nation looked at this book as one of the definitive works on an important counter culture. Millstein says, On the Road is the most beautifully executed, and most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac named years ago as beat and whose chief avatar he is (278). This shows how people were effected by Kerouacs work, and to have such an affect proves the quality of his writing.
One of the more interesting points of his mechanics was his use of a new experimental style of writing. Some passages in this book are considered early examples of the spontaneous prose method . . . developed in an effort to escape the strictures of grammar and syntax (Jack Kerouac. Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol.
61, 277). Some say he sat down at his desk with one giant piece of connected paper and typed the entire book in one three week block. It is easy to believe this with the ease of how the story flows. Considerable interest has been shown …