Nicholas J Cheaney
AP-Lit Man City
10 Dec 12
Beating the Beat
In the 1940s the Beat Generation sprung up and took the nation by storm. Many people in their later teenage years started to become “rebels” to what society thinks. This rebellious lifestyle sparked various different views; those that look up to them, and those that look down upon them. Jack Kerouac plays a major role in this time period pertaining to this lifestyle, authoring many works about it, one being On the Road. He uses the characters in this story to depict the diverse views on the Beatniks. This strong interpretation used throughout the novel sets the stage for many other authors writing on behalf of the Beat Generation. The characters he uses in this novel are the representation of the view which looks upon the Beats. Jack Kerouac portrays the negative side of the beat generation by using the moral downfall of Dean Moriarty, Sal Paradise’s struggle for an identity, and the hardships of other characters. The Beat lifestyle and Beatnik Generation are represented in many of Jack Kerouac’s works, and in On the Road, he shows the negative sides to finding “it”. Kerouac was also one of the original founders and formed the core to this Beat generation that was formed. Being considered a Beat in the 1940s/Post WW2 era meant that one was taboo of the societal norm, and considered a rebel to the traditional American lifestyle choices. The Beat Generation is credited to be a free-wheeling lifestyle that involves heavy drinking, drugs, multiple sexual partners, and other excesses. In On the Road, Kerouac changes the idea of a Beat from someone who is “mad”, or desirous of everything at the same time. By the end of the novel Kerouac uses the Detroit movie theater to describe a Beat as trash, or people who have been discarded by society. “It” is never clearly defined in the novel, however it is the idea that you have everything in life figured out and you are living a direction-less, care-free life. Dean, who is the prototype of a Beat, is the type of person who will sacrifice anything or anybody to find his true yet permanent identity. Dean compares and contrasts the feeling of “it” to the fury of the jazz music on one of the nights and also with the conventional worries and problems of their fellow travelers.
Dean’s lifestyle and eventual moral downfall is shown as a series of gradual changes over time. Kerouac brings Dean into Sal’s life as an adolescent trouble maker who had a difficult childhood and was interested in sex, drugs, food and life. Dean signifies a major role of importance and influence on Sal’s life because of their long lasting friendship. Dean’s first life change is shown when he takes a cross-country adventure to meet up with Sal in New Jersey. Dean transforms from a young reckless individual into an ecstatic “prophet”. Ed Dunkel also plays a major exemplary role because he will do nearly anything Dean tells him to. This shows how influential Dean’s spontaneous, fun life can be and how the others will follow when Dean leads. The role of influence is seen once again when he convinces Sal to come on another road trip; this time to New Orleans to see Bull Lee, and then to the west. On their road trip, there is a flaw in Dean’s character that is shown and is able to be seen by the retelling of stories of his past, which allows him to deal with the impermanence in his life. When they both reach their western destination, Dean abandons Sal with Marylou, and eventually takes them both in again showing a new side of Dean. This is Dean’s second change in his life, in which he decides to take responsibility and become a stable person, something that he will be unable to keep up with. Dean’s growing madness will eventually get them both kicked out of the house, showing Sal and Dean’s lack of understand and commitment towards women and other maternal roles. When Galatea Dunkel confronts Dean about his reckless behavior and lack of...
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