The Beat Generation and Their Effects on Modern Society

Topics: On the Road, Beat Generation, United States Pages: 6 (2172 words) Published: June 25, 2013
Janice Wallenburg
English 4
1 April 2013
The Beat Generation and Their Effect on Modern Society
Violence and Crime is rising at a steady rate, but when did America inherit its lack of safety for the average person? The answer is from the “beat” generation. Depressed and hurt from World War Two and The Great Depression the “beat” generation sparked a downfall into theft, drug and alcohol abuse, and irresponsible sex. During the late nineteen forties and early nineteen fifties it was not uncommon to see people hitchhiking on the side of the road and getting picked up. This was a time when people considered the United States of America to be safe and the average person could walk the streets without worrying about being robbed, raped or murdered. Today it is uncommon to find someone who knowingly allows their adolescent children to hitchhike across the country or sometime even walk to school on their own. The modern-day citizens of the United States of America lock their cars, their homes and even put their children on leashes. These safety precautions would seem ridiculous and silly to those born before the nineteen sixties. This over-zealous amount of safety and security can all be blamed on those who have abused the good and innocent nature that Americans have previously displayed. The beat generation stole and lied at such an increasing rate that present-day Americans must be cautious of each other and live in fear of the most despicable crimes. In the novel, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, the protagonists steal, lie and get high to fill the empty spaces in their schedule and to sooth the pains in their souls. It is through these actions that security develops and these malevolent ideas are exchanged to the youth that is living under this broke and battered generation. The beat generation, hurt by world war two, lost the trust for the average American citizen by stealing, abusing drugs and alcohol and creating broken families.

The greed for others belonging and the lack of availability of wealth in the world has tempted all to steal and lie to gain for themselves. In the novel, On the Road, the protagonists are seen stealing gas, cigarettes and even cars. Dean, the narrator’s long-time friend has literally grown up on the wrong side of the tracks. His father being a bum and a drunk helped him learn how to steal and survive the cruel world that the homeless live in. “We stopped at a gas station, and there Dean and Marylou played piggyback around the tanks and Dunkel went inside and stole three packs of cigarettes without trying. We were fresh out” (Kerouac 139). Dunkel, another homeless hitchhiker is picked up by Dean, Sal and Marylou. He effortlessly steals cigarettes for them, displaying another act of theft by a homeless person. This act of theft shows the reader the lack of morality of the vagabonds in America. When any of the protagonists are confronted by the police it is at a moment in the novel when they are not breaking the law.

“We had to follow the patrolman back to the station and there spent an hour waiting in the grass while they telephoned Chicago to get the owner of the Cadillac to verify our position as hired drivers. Mr. Baron said, according to the cop, ‘Yes, that is my car, but I can’t vouch for anything else those boys might have done.’…Everything was straightened out and we roared on” (Kerouac 236)

It is very lucky for Dean and Sal to never get into actual trouble with the cops when they are stopped by them, because they steal so much that with the modern day security system and police they would be instantly caught and hauled off to prison. It is with this lack of morality and their never-ending desires and addictions that the protagonists continue their travels, stealing and doping back and forth across America.

Along with the sins of theft comes the crime of drug and alcohol abuse. Throughout the novel the protagonists drink heavily and experiment with marijuana, and...
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