Kerouac Essay, Research Paper

Martin, William 2-14-97

Charters, Ann. Kerouac: A Biography. New York: St. Martin s Press, 1959, 1994.

419 pp.

Jack Kerouac

Kerouac: A Biography, helps to explain how Jack Kerouac, the founder and most

important member of the Beat movement, was influenced by the rapidly changing culture

of the 1950 s, as well as, how Kerouac ignited a social and literal revolution in

America, from which the Beatniks and Hippies emerged. All of Kerouac s books drew

public attention due to Kerouac s originality and new style of writing. Kerouac s

originality and unique style of writing is also why, Kerouac is best known as the key

figure of the artistic and cultural phenomenon of the 1950 s known as the Beat

movement (Stine 273). Kerouac: A Biography helps to explain why the statement above

is true.

The book, Kerouac: A Biography, is very thorough and explains every aspect of

Jack Kerouac: past, present, and future. Everything is very detailed throughout the book.

According to Deck: Ann Charter s Kerouac, taken as straight biography or as an

evocation of perhaps one of the liveliest periods in American letters, is a pleasure. It is

about men and ideas that changed everything. That s reason is enough o read it (23).

Deck s statement is true, the book is a pleasure to read. Kerouac was born in Lowell,

Massachusetts, on March 12, 1922. Kerouac went to school in New York City and

afterward served in World War II. After the war Kerouac became a wanderer, traveling

through the United States and Mexico. Kerouac s wandering and experiences are what

created the subject matter of his books. Even though Charters is friends

with Kerouac, she is not biased. Charters explains both the positive and negative aspects

of Jack Kerouac, such as Kerouac s alcoholism. Charters also discusses all of Kerouac s

works and how they are actually personal stories of Kerouac s life.

The changing culture of the 1950 s is what inspired Kerouac to evolve into the

creative genius that he became. In San Francisco, California, and Greenwich Village,

New York, America s culture was beginning to change during the 1950 s. Jazz, sex, and

drugs were eminent throughout both of these cities. The bohemian culture, as well as,

Eastern philosophy were also beginning to play a major role in people s lives. People

were beginning to open there minds to Eastern philosophy and trying to ignore the

idealism of the unenlightened West. Other influences of Kerouac were such writers as

Walt Whitman and Henry Miller. Kerouac greatly identified with their ideas of free love,

and writing from personal experiences. Neal Cassady also influenced Kerouac. Neal s

autobiographical style was exactly what Kerouac had been fumbling toward himself in

his grandiose plans to be a writer (Deck 23). Kerouac had many influences, but it was

mostly his originality which led him to become a great writer.

Jack Kerouac had a long lasting effect on America for years to come, because he

enlightened people in different ways to think and live. Kerouac created a new style of

writing known as spontaneous prose; which is a style of writing in which one writes with

an undisturbed flow from the mind. (Tytell 142). Kerouac also created a social and

literary movement, known as the Beat movement. Followers of the Beat movement were

known as Beatniks. The Beatniks advocated personal release, purification, and

illumination through the heightened sensory awareness that can be induced by sex, drugs,

or jazz. Spontaneous prose became a way of life for the Beatniks. They began to live

their lives by means of spontaneity. Whenever an idea would come to them they would

act it out without thought or concern. The Beatniks later evolved into the Hippies, and

created a whole new nation through music, art, literature, and social behavior. Jack

Kerouac and the Beatniks created a cultural revolution which changed America forever.

During the 1960 s most critics did not consider Kerouac to be a great writer, and

did not like the message he had to convey. They thought Kerouac s subject matter was

lewd and influenced people in a negative way. When his work was condemned along

with the movement, Kerouac withdrew from society and took to drinking. He died at the

age of forty-seven, feeling neglected and scorned, never suspecting that he would become

one of the most widely read writers of his generation (Kheridan 136). It is a shame that

Kerouac never knew what a great impact he had on society and literature. Kerouac

opened up new doors for people to express their true feelings and beliefs through

literature. Jack Kerouac s creativeness and inovativeness have changed the literary,

musical, artistic, and social aspects of America, through his writing and creation of the

Beat generation.


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