Essay on The Life of Jack Kerouac

Jack KerouacBorn March 12, 1922, to French Canadian parents, Jack Kerouac’s given name was Jean Louis Kirouac. He grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, surrounded with his two great loves, football and the written word. He spoke a French dialect in which some of his later works were written, finally learning English at school, aged six. His athletic skills later earned him a scholarship to Columbia University. He wrote many pieces for the school paper while a fractured tibia forced him from the team. He later dropped out of Columbia after many arguments with his coach. He remained in the New York City where he met many people whose names are still synonymous with his today, the ‘beat generation’. These people provided him with experience and influenced his writing along with jazz, travel, and spirituality. Jack Kerouac is renowned for many of his pieces including On the Road and Big Sur. He wrote in ‘Spontaneous Prose’.

The story is mostly biographical, with Kerouac portrayed as Sal Paradise whilst his friend, Neal Cassady, was rewritten as Dean Moriarty. It is broken into 5 parts, and is set against the background of many different road trips. The evolution of the two characters and their changing friendship is crucial to the plot. It relates to the time as in those days, young men with no careers or purposes only knew one way to go-the road. It also related to the beat generation.

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Excerpt-‘I’d been poring over maps of the United States in Paterson for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the road-map was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I’ll just stay on all the …

…t beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principal avatar he is.”Review-‘On the Road,’ reviewed by David Dempsey (1957)”Jack Kerouac has written an enormously readable and entertaining book but one reads it in the same mood that he might visit a sideshow — the freaks are fascinating although they are hardly part of our lives.”

Terms like ‘beautifully executed’ ‘the clearest’ ‘readable’ and ‘entertaining’ have been used to describe this novel. This means that he has managed to do what most authors never managed to do in that time, and he did it well, and that the way it was written, as he told the story straight, was clear and readable. Both touch upon the fact that he is an icon of the ‘beat’ generation, and that his writing was entertaining.


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