Date of Award

5-1991

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Thomas F. Lyon

Abstract

Called alternately "the father of hip," "King of the Beats," "the daddy of the swinging psychedelic generation," Jack Kerouac was less a thrill-seeking hipster than a serious author whose life and novels speak of our shared need to explore alternatives and renew ourselves, and of our frustration and regret for our movement away from tradition. Kerouac's life and literature can be viewed as an extended quest, an episodic series of explorations for meaning and for a way of life. He continually addressed the modernist question "How shall we live?," seeking answers in what one biographer calls an ongoing "pattern of finding, losing, and struggling to find again" (Stephenson 22). Recurrently restless, he spent most of his life looking for understanding and peace, a "serious, searching soul" in John Clellon Holmes' words, who from an early age felt the need to live correctly and joyfully in what he saw to be a world of suffering. He considered his fiction "archetypal autobiography," and the novels On The Road, The Dharma Bums, and Desolation Angels present phases of his ongoing quest, as recorded in the body of his life's work, which makes up The Duluoz Legend. The Dharma Bums reflects a possible conclusion to the quest, the model for a way of life linked with the American West, expressing a prevailing theme in western American literature and a mythos surrounding the American West.

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