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On the Road

To say that Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road is autobiographical is a little like saying that Rembrandt did self-portraits once in a while. In a way that relatively few fictional treatments of one's current experience of life have managed, On the Road functions as a document of the psychological and cultural experience of one person and at the same time provides insight into a range of attitudes and behavior that explicate life for the generation that came of age in the United States after World War II and that prefigured the age of the generation gap that was to mark American experience in the Vietnam era. Into the bargain, Kerouac the artist, like his artifact On the Road, turned out to be implicated in actually determining the shape and content of the culture and its inhabitants on which they commented.

To see how On the Road reveals, operationalizes, and comments on individual and cultural experience, it will be useful to look at the facts of its author's life as well as at the milieu of the 1950s America upon which he made such a mark. We begin with Jack Kerouac the man, or more exactly the emerging man, whose life from its beginning was marked by nothing so much as alienation, both physical and psychosocial. Although Kerouac was born in New England, the fact that his family was Catholic French Canadian meant that his first language was North American French, not English, and on that account alone he was culturally positioned as something of an outsider. Giamo cites "the imprint of French-Canadian Catholicism on Kerouac's sensibility," which provided Kerouac with not only a firmly established cultural identity but also a moral structure from which to deviate and which he could make into a subject of critique and discourse. That would explain his lifelong attachment to--and disenchantment with--Catholicism as well as his deliberate embrace of Buddhism as both way of life and subject matter of discourse, or what Giamo calls his ...

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On the Road. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 20:06, June 19, 2019, from https://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1681440.html