Historical Significance of On the Road
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), along with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, was a seminal figure of the Beat Generation which emerged in the 1950s and became the voice of disaffected youth in the post-World War II era in the United States (Perkins, Perkins, & Leininger, 1992). Kerouac's (1957) most famous book, On the Road, is superficially a saga of young Americans traveling across the United States searching for their country and for themselves and, on a deeper level, represents an exploration of identity. This brief report will discuss the meaning and historical significance of On the Road
On the Road, written in 1951, but not published until 1957, has been described by Karl (1983) as expressing the "new" in terms of both the spontaneity of the text which presents a continuously racing mind, a drug-induced vision, and wild springs of manic and depressive feelings. Narrated by Sal, Kerouac's (1957) protagonist is Dean Moriarty, who emerges as a mythical hero, shrouded in mist, and a distinctly Western type. Sal Paradise represents Kerouac himself and is engaged in a quest for Eden. Dean, in contrast, is the transitory man born on the road in a car whose life becomes a frenetic search for the perfect woman, the perfect situation, and the perfect identity (Karl, 1983).
Implicit within the book is a rebellion against the 1950s and the extremely conventional American ethos of that era (Karl, 1983). In pursuit of something better and more transcendent than the lifestyle of the pre-war generation, Kerouac's (1957) characters embrace jazz, drugs, dharma, and sexuality. Each of these forms of rebellion, says Karl (1983), represent the desire of a generation of young male Americans to find something of substance. Exalted suffering, as symbolically represented by jazz, also permeates Dean's pursuit of something resembling a stable life (Kerouac, 1957).
The language of On the Roa...