On the Road is a Picaresque • Latin Origin: "Picaro" • Means "Rogue." In plain terms a Picaresque is a "Buddy Story." • Don Quixote is the most buddy famous story.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza • Don Quixote is the story of an opportunistic and immensely delusional knight who is constantly on a quest for justice, adventure, and the admiration of women. • Sancho is the sidekick. He is rational and thinks D.Q.'s ideas and quests are not so good. But, he is a follower and he goes along with Don's anyway.
More Picaresques... • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn • Any "Brian and Stewie" adventure on Family Guy • Moby Dick • Harold and Kumar go to White Castle • Thelma and Louise • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas • Easy Rider • Midnight Cowboy
Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac • Neal is the model for Dean, and Sal is Jack. • Who is Don Quixote and who is Sancho Panza? • Other Key Characters: - Carlo Marx = Allen Ginsberg - Old Bull Lee = William S. Burroughs
Born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac in in Lowell, MA in 1922. Parents from Quebec Served in Merchant Marine during WWII Attended Columbia University where he met Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, etc. His upbringing was conservative and Catholic Difficult relationship with his father, close to his mother As the writing of On the Road began Jack's father had died and Jack was estranged from his wife Like Sal, Jack was shy, passive Jack Kerouac (Salvatore "Sal" Paradise)
Born in Salt Lake City Father was an alcoholic Mother died when he was ten Did not finish High School In and out of reform schools and jails for mostly car theft Like Dean, Neal was anything but shy and passive Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty)
Allen Ginsberg (Carlo Marx) • Born in Patterson, New Jersey. Son of Naomi and Louis Ginsberg • Hi father taught High School English and was a minor "lyric" poet • Ginsberg's mother was institutionalized when he was very young for schizophrenia • Also attended Columbia where he met Kerouac • His collection of poems Howl, published in 1956 to critical acclaim, led to charges of obscenity. The case was dismissed. The attention led to the sale of about seven million copies of Howl.
William S. Burroughs (Old Bull Lee) • Born in 1914 into a wealthy St. Louis family • Attended Harvard University. • Burroughs was roughly 12 years older than the other Beats and served and their mentor • His most widely read work is Naked Lunch, a largely autobiographical novel about Burroughs' struggles with heroin addiction. While living in Mexico City Burroughs (while intoxicated) accidently shot and killed his wife
The Open Road vs. The City • How does Sal feel about the city? • How does this compare or contrast to that of the road? • How does Sal's language vary from scene to scene?
The Music and Poetry of the Road • For Kerouac there is poetry in the landscape • He came from the crowded East • The open spaces provide a sense of freedom • That freedom is mirrored in his spontaneous writing style which sought imitate the (theoretically endless) jam sessions in jazz--where, musically, anything is possible • Much like that basic idea of America itself • As you read, compare "city" passages to "road" passages
"Song of the Open Road" - Whitman Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, Strong and content I travel the open road. The earth, that is sufficient, I do not want the constellations any nearer, I know they are very well where they are, I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
"Song..." Continued (Still here I carry my old delicious burdens, I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go, I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them, I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.) • Sal and Dean, as we discover, carry their burdens • But, Sal sees material and an opportunity for learning and teaching
What the Beats Were About • The Beats were not about tuning out and living a drug-filled, counter-cultural life. It was was about finding ones way in the post-war, post-nuclear America. They were keenly aware that things had changed. • Just as the Bohemians in Greenwich Village were aware of the changes to the world post WWI. Beats lived in the tradition of Bohemian thinking and art sought a life of intellectual and spiritual (not necessarily religious) transcendence.
...What the Beats Were About... • Ultimately, they sought meaning and self-empowerment in an age where one could be annihilated without warning. • But, in that search for meaning or "It" Sal is always chasing after the Dream... • Lastly, Sal's dream does not always match Jack's reality
Hunter S. Thompson on the End There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda .... You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ....
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ....
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.