Michael  Curcio                                                           November 2, 2008

AMS Response Paper                                                                 Professor Skvirsky        


  From the “Beats” and Beyond

        From the period known as the Beat Generation, all the way up to the phenomenon known as the Culture Wars, there are always differences that we can note. From different displays of art, to the ways that people reacted to it, as time moved on, so did peoples perceptions. Although the Beat Generation emphasized subjectivity and personal experience, and the Culture Wars were a response to art in public spaces, the intervening years allowed for a much different understanding of the changes between public and private space.

        The Beat Generation was a period in time where a group of writers came together a started a type of writing that was based on free expression. What started off as a literary phenomenon soon progressed to a life-changing attitude for thousands of people around the world. There are many examples produced during the Beat Generation that explain how the “beat” period emphasized subjectivity and personal experience. In my eyes, the one that seems to portray this in the greatest detail, is Jack Kerouac’s book On The Road, which is often regarded as the bible of the Beat Generation. Kerouac’s book is very representative of the beat generation and its values of liberty and openness. The book which is narrated through the eyes of a young writer, Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac), is an account of his travels cross country with a character named Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady). By reading about Kerouac’s journeys, one gets an accurate perception of the Beat Generation through his many personal experiences. The book is definitely representative of the Beat Generations individuality, because it was during this period, where people were looking to develop change. The change during this time, is that of expression and experimentation. The Beat Generation was when people began trying new things and experimenting with other things like drugs, sex, etc. By acting spontaneous and with open emotion people were able to have carefree attitudes and do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Sal, the main character, is very representative of this, because throughout the book, he too is carefree. Although he often repels against the social realms of the time, he was different in that “he no longer cared about anything” (Part 3, Chapter 2, pg 188). He tended to just go with the flow of life and act in spontaneous ways, similar to many of the people living during the Beat Generation. The road in this novel is extremely significant as well. Symbolizing his freedom and individuality, when he sets off “on the road,” there is a promise for a new beginning; a new life. Thus On The Road speaks a lot about non-conformity, identity, and self-realization.

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Kerouac conveys his experiences in On the Road by creating scenes and characters that closely mirror aspects of his own life. Like a typical Beat Generation person, Sal really didn’t like to work. Although he understood the value of work and what it meant in terms of supporting a family, he still disliked it very much. Throughout the book, he got several jobs, none of which he kept because immediately after starting, he would quit. Instead, he did what he preferred and went back and forth from New York City to San Francisco looking for a woman to fall in love with. He once said "'Oh ...

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