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Picaresque Heroes in Jack Kerouac’s on the Road

Author ChenYanFen
Tutor LiuYu
School Southwestern University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Jack Kerouac On the Road Picaresque
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
Downloads 608
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On the Road, known as the Bible of Beat Generation, written by Jack Kerouac, is no doubt one of the greatest picaresque stories in postwar America.Represented by Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise, the new generation of the nomads starts their travel eagerly, like the pious Christians. Dean and Sal are not content to be picaresques who earn a living without working, but keep on working on their way of traveling, and traveling in work. With extreme nomadic behavior such as drinking, drug-taking, and love-making, they enrich their life experiences and expect to be saved by God. For them, vagabond life does not seem sad and miserable. On the contrary, they deem it a cheerful way of enjoying life. Only in this way of tramp will they relieve their sense of loneliness inside and seize the time to find the truth of freedom in life. Hence, these outsiders of society as the differentialized men will wake up and go farther to build their new ideas and beliefs, and quest the true meaning of life.Therefore, this paper argues that the two leading characters (Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise) are the distinctive picaresque heroes in postwar America. They are aspiring for spiritual freedom, which fits with the idea of Zen Buddhism. Dean is a symbol of romanticism, while Sal the agent of Chan spirit, and both incarnates respectively mobility and meditation.The thesis consists of three chapters with an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction puts forward the notion that Kerouac’s emphasis on alienation. Chapter One traces the concept of the picaresque hero and the evolution of picaresque heroes in British and American literary tradition, affirms the novel On the Road as the contemporary classic picaresque novel. Chapter Two focuses on the character Dean Moriarty in On the Road in order to analyze Dean’s traits as a peculiar picaresque hero in postwar America. Chapter Three is engaged in a discussion of Sal Paradise, the narrator. On the one hand, Sal Paradise is fascinated by Dean Moriarty’s wild and nomadic bohemian lifestyle; on the other hand, the bustle on the road forces Sal to comprehend the quintessential of life through meditation, which mirrors Kerouac’s view towards Zen Buddhism. Conclusion brings the development of Kerouac’s picaresque novel to spiritual home, and points out Kerouac’s concentration on Zen Buddhism and Tao through the description of the picaresque heroes Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise.

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