Romanticism and Modernism as Strange Bedfellows: A Fresh Look at Jack Kerouac's On the Road

12216 words 49 pages
Romanticism and Modernism as Strange Bedfellows: A Fresh Look of Jack Kerouac’s
On the Road Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven! O time
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law and statute, took at once
The attraction of a Country in Romance! The Prelude—William Wordsworth
(Come in under the shadow of this rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening striding to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. The Waste Land—T. S. Eliot On 2 April 1951, in a loft in New York City, Jack Kerouac fed 120 feet of Japanese drawing paper into his typewriter, and for the
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Upon arriving there, Sal exclaims “then we turned our faces to Mexico with bashfulness and wonder as those dozens of Mexican cats watched us from under secret hatbrims in the night. Beyond were music and all night restaurants with smoke pouring out the door” (275). Before it is over, they discover its physical beauty, but find it tainted and infected by the barefoot poverty of shacks, brothels of drunken prostitutes, and crippling marijuana hallucinations. These three thematic subjects of the novel—Dean, the west, and Mexico will comprise the basis of this argument. They were chosen for their sense of duality in analyzing the use of romanticism and modernism in the novel, and the basic significance each one contributes to novel’s composition as well as its portrayal of a search for meaning and a sense of identity. The three will illustrate how the novel’s romantic/modernistic cooperative work together to help interpret the author’s vision of Dean, and his beloved America, including Mexico. First, the novel must be examined for its romantic base and then how this romantic eye is shaded by a modernistic tone tempered by the author’s consciousness.
The Backdrop to the Novel: The Times were a’ Changin’
From the late 1940s well into the 60s, the Cold War scare of Communism began posing a threat throughout America. This resulted in the creation of fall-out shelters in the basements of