Sunday, January 17, 2010

Introduction to Jack Kerouac's "On the Road"

Jack Kerouac and I have many things in common.

Now, Jack Kerouac has accomplished more than I have, but we come from similar mindsets, so I will elaborate on my theory.

Brief introduction of the story epitomized by the New York Times:

"[The novel is] the most beautifully executed, the clearest and most important
utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago "beat"
and whose principle avatar he is."

He defined the 1950's with his definition of the the counter-culture brewing. The term "beat" refers to the times in which conventions changed, from music to sexual appetite to consumption of altering substances. These people were the first to experience something different than the "white picket fence marriage" philosophy and so it cause for uproar and fascination.

How does that relate to me?
I have come to the conclusion that in some shape I am a pioneer in my family and quite possibly be defining the new generation in choices and beliefs. Growing up in a Catholic Mexican family, there were many restrictions based on gender. As females, we were forced to come home at certain time, preferably before night time, to avoid having the "scarlet letter" attached to your forehead. The males were allowed to go clubbing until 4am on a Thursday night, and most of them were underage, breaking laws with their fake ID's. Now I have absolutely no problem with my cousins having a great time, but it was prison for us girls and as a person of reason, I began to ask simple questions about the actions taken toward us.

Another thing that was mandatory (and still is) was going to church on Sundays. We are STRONG Catholic believers, and we must follow the law of God and Jesus Christ. While all of this was going on in my home, many priests were being accused of child molestation, so I began to question my belief in the Catholic Church. As I began to question my infrastructure of the family, I begin to conduct my own experiments that would allow for further alternatives to my current life.

I compare myself to Kerouac because I think that we both were just to minds that chose the alternate path in life that might make us happy. As the introduction to the book rightly puts it, "A rebellious group trying to look at the world in a way that gave it some [new] meaning . Trying to find values...that were valid." We as wanderers of the world are seeking that moment, that essence that will make us truly happy. Whether it would be changing yourself completely, or following your dreams, all it takes is a simple choice to change what has been given to you, and use that guidance to find something better. As I sit here in Roatan, watching television and writing my blog, I am happy to experience this and cannot wait to return home. The beauty, heartbreak, despair, love, lust that I have felt on my journey has been worth it, and for Kerouac, his journey led to his success.

Neal Cassidy was Kerouac's main influence for writing "On the Road." Ann Charters explains, "But he was most taken with the wildly exuberant letters written to him and Ginsberg by Neal Cassidy, particularly Cassidy's style of combining loose, rambling, sentences with meticulously detailed observations regarding his sexual exploits with various girlfriends in Denver." Not only was Cassidy his muse for writing his greatest novel, but Cassidy was also the instigator for Kerouac to go "on the road." He divided his story into the four journeys he took with Neal Cassidy throughout his life. As I sit here discussing the introduction to this novel, my instigator for traveling to a remote part of the world is my soul mate Carlos.

Carlos and I have an interesting relationship. We are best friends. We are lovers. We are soul mates. We like each other and enjoy each others company. What is most important is that we feed off each other's drive to succeed. We have our own passions, but we share the common goal of giving 100% effort in all tasks we take responsibility for, which includes our relationship. And so our main goal is to always succeed. The way that I feel about Carlos is more than just a companion on my road to find myself. He is my inspiration for the choices that I make in my life. When we first met, Carlos and I share similar out of control circumstances that led to potentially fatal outcomes. We chose for ourselves the chance at life instead of the common road traveled by the forsaken, and now we have empowered ourselves to dream the possibility of being a president and a justice of the Supreme Court. I hope we make it.

So how does this relate to Kerouac? Carlos is the main reason why I left California to travel through Honduras. I know some of you do not agree with the reason, but I am not asking. I am explaining the decision based on what I think was best for me. I chose to continue being with person because he would be the only one capable of enthralling my mind and exciting my life. This was Cassidy for Kerouac. As Charters explains, "Dean (Cassidy) was Sal's (Kerouac) brother, buddy, and "alter-ego," a larger-than-life projection of Kerouac's heightened expectation of what life could offer." Carlos epitomizes that feeling for me and is definitely credited as being my muse for my life.

Now I reach my final belief to conclude my theory.

Growing up, my first language was Spanish. I grew up learning English as my second language, and having to catch up with the rest of my peers because they had parents who went to college and spoke perfect English. It took me years to get rid of my Spanish accent, and I was constantly teased by white kids that only knew one language. I felt inferior to them and was sickened by that feeling because deep down I knew my English and Spanish was essential to my success. As I continued at UCLA, my voice changed to fit the mold that was expected, and through that my English developed into my first language. I learned that my identity need a combination of my Mexican heritage, but dominated by my knowledge of the English language.

Kerouac faced his own issues with language; "the riddle of how to assimilate his first and most spontaneous language, joual, into a colloquial, American prose style." As Kerouac wrote his book, he definition as a writer was based on his influential writer, Thomas Wolfe. For Kerouac to find his own voice, he needed to adapt his knowledge of his first language with the mastery of his second, English. There is a fine line between finding your identity as an American mainstream writer, or becoming an "ethnic" writer with a small focus group. There is also a fine line between respect as an individual or condescending view based on your language. This is a "double bind of psychology: if a writer (person) cannot find himself in his work (a minority background) he is lost; if he becomes an 'ethnic writer,' he is off on a tangent." As bilingual individuals both Kerouac and I dealt with the issue of finding our voice that is respected and represents all of us as people.

My journey through Honduras has been an experience to find myself, as Kerouac's was for "On the Road." What I hope to find from this journey and this book is that ability to express feelings that allow for an understanding of ourselves and each other.

*All quotes were taken from "On the Road" Introduction from Ann Charters. *

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