Jack Kerouac


In Jack Kerouac\'s novels and poetry he is always searching for something to believe in, be it himself, God, or something else. Surprisingly, he manages to also simultaneously be constantly running away. Fear of responsibility and conformity is present in the majority of his works; this is the reason for his elusiveness, and the constant desire and search for a path far removed from the traditional ho-hum home-life leads him to Buddhism, which was then a novel concept in America. Kerouac\'s newfound beliefs lead him to be zealously against lust, because it leads to the formation of karma: lust leads to birth, which leads to suffering, which leads to death, which leads to the continuation of the cycle.


In Dharma Bums, Ray Smith (Kerouac\'s pseudonym for himself) had "gone through an entire year of celibacy based on [his] feeling that lust was the direct cause of . . . suffering and death." He even claimed to have "come to a point where [he] regarded lust as offensive and even cruel." Due to the "absence of active lust," Smith had a "new peaceful life that [he] was enjoying a great deal" (Kerouac Dharma Bums, 29). Robert A. Hipkiss addresses this when he states Kerouac\'s belief that "women fill an unholy and very earthly office. Women continue the cycle of karma" (Hipkiss 271). Smith does, however, eventually give in to his sexual desire and "all the peaceful celibacy of [his] Buddhism [goes] down the drain" (Kerouac Dharma Bums, 30). Alvah (Allen Ginsberg) and Japhy (Gary Snyder) had convinced him to join in with their game of "yabyum," which is essentially a "Zen Free Love Lunacy [orgy]," where a young girl named Princess was the main attraction (Kerouac Dharma Bums, 30). Before Smith retires that night, however, he meditates and eventually "wasn\'t taken in by no Princess or no desire for no Princess and nobody\'s disapproval and [he] felt glad and slept well" (Kerouac Dharma Bums, 35). Kingsley Widmer blames this indecisiveness and paradoxical living on Kerouac\'s "guilty sexual fears" (Widmer 305), as he is "crudely malely sexual and cannot help [himself] and [has] lecherous and so on propensities . . ." (Kerouac The Subterraneans, 3).


In The Subterraneans, Kerouac temporarily gives into "the sweet return to the protective sanctuary and succor of the womb" (Tytell 272); however, he treats Mardou, a timid, small black girl that he loves temporarily, poorly due to a lack of trust, and he also "wanted another drink with a rowdy fiend . . ." (Kerouac The Subterraneans, 105), which was what finally puts her over the edge. She did, however, stay with Kerouac for quite a while, despite the recurring theme of "poor Mardou going home alone, again, and drunken maniac [Kerouac]" rushing off (Kerouac 101, The Subterraneans), which shows why Kerouac was attracted to her; "the women least likely to make demands upon him are the most desirable" (Hipkiss 271). Eventually, Mardou rids herself of her "drunken maniac," which leaves him "weeping for [his] lost Mardou and so stupidly because [he]\'d decided to throw her away [himself]" (Kerouac 103, The Subterraneans). Kerouac concludes that "there\'s a lover on every corner - they\'re all the same, boy, don\'t get hung-up on one" (Kerouac The Subterraneans, 110), which is preliminary to Buddhism as an excuse for his avoidance of attachment. Mardou becomes one of the "hundreds of lover-girls everyone of em betrayed or screwed in some way by [him]" (Kerouac Desolation Angels, 124).


Some of the Dharma contains numerous rantings about female sexuality and its dangers. Kerouac\'s fears about lusting after women is summarized when he states his belief that:


"Men are \'taken in\' by women, since beginningless time, ---this is how birth and ignorance continue---Men don\'t realize that women are their own Rib of Lust, Self-Lust, and are actually nothing but (like men) skin & bones with shit inside---Watch women closely & see if I\'m not right----The True Man eschews women, has no children, and seeks No-Return to the dreary wheel of life & death---He is constantly on his guard against lust & concupiscence & cupidity---" (Kerouac Some of the Dharma, 170).


Kerouac illustrates clearly here his belief about humans being nothing constant, and he knows that "everything [he] had ever known and would ever know was One" (Kerouac