Nature and Society in The Dharma Bums and Goodbye, Columbus

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Nature and Society in The Dharma Bums and Goodbye, Columbus

From its beginning, the literature of the 1960s valued man having a close relationship with nature. Jack Kerouac shows us the ideal form of this relationship in the story of Han Shan, the Chinese poet. At first, these concerns appear to have little relevance to Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth. However, by mentioning Gauguin, Roth gives us a view of man's ideal relationship to nature very similar to the one seen in the story of Han Shan. The stories of Han Shan and Gauguin offer an interesting commentary Neil and Brenda's relationship, as well as insight into its collapse.

From the beginning, 60s literature advocated that man have a close relationship with nature. This is easily seen in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. In this book, he repeatedly invokes the names of older writers concerned with living a life in harmony with nature. By mentioning such writers as Muir, Thoreau, and Whitman, Kerouac makes a statement about man and nature. The behavior of the characters in the book is in keeping with this environmentalist message. The high points of the book are characterized by a nearness to nature. A good example of this is when Ray and Japhy climb the Matterhorn. The fact that Kerouac peoples his book with characters inspired by people important to the Sixties, such as Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsburg, helps tie these environmental concerns to the decade as a whole.

The most direct example of what Kerouac feels is the ideal relation between man and nature is the story of Han Shan. We are told that Shan is Japhy's hero because he "was a man of solitude who could take off by himself and live purely and true to himself"(Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, 22). By escaping society and living close to nature, he was able to live his life the way the was supposed to. If he had remained in a society in conflict with nature, he would have been twisted and distorted, unable to obtain his true shape. Both Ray and Japhy see reflections of Han Shan in each other.

At first glance, there seems to be little in common between these environmental concerns and Goodbye, Columbus.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how philip roth's story, goodbye, columbus, is rooted in middle-class new jersey society, and remains in this urban and suburban setting.
  • Analyzes how neil and brenda's relationship is built around nature, and the beauty of their relationship came from silence.
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