It is Dean Moriarty, in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, who represents the eternal flame of youth that was adopted by the rebellious youth culture of the Beat Generation. He is free from responsibility, “simply a youth tremendously excited with life…want[ing] so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him” (Kerouac 4). Just as the Greek of the Olympics, “with [the] torch…[that] ignites the pagan dream of immortality” (Rodriguez 1), Dean embodies the almost immortal flame of youth, the eternal “sideburned hero of the snowy West” (Kerouac 2). As “He was the BEAT—the root, the soul of Beatific” (Kerouac 195), Dean embodied and still embodies the spirit of the immortal Beat Generation.
Post-World War Two, the fifties saw the arrival of “juvenile delinquents, motorcycles, and leather jackets…[and the hipsters, who] adopted an ethic at odds with most Americans, and his values and view of the world soon became the Beats’” (Foster 8). The character of Dean Moriarty is literally and figuratively the firebrand of the invincible youth culture known as the Beat Generation, as he was one of “a youth tremendously excited with life…the holy con-man with the shining mind” (Kerouac 5).
The passionate madness of life and rebellious con-man life-styles evinced in the character of Dean Moriarty are symbolic of the generation. Tim Hunt proposes that Sal Paradise, the protagonist or perhaps the conventional man, chooses “his [Dean’s] romanticized version of Denver slum life…[this] represents the New World at its most anarchistic and individualistic apex” (Hunt 39). Because Dean Moriarty holds this carefree and enthusiastic nature of the unconq...
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... be immortal himself, his actions and Beat are enduring, that is, living within On the Road eternally. As James Dean became a symbol and inspiration for the Rebel, Dean Moriarty became the literary representation of the rebellious Beat Generation, holding onto that eternal flame—the passionate recklessness, the easygoing charisma that can ultimately found in youth.
Campbell, James. “The place of dead roads.” This is the Beat Generation. Los Angeles: U of California
Foster, Edward Halsey. “Kerouac.” Understanding the Beats. Columbia: U of South Carolina, 1992.
Holstad, Scott C. “Kerouac: A look.” Kerouac’s On The Road and the American Quest. 1999. 04 Jan 2002.
Hunt, Tim. “An American Education.” Kerouac’s Crooked Road. Los Angeles: U of California Press, 1996.
Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
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