After the opening chapter of the novel in which the narrator writes, "Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running- that's the way to live" (7), I knew that the book was not only going to be interesting, but also great. I was not displeased after finishing it either. The Dharma Bums struck me as being one of the most fantastic books that I have ever read; one that contains an amazingly simple and captivating plot, an introduction and insight into the Buddhist philosophy and its followers of the 50's, and also contains the most provocative insight and philosophy about humanity and life. After the finishing the last page, I can remember wishing that the journeys of Ray Smith and Japhy Ryder would continue on infinitely, but also having the feeling of contentment that the novel's ending was exactly the way in which it should have ended. I believe that this novel may have been written for me, though. Kerouac specifically outlined the life that I had been thinking about and justified it by saying that a lifestyle such as a dharma bum needs no justification except its pureness and simplicity: of which Lao-Tzu would be proud. Upon first reading, I clearly understand why this book has been hailed as the vagabond, tramp, and backpacker's Bible and guidebook to life and philosophy. It has the ability to inspire anyone to give up the life of materialism and television in search of something better and, like Holden of Catcher in the Rye, the reader can find a part of him/herself in Ray and Japhy and, therefore, begin to understand their sentiments and reasons for leaving the world. The author has, therefore, not only create...
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...ey're hardheaded materialistic practical types, they don't know shit about matter, their heads are full of dreamy ideas and notions" (206). This is exactly true. The closer you get to reality, the more you lose touch with the "reality" that has been created for us. It is then that you truly begin to again learn to see for the first time and, all of a sudden, the food you eat tastes better, human voice becomes sweeter, charity becomes better, and life and all of its beauty are revealed for the first time. I think that in writing The Dharma Bums, Kerouac knew a great deal about this. He knew that purity came from the heart and, because of this, he knew the true essence of beauty was not to be found in magazines or television, but right in front of our eyes in Zion's nature and harmony.
Kerouac, Jack. Dharma Bums, The. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
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