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22 - Jack Kerouac

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2012

Timothy Parrish
Affiliation:
Florida State University
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Summary

  1. “Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there.”

  2. “Where we going, man?”

  3. “I don’t know, but we gotta go.”

  4. Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)

One day before the publication of his first novel, TheTown and the City (1950), Jack Kerouac (1922–69) wrote in his journal about his newest work in progress: “How is a miserable hitch-hiking boy going to mean anything … to Howard Mumford Jones who wants everybody to be like him (middleclass, intellectual, ‘responsible’) before he will accept them?” (WW, 276). Kerouac was worried that the “road novel” he had begun to conceptualize in 1948 would be dismissed not only because it failed to foreground the normative cultural values reviewers praised in The Town and the City, but also because he knew that in order to represent an emergent, postwar type of American character the novel would deploy an unconventional, idiosyncratic narratological form (WW, 185). The year Harcourt Brace published The Town and the City, the United States took significant steps to enact cold war policies that established the normative ideological context to which Kerouac’s narratological experimentation would respond and against which his work would primarily be judged: President Truman ordered the production of the hydrogen bomb, authorized U.S. forces to defend South Korea, and enacted National Security Council Report 68 (NSC-68), the foundational document in U.S. cold war policy. Further, in February of 1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) rose to national prominence by claiming to possess a list of State Department employees who were also members of the Communist Party, a claim he could never substantiate.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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References

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Howard Mumford Jones (1892–1980) was a U.S. writer, literary critic, and professor of English at Harvard University, as well as the book editor for the daily afternoon newspaper the Boston Evening Transcript
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  • Jack Kerouac
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.023
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  • Jack Kerouac
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.023
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Jack Kerouac
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.023
Available formats
×