This ‘other’ life was personified through physical and spiritual expressions like drugs, madness, holiness, music, culture and sexuality. To put the ethos and aesthetics of the beat generation in a single sentence, they “sought knowledge through experience, especially experience from the underside of life” (Wagner, 12). The works of these authors had an “unstructured style and unconventional language, (meant) to convey their opposition to the cultural and aesthetic standards of previous generations” (Wagner, 14). Their writing style has been found as being influenced by the “popular jazz and bebop music of the times” (Wagner, 38). The key emotion which is associated with this group could be termed as ““beatness” or “weariness” with the world” (Wagner, 36).
This paper envisages finding out how the elements of beat generation that Kerouac used in his novel, On the Road, influenced the culture, reader/audience, and ‘story’ in the period in which the novel was published and how it continues to affect present literature. It is hypothesized that this novel, through its beat elements, gave a new perspective about culture, influenced the reader/audience by imbibing in them a yearning to be free from social conventions and experiment with new ways of living, and affected the ‘story’ in such a way that matters thought hitherto unspeakable in literature were accepted as themes and topics. It is by analyzing and comparing existing literature on the topic that this paper seeks to carry out this exercise.
Review of Literature Culture Weinreich has reminded that once beat became popular, the beat generation was not limited to poetry or literature but to everything else as well (263). The “beatniks” had become “cultural icons” (Weinreich, 264). Tamony has observed that the word ‘beat’ began to be used in “musical circles” in the same year when the ‘Bible of beat generation’, “On the Road”, was published (276). Even the legendary name, Beatles, had emerged from the concept of “beat” (Weinreich, 264). There was even “a recipe for majoun, a marijuana jam which the Beats used to high literary purpose in their Tangier outpost” (Weinreich, 265). In this manner, the authors and critics (Tamony; Weinreich) who studied the beat generation and the book, “On the Road”, have found that beat inflicted all walks of life, thereby getting absorbed into the culture and even when the movement subsided, some remnants of beat remained in the culture. Reader/Audience “On the Road” depicts types of behaviors objectionable in the view of mainstream society, like, “stealing, heavy drinking, drug use, and sexual promiscuity” as adventures that do not necessarily demand any judgment (Wagner, 43). The book was criticized as embodiment of the “moral demise of a generation” but was also overwhelmingly received by America as a literary turning point (Wagner, 41). This novel was an outcome of a cross-country trip that Jack Kerouac made along with his friend, Neal Cassady (Wagner, 39). The protagonists in the novel are seen indulging in all the objectionable behaviors mentioned above and also live a care free life drenched in music and ecstasy imparted by drug and alcohol use (Kerouac). Jack Kerouac also had his own battles to fight to cope with the problem of alcoholism (Wagner, 43). In Kerouac’ own words, the impact on the reader/audience of this beat lifestyle presented in literature and music was that: Postwar youth emerged cool and beat, had picked up the gestures and the style; soon it was everywhere, the new look.. . the bop visions became common property of the commercial, popular cultural world .... The ingestion of drugs became official (tranquilizers and the