Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma BumsJack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums does not fall too far from a basic description of his life. Kerouac spent the bulk of his writing career riding trains from city to city, meeting people and writing books and poetry. He was among the premier writers of the Beat Generation, a group of primarily urban poets and writers who put the basics of life and their spiritual nuances into poetry with a beat. The book, The Dharma Bums, is a window into the daily structure of the Beat Generation.
Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums while living the life of a bum, riding from city to city as a stowaway on various trains. He used an old portable typewriter that fed from a large roll of paper, into the typewriter, and back into a roll. This was a source of irritation to his publisher later on as Kerouac handed him a large roll of typed paper while announcing his new book. The book took only two weeks to write. It was one book of an unintentionally related series later referred to as the Dulouz Tales. Kerouac’s previous book, On the Road, defined the Beat Generation, and while expanding this explanation, The Dharma Bums focused more on the reasoning of the Beat Generation.
Focusing often on the Zen Buddhist beliefs of Ray, Kerouac’s character in The Dharma Bums, and Japhy, Ray’s best friend and spiritual mentor, the book often loses itself in pondering the meanings of life. Kerouac not only broaches the Zen Buddhist beliefs on the various issues, but also touches on how Christians, Taoists, and Muslims see the same issues. All this is affected in the dry, down to earth style of writing Kerouac became famous for.
Kerouac’s matter of fact style is evident throughout The Dharma Bums. When, during conversation, Kerou…
The Dharma Bums, as a whole, supplies an inside examination of the life of a beat poet. It allows the reader to watch and almost experience the questions and conflicts faced by many young beatniks during the late 50’s and early 60’s. Travelling from the cities to the summits of the Sierra Mountains, The Dharma Bums not only answered those questions for some, but apparently sparked questions in many. Following the publishing of The Dharma Bums, one year after On The Road, something began called the “rucksack revolution” as hundreds of young people grabbed their backpacks and rucksacks and headed for the hills and trains and fields, searching out their own answers to their own questions. The Dharma Bums had broken through to many, and where On the Road placed the Beat Generation on the map, The Dharma Bums gave detailed directions on how to get there.