Book Review: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road Jack Kerouac Quote poster The Beat by Redpostbox ...

“On the Road” is a novel by American Beat writer Jack Kerouac, first published in 1957. The novel, mostly autobiographical, loosely structured and episodic, depicts the absurd life experiences of a group of young people and reflects the spiritual emptiness and muddled state of postwar American youth widely regarded as a classic of the hippie movement and the beat generation in the 1960s. “On the Road” is the the protagonist Sal’s pursuit of personality along with Dean, Marylou, several young men and women across the continental United States to Mexico. They drank too much, talked too much about Zen in the East, blocked cars when they got tired, slept in villages, and wandered from New York to San Francisco. At the same time, the book embodies the techniques of improvisation and spontaneity that the author advocates: the natural flow of thought, counter-plot, heavy use of slang, colloquial language, long, ungrammatical sentences, and extensive references to American social and cultural mores. On the other hand, the book shows the mountains, plains, deserts, and towns in the vast land of United States.

Like the beat generation in real life, the characters in “On the Road” are rebellious young people who defy political authority, secular ideas, traditional morality and law. In the oppressive and depressing society of the McCarthy era, these young people felt unbearable oppression and bondage and were always looking for relief. They are frantically speeding back and forth across the vast continent as they seek instinctive release, self-expression, and spiritual freedom. Their addiction to drugs, sexual indulgence, and jazz music were also, to a larger extent, extreme manifestations of their search for soul liberation. “On the Road” isn’t just about how these young people are challenging mainstream culture, venting their frustration, and trying to break free of its constraints. That is to say, it is not just about denial, but more importantly, it is also about these young people’s painful exploration of new ways of life and beliefs. Perhaps the most profound thing about Kerouac is not so much the extreme life experiences of the beat generation, their rebellion and pursuit, their nirvana and misery, but his reflections on the beat movement itself. It is this kind of thinking that best illustrates the spiritual pursuit and endless transcendence demonstrated by Kerouac and the beat writers.

-Coreen C.

Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Penguin Books ...

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by American writer Mark Twain. It is a sequel to the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, first published in 1885. The hero of the story is Huckleberry Finn, who met the reader in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn was a bright, kind, and brave white boy. He fled to the Mississippi River in pursuit of a free life. On the run, he meets Jim, a slave. Jim is a hard-working, simple, warm, honest, and loyal slave. He fled from his master’s house in order to escape the fate of being sold again by the master. The two went through various adventures. The novel praised the boy Huckleberry’s wit and kindness, condemned the hypocrisy of religion and the ignorance of believers, and created the image of a dignified slave.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a masterpiece because Mark Twain took the literary traditions of the American frontier west and expanded them beyond the narrow confines of such humorous literature. There are many readers who, after reading this novel, admire the consistency, perfection, and appropriateness of the various dialects used by the author — it is hard to find a word in this book that is not closely tailored for Huckleberry or Jim.

As a classic work in American literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain has its unique linguistic art, namely the use of colloquial language. The language of the protagonist narrator often breaks grammatical conventions, matches with the narrator’s child-like thinking, and changes verb tenses at will. In addition, the language of other characters is mostly dialect, including slang. The colloquial language of Huckleberry Finn created a new style of literary language, creating a profound influence on American writers later.

-Coreen C.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Written in 1898, The Awakening¬†follows the main protagonist Edna Pontellier. Edna begins to feel somewhat out of place and out of touch with the morals and customs typically followed by the other women in her community. Her view on femininity and her roles as a mother begin to deviate from the norm, making her feel even more out of place from the other women. The novel follows her journey into discovering herself and her attempts to break free from society as she slowly becomes “Awakened”.

Under the surface of this novel, however, is a discussion of women’s roles in society during the late 1800s / early 1900s. Kate Chopin uses various characters– Edna herself included– throughout this novel to help reflect some of the social norms and attitudes to women’s place in society during the time she wrote the novel. Oftentimes hailed as one of the earliest works and novels on feminism, this book clearly highlighted to anyone that read it that women were being subjugated and that there were plenty of women who were unhappy with the traditional motherly role expected of them. Because of Chopin’s controversial portrayal of this fact, the novel would often be censored. Over time, however, this novel would grow to become recognized for its brilliance and its importance in discussing femininity and women’s roles in society.

-Kobe L.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.