Dear Revered Panel Members,
            During  the era of the 1950’s, many people in America were trying to buy homes and “settle down”, because this was the common social perception of what the “American Dream” entailed; However, “social misfits” such as Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady,
had an entirely different concept. While on the road, they sought to maintain their freedom and to push life to its limits. Jack Kerouac’s writings feature themes such as human transformation, meditation, alcoholism, freedom, conformism, and even the subject of existence. His novels were not written to epitomize topics such as the “red scare” in the 1950’s, but they were written to withhold the test of time, and it’s more than likely that they will do so because of their “forever relevant” subject matter.
             As the saying goes, “He, who opposes his majority, is the one that will have the greatest impact.” Whether the impact created by Mr. Kerouac was negative, or positive regarding the progression of society, it was undoubtedly one of the greatest “sparks” for the “beat generation” and it arguably promoted the kind of “free thinking” that young minds would use to start revelations such as the “Civil Rights Movement.” Many people have called Jack Kerouac’s writing “anti-Semitic”, and while he does often make racial stereotypes, this should not be a factor that turns you away from this author. While I don’t condone any form of racism, it would be untrue to this era to pretend that it never existed. After all, knowledge is the greatest form of prevention. With great astonishment, I say to you that this should increase your interest in the literature of Mr. Kerouac, because it’s an accurate representation of what people were like and what they thought, during this era. Once again, this is especially important to keep in mind, since this is an evaluation of “Great American authors” from the 1950’s. It’s important to note that “On the Road” was written on a 50 ft. scroll, from start to finish, in 3 weeks time. While the “marathon writing sessions” may seem “commonplace” for any serious writer, one must keep in mind that this style of writing is what inevitably helped to define Kerouac’s “Stream of Consciousness” writing style.
            The novel’s protagonist, Sal Paradise, is a character who is based on Kerouac himself. The appreciation for the “constant pursuit” is a philosophy that Mr. Kerouac greatly embraces. Rather than being held captive by responsibilities, Kerouac instead encouraged continual growth, while questioning desires in each moment. Through Sal’s eyes, Kerouac compares the passing of time in one’s life to that of the rapidly flowing current of the Mississippi River.  If one does not live their life to the fullest, they may have regrets throughout the journey. Through Sal’s reflection of his own pursuit, his thoughts become much more, personal, insightful, and “real”, which helps Kerouac to offer a new perspective on life as an American. Unfortunately, because of this, many “Nay-Sayers” envision Kerouac as some kind of a rebellious anti-American/anti-establishment author. The truth is, these accusations are far from Mr. Kerouac’s original intentions, for throughout his writings he continually expresses his love for the United States, and in particular it’s endless roads and vast landscapes.
             While I do not doubt the work of various other noteworthy authors of the 1950’s, I commend Mr. Kerouac for his innovative writing style, and also for his profound insights which look into the philosophy and meaning of life. If you, as members of the respected panel, decide to choose Jack Kerouac as “The Great American Author” it would not be for his evaluation of the “American Dream” (from a typical author’s approach), or for his experiences and breakdowns of a suburban lifestyle. It would be for his rebellious, yet affectionate relationship with his nation, America, and for his groundbreaking writing style, “character development”, and attempt to portray and define the thought that every human being asks of him or herself at one point, “What is the meaning of life?”



Sean Williamson,

American Literary Scholar