Date of Award

Winter 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Erin C. Singer


This examination of two of Jack Kerouac’s roman-á-clefs, On the Road (1957) and The Dharma Bums (1958), illuminates characteristics of Kerouac’s personality and writing that are often ignored by current criticism. I will attempt to enhance current Kerouac scholarship by further analyzing the physical and spiritual journeys that Kerouac’s personas experience in these novels, contrasting Kerouac’s personas’ development with that of his Beat Generation companions. Despite his admiration for Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) and Japhy Ryder (Gary Snyder), Kerouac does not present these individuals as American heroes. Indeed, Kerouac’s cynical narration suggests that these Beat characters cannot offer him the means through which to find enlightenment. I will highlight the significance of place in these two novels, emphasizing Kerouac’s disillusionment with his fellow Beat thinkers. Kerouac’s desire to distance himself from the moniker of “King of the Beats” stems from the failure of the Beat Movement ever to exist fully. Despite the failure of his vision to come to fruition, Kerouac’s literature holds value outside of his connection with the Beat Generation. While Jack Kerouac may not have been the King of the Beats in the manner that he had envisioned, I argue that he may prove to be the voice that is needed for a future generation.