The Beat Generation faded from view as quickly as it appeared. Quickly stepping into the void were the beatniks. Despite the similar sounding names, the beatniks had very little in common with the Beats. Instead of a movement and an ideology, the beatniks represented little more than a fashion. Specifically, the beatnik was the laid-back, poetry reading goateed man, usually dressed in black. It is possible that this fashion was the result of society’s consumption and regurgitation of the Beat Generation aesthetic. If that’s the case, then the Beat writers were consumed and commodified by the very culture they sought to undermine. The hippie movement of the 1960s also owes a great debt to the Beats, though probably the Beats would not be quick to own that claim. The counterculture hippies generally lacked the intellectual backing that the Beats earned in the 1940s. In order to rebel and change a system, one must have some knowledge of the inner workings of that system. The Beat Generation was more educated and sophisticated than they seemed at first glance. Their artistic rebellion was calculated, and informed with an understanding of what came before them.
Jack Kerouac was a very special person he had qualities and abilities that made him stand out from other people. One quality that I feel made him very unique, was his ability to express his feelings through his writing. A good example of this is when Jacks father died. Leo Kerouac had stomach cancer and was dying a long painful death. At the same time Jack's attempt at a marriage was failing. Jack expressed his feelings of loss from this situation in his novel The Town and The City. Jack Kerouac was in a weak position at the time and he showed he was strong by writing how he felt.
“Oh the sad music of it all, I’ve done it all, seen it all, done everything with everybody…The whole world is coming on like a high school sophomore eager to learn what he calls new things, mind you, the same old sing-song, sad song truth of death.” Big Sur is about this realization, that death waits for everyone, even those who seem the most full of life. “Something good will come out of all things yet,” he states at the end of the biographical novel, but anyone who knows the author’s story after this book knows that disintegration and death indeed triumph. We don’t want this. We want the romance of youth and the endless road ahead. Nevertheless, if Kerouac can face the loss of his dream, then so can we.