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The Dharma Bums Aesthetic Response

The Dharma Bums Aesthetic Response

After the opening chapter of the novel in which the narrator writes, “Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running- that’s the way to live” (7), I knew that the book was not only going to be interesting, but also great. I was not displeased after finishing it either. The Dharma Bums struck me as being one of the most fantastic books that I have ever read; one that contains an amazingly simple and captivating plot, an introduction and insight into the Buddhist philosophy and its followers of the 50’s, and also contains the most provocative insight and philosophy about humanity and life. After the finishing the last page, I can remember wishing that the journeys of Ray Smith and Japhy Ryder would continue on infinitely, but also having the feeling of contentment that the novel’s ending was exactly the way in which it should have ended. I believe that this novel may have been written for me, though. Kerouac specifically outlined the life that I had been thinking about and justified it by saying that a lifestyle such as a dharma bum needs no justification except its pureness and simplicity: of which Lao-Tzu would be proud. Upon first reading, I clearly understand why this book has been hailed as the vagabond, tramp, and backpacker’s Bible and guidebook to life and philosophy. It has the ability to inspire anyone to give up the life of materialism and television in search of something better and, like Holden of Catcher in the Rye, the reader can find a part of him/herself in Ray and Japhy and, therefore, begin to understand their sentiments and reasons for leaving the world. The author has, therefore, not only create…

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…ey’re hardheaded materialistic practical types, they don’t know shit about matter, their heads are full of dreamy ideas and notions” (206). This is exactly true. The closer you get to reality, the more you lose touch with the “reality” that has been created for us. It is then that you truly begin to again learn to see for the first time and, all of a sudden, the food you eat tastes better, human voice becomes sweeter, charity becomes better, and life and all of its beauty are revealed for the first time. I think that in writing The Dharma Bums, Kerouac knew a great deal about this. He knew that purity came from the heart and, because of this, he knew the true essence of beauty was not to be found in magazines or television, but right in front of our eyes in Zion’s nature and harmony.

Works Cited:

Kerouac, Jack. Dharma Bums, The. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.

Esther’s Role Models in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

Esther’s Role Models in The Bell Jar

Throughout Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood has trouble deciding who she wants to be. Her search for an identity leads her to look at her female role models. These women are not ideal in her eyes. Although they represent a part of what she herself wants to be, Esther finds it impossible to decide which one she is to become. Jay Cee, Mrs. Willard, Philomena Guinea, her mother and Doctor Nolan all act as role models for Esther Greenwood. The ways in which these women are portrayed reveals a lot about Esther’s perspectives on identity and her search for an identity of her own.

Jay Cee, Mrs. Willard, and Philomena Guinea are characterized as archetypes and therefore very limiting. Jay Cee is portrayed as hyper, abrupt and she speaks, “waspishly” (29). She is smart and talented but she is ugly. Philomena Guinea, on the other hand, says that she was stupid at college and is always described as being surrounded by beautiful things. The beauty that Esther sees as the binary opposite of ugly seems to have been acquired through her “millions and millions of dollars” (38). Jay Cee has “brains, so her plug-ugly looks [don’t] seem to matter” (5). But, Philomena has money so nothing else matters. Mrs. Willard is portrayed as the ultimate wife and mother. We are given the impression that Mrs. Willard embodies sensibility. She is what every little girl is supposed to grow up to be. But Esther sees differently. Mrs. Willard represents the inevitable outcome of marriage and motherhood – to flatten out under the husband’s foot like a kitchen mat (80).

The way the women are described brings to light the kind of relationship she had with them. For example, Esther doesn’…

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…eking out her own identity.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Brennan, Sheila M. “Popular Images of American Women in the 1950’s.” Women’s Rights Law Reporter 14 (1992): 41-67.

Bronfen, Elizabeth. Sylvia Plath. Writers and Their Work. Plymouth, UK: Northcote, 1998.

Evans, Sara M. Role Models of Women in America. New York: Free-Simon, 1989.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. Twentieth Anniversary Edition. 1963. New York: Norton, 1983.

Nizer, Louis. The Implosion Conspiracy. New York: Doubelday, 1973.

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. London: Faber, 1966.

Radosh, Ronald, and Joyce Milton, eds. The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth. 1983. New Haven: Yale UP, 1997.

Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. London: Viking-Penguin, 1989.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. New York: Simon, 1987.

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