Jack Kerouac’s Spiritual Evolution: A Comparative Study of The Dharma Bums and Satori in Paris
Eijzeren, L.M.M. van
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This thesis explores Beat-writer Jack Kerouac’s spirituality as it is represented in his autobiographical novels The Dharma Bums (1958) and Satori in Paris (1966). Since the traumatic loss of his brother in his youth, Kerouac had come to associate life with suffering. This moment marks the beginning of his spiritual quest. He sought to alleviate suffering and find the meaning of himself and his life. Although he distanced himself from the Catholicism of his youth during a period of intense Buddhism, it remained an ever-present theme in his writing. Thus, he gradually created a synthesis of Catholicism and Buddhism where both belief systems provide him with insights and meaning. He constantly sought salvation and therefore immersed himself in spirituality. After a period of intense spiritual practice and enlightenment, his fervor slowly waned and he found himself investigating his ancestral roots in a mostly drunken trip to France. Still, his suffering remained, as did his spirituality, albeit much less intensely. He had never been fully satisfied by his spiritual findings and never succeeded in alleviating suffering by finding a satisfactory meaning for his life.