Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway represent their inner state and feelings at the time they lived through their novels. Ernest Hemingway corresponds to the “Lost Generation” of 1920’s and Jack Kerouac corresponds to the “Beat Generation” of 1950’s. Both of these generations were after wars. It is not coincidence, wars make people devastated and lost. People tried to overcome problems and pain through literature and music. Writers put all their emotions on the paper, musicians wrote songs, which described the hard time they had. These two generations produced the most talented writers of our days.
For us it seems that there was no big deal to write such openly, but if we try to go back to the time of these authors, we will understand how brave they were to write about the truth. In these two post war eras people tried to redefine their place in society and that we see this through gender role and relationships among men and women. Generally though you find the redefinitions in “The Sun Also Rises” to be pessimistic, but while “On the Road” they tend to be optimistic. Woman is given high importance in Hemingway’s novel, whereas Kerouac introduced women with less importance.
These authors have differences and similarities in their novels. Both of them wrote in a post war eras, both of them described people’ s lifestyles, both of them introduced new view on the gender roles at that time. But, Hemingway wrote with the pessimistic view on life, whereas Kerouac believed in a meaning of life, yet to be found. Hemingway wrote, “The Sun Also rises” after the First World War during the “Lost Generation”. The war changed the perception of morality and justice. The traditional values and the roles of gender changed. This book pictures true story of what happened to the society and how gender roles changed.
Before the war, “true women” were characterized as religious and obedient to their men. Women looked after their families, cooked, and did not worked out in public sphere. On the contrast men were portrayed as the ones who earned money, worked out in public sphere and had control over women. After the war, those roles changed. As men left for war, women had to work and earn money just to feed their families, so that they started to occupy the workplace that was once for men only. Women were able not only to work, but also supply their families without men.
As men came back after the war felt that women were not so different from them, and that they were not weaker than them. This created trouble for men; they were lost; they could not differentiate themselves from women. As time passed men started to associate themselves with the group of men, which did not differentiate themselves from women – homosexuals. They did this step, because they felt that women threatened their identities’. So, the traditional view of men and women changed. For example, Hemingway redefined the view on masculinity and femininity with introducing Brett and Jake.
Even the name – Brett sounds masculine, as the behavior of Brett throughout the book. Brett is an image of women of the “Lost Generation”. She is strong and she is free to do what she wants to do. She drinks as much as man drinks, she goes to bloody bullfights, and she often changes her partners. Before the war, there were established boundaries in marriage and sex, as men could cheat, but women would never do that, as they represented obedient wives and good mothers. Brett is married and she cheated with other men. Brett loved Jake, but she could not be with him, so that she accepted her life as it is.
She continued to live without meaning, she did not have family, she slept with different men, she did not love, and she did not change anything in her life. On the contrary, Jake came back after the war wounded. He was feminized not only emotionally, but also physically. He was less of man with his impotency. Jake was in love with Brett, but because of his injury he is rejected by her. He asked her to be with him:” Couldn’t we live together, Brett? ” but the answer he got was not satisfying: “I don’t think so. I’d just tromper you with everybody. You couldn’t stand it” (p. 62). Jake is lost; he could not fully realize himself as a normal man.
This problem means that he could not have sex, he could not marry, and finally he could not have a normal family with children. All of these problems made him get drunk often, as alcohol helped him to forget about problems for a little time. Once, Robert Cohn asked him: “Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize that you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already? ” and he answers, “Yes, every once in a while. ” (p. 30). So, alcohol was an escape from his problems and he said: “Under the wine I lost disgusted feeling and was happy” (p. 150).
When he is drunk, life seems better and easier. But when he wakes up next morning, he regrets it, but he never tries to change his life, he just accepts it as it is. Hemingway presented Jake and Brett to portray people with lost believes and nothingness. Both of them accepted their lives as it was and did not try to change anything. Hemingway is not optimistic about the future, for him and his characters the meaning of life is lost. Similarly to Hemingway, Kerouac shows readers how people wanted to escape reality, as to forget about war young people traveled across the country in order to find the lost meaning of the life and have fun.
Kerouac chooses a different path and describes the characters of the novel as optimistic people, who were not just accepting the reality, but also wanted to change it and find the lost meaning of the life. The Beat Generation is considered on of the most important cultural movements of the twentieth century. The Beats, as they were called were influenced not only by literature, but also by jazz, philosophy and religion. The classic representation of the Beat Generation is the novel “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac. The Beat Generation changed the established view of literature by introducing music and sex.
Kerouac used music in his novel in order to add reality. For example, Sal, the narrator describes Dean using music to express what he feels. Right after Dean argues with his mom, he listens to the music. Kerouac describes him: “Dean sat down sat down, listened to music, and reflected on what had just happened” (p. 98). Kerouac uses music in serious problems and in social events. Sal and Dean enjoy music in clubs, by going there on a regular basis. Sal says “We went to the club, had some drinks, and danced to the music like we wanted to” (p. 106). So music became a part of life of people in that time.
The use of sex in “On The Road ”shocked people at that time. They were not used to that kind of literature. The language used in the novel was rude sometimes. Kerouac was the first to describes sex openly. For instance, Sal describes his sexual intercourse: “In reverent and silence she took all her clothes off and slipped her tiny body into the sheets with me. It was brown as grapes. I saw her poor belly where there was a Caesarean scar; her hips were so narrow she couldn’t bear a child without getting gashed open. I made love to her in the sweetness of the weary morning” (p. 4). For us, is considered to be normal, because society changed and people changed. What was previously shocking, now is acceptable. Kerouac as Hemingway presented gender relationships in his novel, but in a different way. From the beginning of the book, he introduced Sal and his quick divorce. This is a sign, which represents weak understanding between men and women at that point of time. Sal did not understand his wife, and she was also not woman of “tradition”, for whom marriage was the meaning of the life. She just run away from the problems and quitted marriage.
But Kerouac did not feminized men, as Hemingway did, on the contrary he represented women to be not important as men. Beats removed the taboo on view on sex, but they did not free women. Even the society changed the traditional view on women; majority of society still could not accept it and society was segregated until female liberation in 1960’s. In contrast to Hemingway, Kerouac is optimistic in his novel. He portrays his characters as traveling from one place to another, and having fun. Sal and his friends are examples of strong masculine group, the group that based on male friendship.
On the contrary in “The Sun Also Rises”, where men fought because of woman, for them women was not given such an importance. Women were the ones who kept house clean and cooked. For example, when Sal goes to Denver to stay at his friend’s house, he says: “My first afternoon in Denver I slept in Chad King’s room while his mother went on with her housework downstairs and Chad worked at the library” (p. 40). ” All the main characters are men, as in contrast to Hemingway, where Brett was one of the main characters. Kerouac did not have main female characters.
Kerouac uses female not as a character, but rather as an object and in a relation to a man. Sal says: “One of Ray’s sisters was a beautiful blonde called Babe – a tennis-playing, surf-riding doll of the west. She was Tim Gray’s girl” (p. 42). But Kerouac devoted some importance to female characters. For example, Sal’s female friend in Denver – Frankie, and his aunt, whom he constantly sent money are presented with an importance. As Sal thinks about his aunt, and as he gets money, he sends them to his aunt, as she was a relative of him and represented an important person.
But overall, Kerouac presented women as dependent on men, as he describes Sal’s friend’s wife: “She was a fetching hunk, a honey-coloured creature, but there was hate in her eyes for both of us. Her ambition was to marry a rich man. She came from a small town in Oregon. She rued the day she ever took up with Remi. On one of his big showoff weekends he spent a hundred dollars on her and she thought she’d found an heir. Instead she was hung up in this shack, and for the lack of anything else she had to stay there. (p. 61)”. In “On the Road” women were presented as objects, they were means to achieve sexual pleasure.
On the contrary, Brett in “The Sun Also Rises” was loved and Jake just wanted to be with her and sexual pleasure was secondary to him. There were many sexual intercourses presented throughout the book. So, it shows that men changed their partners often, and women were replaceable. One day they could have sex with one girl, another day with another girl. There were no true love, as in “The Sun Also Rises”, women were not important, as Brett, and man did not suffer because of love, as Jake did. Women herself did not matter; only enjoyment she could give mattered.
When visiting Chicago Sal and Dean, the first thing they did was – searching for new girls to have fun and sex with them. Dean says: “What a weird town – wow, and that woman in that window up there, just looking down with her big breasts hanging from her nightgown, big wide eyes. Whee” (p. 224). This whole attitude towards women can be connected to the lifestyle of the Beats. They traveled, they basically live on the road, and they were not committed to anyone. But it was not forever; as the male characters got older they changed their view on women and their wild lifestyle to more stable one.
For instance, Dean meets Laura in New York and says: “There she was, the girl with the pure and innocent dear eyes that I had always searched for and for so long. We agreed to love each other madly” (p. 288). The characters by the end of the book start to think about creating their own families. For them, wife should be loyal and tolerant, which is totally different from Hemingway’s Brett, who was not loyal to anyone. So, Kerouac and Hemingway had similarities, as both of them presented problems that arose between man and woman during the time they lived.
But, two of them had different perspective on these problems. Characters in the “The Sun Also Rises” are pessimistic, and characters in “On The Road” are optimistic. As Hemingway portrays his characters as the ones who accepted their lives, and did not make an attempt to change it. Kerouac presented his characters as full of adventures, which wanted to find the meaning of the life. Hemingway used true love for woman, and gave more importance to woman, as he portrayed them to be “masculinized” and strong, whereas Kerouac presented women as replaceable and less important than man.
And man characters were presented differently in those two novels. Hemingway presented man to be feminized and Kerouac presented man as strong, and who used women for sexual pleasure. Both of these novels represent post war eras and both of this novel introduced new view on man-woman relationship.
1) Stanley, Deborah A. “On the Road”. Thomson Gale. Rpt. In vol. 8 Detroit: Gale Research p. 180- 192. ) 2) Hemmingway, E. (2006). The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner. 3) Kerouac, J. (1957). On the Road. Viking Press.