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"A Nakedness of Mind": Gender, Individualism and Collectivism in Jack Kerouac's On the Road
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This essay focuses on gender roles, individualism and collectivism in Jack Kerouac’s classic road-trip novel On the Road. In order to put the discussion into a meaningful context, I look at the novel from a historical perspective and examine how it relates to post-war American society. I argue that the novel is, in many ways, representative of a society existing in a field of tension between individualism and collectivism, and that its notion of individual freedom, at the time revolutionary, can be seen as retrogressive with regard to the book’s portrayal and treatment of women. The essay features a discussion of what kind of individual freedom is presented in On the Road and how this freedom relates to typical American individualism as well as American post-war societal norms, the norm of the nuclear family in particular. This is followed by a brief analysis of how the novel influenced future generations, specifically in terms of sexual liberation. This analysis introduces a discussion of the way in which women are portrayed in the book and how this portrayal both represents collective progress in post-

war America—women are often described as financially independent—and a phallocentric type of individualism. I then show that this individualism is connected to an unthinking optimism which, I argue, is one of the key causes of the retrogressive view of women exemplified by the book. My study ultimately demonstrates that the novel’s notion of individualism—an individualism which was highly influential for future generations and is usually viewed as progressive—can arguably be seen as retrogressive in terms of Kerouac's representation of gender roles.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Jack Kerouac, On the road, gender, sexuality, individualism, collectivism, beat, beat generation, post-war america, beatniks, a nakedness of mind
National Category
General Literature Studies Specific Literatures
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-100041OAI: diva2:690644
Available from: 2014-01-27 Created: 2014-01-24 Last updated: 2014-01-27Bibliographically approved

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