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Themes

Big Sur is the fictional rendering of true events in the life of author Jack Kerouac. In 1960 Kerouac was a serious alcoholic suffering from cyclical bouts of delirium tremens. The novel deals with this disease explicitly and directly; the free-form style allows for a realistic rendering of Kerouac's delirious nightmares. Big Sur explores the illness of alcoholism as main character Jack Duluoz (Kerouac's alter-ego) oscillates between happy, drunken states and miserable mornings (or weeks) after.

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. How does Jack drink when he's with others? When he's alone? Are these different kinds of drinking? Do they serve different purposes?
  2. Why does Jack drink? What does he cite as his reasons, and are these explanations validated by his actions in the novel?
  3. In Chapter Thirty-One, Dave tells Jack that he ought not to drink so much. Jack's response is, "That's not the real trouble." What is the real reason?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Much of the sickness Jack feels after drinking has to do with identity, with reconciling the morning-after alcoholic with the way he sees himself.

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