Big Sur
Big Sur
by Jack Kerouac

Big Sur as Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Rebirth Plot

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type :

Falling Stage

Jack's alcoholism/delirium tremens/madness

We get the sense that Jack has been under this "dark power" for some time now. And in fact, many of these Booker stages are going to have to be somewhat flexible to fit the plot of Big Sur because Kerouac did not write a classically composed novel. Still, it will be interesting to see how Big Sur fits into the Booker format.

Recession Stage

Jack's time alone in Big Sur

According to Booker, this is the stage where "all may seem to go reasonably well." Jack writes that the solitary time in Monsanto's cabin does his soul good. There are those "signposts" of something wrong, but for the most part, our "hero" is happy.

Imprisonment Stage

The signposts get worse; Jack begins to disintegrate

This is where the dark power grows stronger until it imprisons the hero. In this case, Jack's worsening visions, drinking, and paranoia begin to consume his character, the novel, and even the text's prose.

Nightmare Stage

Chapter Thirty-Seven

This part of the novel is quite literally a "nightmare stage." Jack's delirious nightmares mark the height of his madness, paranoia, and fear. As Booker writes, "it seems that dark power has completely triumphed…"

Rebirth Stage

Jack falls asleep; when he wakes up, the world is golden heaven

In a typical Booker Rebirth plot, the hero is saved by a young woman or child. This is not the case here. The "young woman" (Billie) is suicidal or possibly even filicidal (i.e., wanting to kill her child). According to our hero, the "child" (Elliot) is a "cretin." Neither of them will be saving Jack. Jack's rebirth is self-propelled, though we are left to wonder just how long this recovery will last.

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