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Big Sur

Big Sur


by Jack Kerouac

Analysis: Steaminess Rating

Exactly how steamy is this story?


Everyone's familiar with the sex in On the Road; if you're not, read about it in Shmoop's coverage of On the Road. Just as everything else has grown darker and gloomier for Kerouac, so has sex and love. Just look at Jack's description of an orgasm in the first paragraph of Chapter Thirty-Five:

There's an awful paranoiac element […] in orgasm […], some token venom that splits up in the body – I feel a ghastly hatred of myself and everything […], as tho I've been robbed of my spinal power right down the middle on purpose by a great witching force. (35.1)

When he does have sex, he finds it sinister and villainous, or even emasculating (he's embarrassed that Billie has to be on top when they make love). There's also something that seems dirty and about their physical relationship, highlighted by Elliot's objections (the four-year-old pulls at his mother while she's having sex and begs her not to do it). Yet when Jack doesn't have sex, he's ashamed of himself, likely in part because he's unable to live up to his label as one of "the big sex heroes" of his generation. (As we talk about in Jack's "Character Analysis," dealing with the rift between his image and his reality is a contributing factor to his madness.)

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