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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Drugs and Alcohol

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...

Madness

Big Sur is the story of author Jack Kerouac's experiences with delirium tremens. In his opinion, this illness resulting from alcohol withdrawal is a form of madness. The novel builds towards one pa...

Mortality

Big Sur is riddled with what Kerouac calls "signposts" of death, often in the form of dead animals or, in one instance, in the form of a sick friend. In recognizing the mortality of other living be...

Literature and Writing

Author Jack Kerouac, through the perspective of his later ego and narrator Jack Duluoz, maintains that literature can't touch the fullness of life. Life surrounds us, he writes, it overwhelms us in...

Transformation

Big Sur features a number of major transformations. The first brings to light the rift between the 25-year-old, "King of the Beat Generation," happy Jack Kerouac as featured in his earlier novel, O...

Man and the Natural World

Big Sur makes rather explicit comparisons between the city (San Francisco, specifically) and the natural world (in this case, a cabin in the woods of Big Sur, California). Kerouac describes the cit...

Isolation

Big Sur explores the tension between the desire to be alone and the need to be around others. Kerouac's alter ego and narrator, Jack Duluoz, oscillates between two extreme viewpoints: a cynical, mi...

Spirituality

Jack Kerouac is known for his unique spirituality, an amalgamation of Catholicism and Buddhism. While raised a Catholic, Kerouac studied Buddhism extensively and seemed to have no trouble reconcili...
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