Study Guide

Dave Wain in Big Sur

By Jack Kerouac

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Dave Wain

Real Name: Lew Welch (photo)

Dave Wain is the alter-ego of Beat poet, Lew Welch, a friend of Kerouac and many of the other Beats. Think of his character in Big Sur as a stand-in of Neal Cassady's alter ego, Dean Moriarty, in On the Road. In this novel, Dave is the friend and companion to Jack, while Neal Cassady's new alter-ego, Cody Pomeray, is moved to the sidelines. (In On the Road, Dean Moriarty was Jack's sidekick.) And indeed, Dave Wain and Cody Pomeray share some important companion similarities. Both of them are famous for their driving, an important skill for anyone hanging with Jack. Second, both men work with their hands and are characterized by a furious devotion to honest, hard labor. Whether it be fishing or cooking or talking, Dave, like Dean/Cody before him, throws himself into his activities and narrates as he goes. "I think fishing is bettern anything" Dave tells Jack, "and I intend to entirely reorganize my life for this […]. I'm writing a final definitive article on how clean hard work is the savior of us all" (35.2).

As is the case with many things in Big Sur, no one says it better than Jack. For a real understanding of Dave look no further than Kerouac's introduction:

…that lean rangy red head Welchman with his penchant for going off in Willie to fish in the Rogue River up in Oregon where he knows an abandoned mining camp, or for blattin around the desert roads, for suddenly reappearing in town to get drunk, and a marvelous poet himself, has that certain something that young hip teenagers probably wanta imitate – For one thing is one of the world's best talkers, and funny too. (11.10)

Dave Wain in Big Sur Study Group

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