Study Guide

Big Sur Chapter 13

By Jack Kerouac

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Chapter 13

  • On the way to see Cody, Jack experiences yet another indication of his later madness: he thinks he sees a flying saucer over Los Gatos.
  • It turns out to be only the top of a radio tower, but still. It reminds him of the time he took mescaline.
  • When they arrive, Cody is sitting over a chess board pondering. His wife Evelyn, a good friend of Jack's, has built a fire, and the kids are in bed.
  • Jack hasn't seen Cody for quite a while as Cody has been doing time in San Quentin for two years on account of marijuana possession. Jack expects his friend to be bitter, but Cody is "quieter, more radiant, more patient, manly, more friendly even."
  • Though Jack is "bursting" to explain everything to Cody about what he's been doing the last few years, Cody only has an hour before he has to go to work.
  • The two men can see that they both regret not having time alone just to talk. Jack misses the old On the Road days, when he and Cody still had time to tell each other their own stories, back before everyone else encroached on their circle.
  • Jack can tell that both Dave and Stanley immediately love Cody (they've never met him before tonight).
  • Jack tries quickly to explain to Cody about what happened the day he (Jack) was supposed to go to San Quentin and lecture the inmates' religious class: he got drunk the night before and overslept.
  • Cody tells him not to worry about it, but Jack knows that his friend hates to see him drink.
  • During all of this both Ron and Dave have been lusting after Cody's wife Evelyn, a beautiful blonde who wants to be left alone with Jack so they can talk about Cody "and his latest soul." Part of this conversation is likely going to be devoted to Billie Dabney, Cody's mistress, who's trying to take him away from his wife.
  • Finally they all go with Cody to his job, which is recapping tires by the San Jose highway. Everyone marvels at Cody's strength and speed (Jack compares him to "Vulcan at his forge").
  • Afterwards they head back to the boarding house in the city, drink heavily, and pass out on the floor.
  • Jack wakes up and feels eternities away from Big Sur, "back in the gooky city" and "trapped."

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