Study Guide

Big Sur Chapter 19

By Jack Kerouac

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Chapter 19

  • Thus begins "a roaring drinking bout" "deep in the canyon."
  • Jack is fascinated by McLear, who's just written "the most fantastic poem in America" called "Dark Brown." Apparently it describes, among other things, sex between him and his beautiful wife.
  • Jack wants to read them his "Sea" poem but doesn't get a chance. Ron is singing and Arthur is still drawing in the corner. They all discuss the way old people drive slowly in Safeway parking lots.
  • As everyone gets increasingly drunk, the conversation becomes bizarre. McLear reads his poems and Monsanto tells stories about the strange guys in his bookstore. Jack doesn't eat any of the steak, he just drinks and converses.
  • When they finally head down to the beach, Jack has it in his head that he's the leader of a gang of guerilla soldiers, challenging some unknown enemy.
  • Monsanto lights a bonfire and the fear and horror Jack felt at being alone here by the water is subdued.
  • Everyone passes out except for Jack and Arthur Ma, who stay up shouting unintelligible things back and forth to each other across the fire. For example:
  • Question: "Who told you you had a hat on your head?"
  • Response: "My head never questions hats."
  • Jack promises more examples to come later.

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