Study Guide

Big Sur Chapter 6

By Jack Kerouac

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Chapter 6

  • Generally, Jack finds Monsanto's cabin to be fantastic, though it has its faults (like no screens in the windows).
  • He finds peace in his solitude here and spends his time daydreaming in the woods and "pray[ing] to the local spirits": "allow me to stay here, I only want peace." He is concerned with theological preoccupations, at least in the days before he goes mad.
  • He promises himself "no more dissipation," that all he will do for the rest of his days is "quietly watch the world and even enjoy it."
  • Here in the woods Jack finds a calm he never had in the city – here where there is "no booze, no drugs, no binges, no bouts with beatniks and drunks and junkies." Here he stops asking himself why God is torturing him. Here there is no more "self-imposed agony."
  • Jack remembers when he had to rehearse a reading of his prose for the Steve Allen Show – despite his insistence that, since he wrote it, he didn't have to rehearse reading it. When he got tired of the rehearsing and the hot lights, he went across the street to drink. He ended up doing the show later, sans rehearsal. Afterwards they took him out with a Hollywood starlet who "turn[ed] out to be a big bore trying to read [him] her poetry." In Hollywood, he concludes, love is for sale.
  • Anyway, writes Jack, these are the sorts of things he thinks about during the long solitary days in the woods.
  • One night a rat runs over his head while he's sleeping, so Jack makes a makeshift indoor tent using a folding cot, a big board, and two sleeping bags.
  • He also takes long hikes inland to "giant sad quiet valleys where you see 150 foot tall redwood trees."
  • He thinks he's a long way from the beat generation in this wilderness.
  • Jack again notes the mule – Alf the sacred burro – wandering back and forth within his fenced confines by the canyon. He feeds him apples and watches him rub himself against a tree.
  • Exploring the landscape, Jack finds a huge fallen tree that forms a bridge over a creek. He figures it must have fallen like that 500 years ago – for him, there's something eerily primordial about the entire area. He imagines himself pulling a huge fallen 60-foot redwood back to his cabin. He imagines a family watching him and asking, "Is anybody that strong?" to which he would reply, "You only think I'm strong." This has Jack laughing for hours.
  • It's now August in Big Sur. It's cold and damp and "every night is absolutely fog: no stars whatever to be seen." This works in Jack's favor, however, as it stops the weekenders from coming out and Jack has the valley to himself. Jack cites the booming August wind, however, as one of the contributing factors to his madness.
  • The best day of all, he writes, is the one when he "completely forgot" who he was, where he was, and the time of day. At the time he was wading in the creek and "rearranging the rocks" so he could more easily get fresh water from the creek with his jug.
  • He finds joy in this hard day's work outdoors.
  • Later, after his fit of madness, it horrified him to look back at these events and this landscape and "see how they'd all changed and become sinister […] when my eyes and my stomach nauseous and my soul screaming a thousand babbling words." "It's hard to explain," he concludes, "and the best thing to do is not to be false."

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