Study Guide

Big Sur Literature and Writing

By Jack Kerouac

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 its enormity. Writing is, at best, an approximation of what really goes on in the world. At the peak of his alcohol-driven madness, Kerouac feels shame at his profession. He even vows to never write again (though, quite obviously, he changes his mind after the fact). Big Sur raises interesting questions about the purpose of writing, particularly the writing of confessional, autobiographical novels such as Big Sur. Is writing a self-serving process of introspection? Or is Kerouac thinking of his readers rather than himself? While these questions are never raised nor answered directly, Big Sur suggests them, particularly in the novel's final line: "There's no need to say another word."

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. Jack notes that he and Cody don't really speak much in Big Sur. How, then, do the two friends communicate?
  2. Why drives Jack to write down "the sounds of the sea" during his first visit to Big Sur? What does the process of recording these sounds do for him?
  3. Why does Jack vow that, if he gets out of Big Sur alive, he'll stop writing? What's wrong with literature, in his opinion? Does he change his mind in the novel's optimistic ending?

Chew on This

The only effective communication in Big Sur is non-verbal.

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