Study Guide

Big Sur Spirituality

By Jack Kerouac

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Jack Kerouac is known for his unique spirituality, an amalgamation of Catholicism and Buddhism. While raised a Catholic, Kerouac studied Buddhism extensively and seemed to have no trouble reconciling the two. In fitting with the frightened mood of the novel, Jack's spirituality is darkened in comparison to that of his alter-ego in On the Road. He wonders if all his religious studies have been fruitless, if his madness is the work of devils, and if God hates the world.

Questions About Spirituality

  1. The first 30 chapters are dominated by quotations from eastern religions. What's going on with Jack's vision of the cross at the novel's climax? Is this at odds with his character's spirituality in the majority of the novel?
  2. What is it about Cody that reflects "golden heaven" for Jack?
  3. Does the novel indicate whether or not Kerouac still identifies as a Catholic at the time of writing Big Sur?

Chew on This

Jack's self-hatred is channeled in Big Sur as anger with God and religion.

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