Contra Mundum: Divorce in Brideshead Revisited



Contra Mundum: Divorce in Brideshead Revisited

by Michael H. Walker, III

As its title might indicate, Evelyn Waugh’s sweeping novel Brideshead Revisited traces the paths that people follow from divorce to reunion. Why, then, does a novel about the means “by which God continually calls souls to Himself”[1] seem to convey that He calls them away from each other? Indeed, divorce visits each of the characters’ private existences in some capacity or another, yet in some fashion, this is the force that binds them to each other as the story progresses. The narrator Charles Ryder withdraws from his wife, Celia, to come near to Julia, though she is married to Rex Mottram. Likewise, Julia and her brother, Sebastian, must cope in various ways with the fact that their parents, the Marchmains, dwell apart. Meanwhile, Brideshead and Cordelia, the other Marchmain children, contemplate religious vocations as a possible outlet.

Over the course of the narrative, Charles comes to the conclusion, particularly through Julia, that even though people can and do divorce themselves from one another, God ever pursues union with the souls He brings into being, and that this union is the only one by which one can hope to unite with others on a true basis. Indeed, it could be said that the problem this text presents is one of fleshing out the colon in the title – Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Charles Ryder – because Charles grows to wed the sacred with the profane in the life of his memories. In this, he revisits the true Bride – the Church – apart from the world of people which introduced him to Her. As Jeffrey Heath puts it, “Brideshead is a book about love, and Waugh asserts that the worthiest expression of man’s love is his love for God as expressed through membership in the Church, Christ’s bride” (168-169).

This experience of grace on Charles’ part seems predicated upon a certain withdrawal from those around him. We see this first in the “Prologue,” wherein Charles revisits Brideshead, occasioning the reminiscences that constitute the body of the narrative. When the army encamps there, he realizes once and for all that “[h]ere love had died between me and the army” (3). He repeats, “Here my last love died. There was nothing remarkable in the manner of its death” (5). Then, he renders explicit his metaphysical conceit comparing his feelings towards the army to a divorce: “I knew it all, the whole drab compass of marital disillusion; we had been through it together, the army and I, from the first importunate courtship until now, when nothing remained to us except the chill bonds of law and duty and custom” (6). In some sense, the journey of the novel is a journey beyond those “chill bonds of law and duty and custom,” such that newly found fervor for the divine seems to arise out of “the whole drab compass of marital disillusion” under which the characters become encircled. Indeed, the marital becomes moral in Charles’ disenchanted psyche: “I had played every scene in the domestic tragedy, had found the early tiffs become more frequent, the tears less affecting, the reconciliations less sweet, till they engendered a mood of aloofness and cool criticism, and the growing conviction that it was not myself but the loved one who was at fault” (6). The language of conversion in religion permeates Charles’ brooding over a fractured relationship, as the questions of fault and reconciliation come to the fore.

Charles’ double alienation from heaven and earth alike leads him to the world of Brideshead. When he visits Brideshead for the first time, he confides to Sebastian, “Perhaps I am rather curious about people’s families – you see, it’s not a thing I know about. There is only my father and myself. An aunt kept an eye on me for a time but my father drove her abroad” (39-40). Charles’ fascination with Sebastian’s family rests in the fact that he maintains fewer blood relations. What little family he has in his father seems to repulse any other remnant, distancing him further. It is this mutual distance from family that forges their friendship. Even Charles’ memento mori, the skull with the words Et in Arcadia ego etched onto it, evokes the divorce between life and death. Death divorces not only the dead from the living but the living family from each other, insofar as Charles is given to understand that his father “had disliked my uncle for nearly sixty years and partly because, as Jasper had said, he lived in his own world now, since my mother’s death” (43). Both Charles’ father and Charles’ friend teach him the separation that develops between the sacred and the profane, a divorce only death can mend.

Sebastian’s mother, Lady Marchmain, proves acutely aware of Sebastian’s desire to escape her mantle, leading her to come close to Charles, which is exactly what Sebastian fears. He feels that when she whom he desires to flee from befriends his friends, he must flee from them, too: “If they once get hold of you with their charm, they’d make you their friend, not mine, and I won’t let them” (37). Sadly, Sebastian’s prescience rings true, for Charles remembers, “She accepted me as Sebastian’s friend and sought to make me hers also, and in doing so, unwittingly struck at the roots of our friendship” (190). No wonder, after getting drunk in a vehicle, Sebastian says, “I’d sooner go to prison” (121) than deal with his mother’s intervention. As Charles incisively realizes, this divorce from familial ties makes divorce from religion all the more probable, as religion is a family of believers, too readily conflated with the believers in one’s family. Frederick Beaty points out how strange it is “that a family clearly seeking escape from orthodoxy and often in violation of its tenets should be the instrumentality of leading Charles to the Church” (150). Ironically, then, Sebastian’s “constant, despairing prayer was to be let alone” (127). Furthermore, Charles reflects, “I had seen him grow wary at the thought of his family or his religion; now I found I, too, was suspect… As my intimacy with his family grew I became part of the world which he sought to escape; I became one of the bonds which held him” (127-128). Charles sees a slow divorce rippling between him and Sebastian. Faith becomes difficult when the family espousing it fractures.

Thus, at Easter of all seasons, Sebastian becomes piteously soused, “the first step in the flight from his family which brought him to ruin” (129). In fact, Sebastian echoes Charles’ assessment of the dynamic, as Sebastian declares in a spirit of grave divorce, “And I couldn’t care less. And I shall go on running away, as far and as fast as I can. You can hatch up any plot you like with my mother; I shan’t come back” (135). And come back he never does. Lady Marchmain sees the similarity to Lord Marchmain’s flight, prompting one to consider whether or not her fear that Sebastian will turn out like his father creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: “I’ve been through it all before with someone else whom I loved… But the running awayhe ran away, too, you know” (137). Kathryn Easter puts it most succinctly: “The attitude of the matriarch drives her husband and her son away.” The son leaves the mother as the father did, horridly neglectful of the season wherein Christ’s Soul returns to the Body He voluntarily gave up for all considered. Thus, it is not imposing any foreign construct to the text to trace a liturgical trajectory of the story at hand.

By blunt force of circumstance, Charles recognizes this growing divorce between son and mother without being able to bridge it himself. He reflects how, “The day before I would have said: ‘There aren’t two sides’; that day I said, ‘No, I’m with you, Sebastian contra mundum.’ And that was all the conversation we had on the subject, then or ever” (140). In some sense, this credo constitutes the ethos of Waugh’s work, as it paves the way for Charles to realize the utter divorce between the sacred and profane. A choice for the Church requires a choice decidedly pitted against the world, or contra mundum.   Ironically, one must run away from the world to the arms of Holy Mother Church precisely in the way Sebastian explores the world to escape his mother. In fact, he adopts his mother’s faith more deeply by eventually ending up in a monastery in Tunisia.

However, as world-weary as Charles becomes as he grows away from Sebastian and Brideshead in general, his observation of Sebastian at Lady Marchmain’s behest strains their relationship beyond mending: “We both knew that this was a crisis. I had no love for Sebastian that morning; he needed it, but I had none to give… And I let him go without comfort” (142). Their separation sounds in Charles’ melancholy recollection like the divorce of lovers from one another. Lady Marchmain ascribes Sebastian’s behavior to his dipsomania, concluding quite accurately, “One of the most terrible things about them [alcoholics] is their deceit. Love of truth is the first thing that goes” (143). For her, the Truth is ostensibly Christ, and this is the divorce Waugh wants the reader to see. For indeed, this divorce from others makes divorce from God all the easier, considering, “It needs a very strong faith to stand entirely alone and Sebastian isn’t strong” (143). Hence, the separation from family leads to separation from faith, leading Charles to see a growing divide between the sacred and the profane.

For the time being, however, contra mundum means for Charles choosing the world over God. When Sebastian asks whether they should become intoxicated, Charles responds in the affirmative by saying “Contra mundum” (144). When Brideshead even broaches the idea that Sebastian is loved more by God on account of his running away from Him, Charles reveals his own divided mind in crying out, “‘For God’s sake,’ I said, for I was near to tears that morning, ‘why bring God into everything?’” (145). Charles still divorces the sacred from the profane, and therein lies the tragedy of Sebastian’s situation. Divorce from Sebastian means more to him than divorce from the divine at this point, leading him to declare, “I’m the loneliest man in Oxford… Sebastian Flyte’s been sent down” (145). Realizing the dissension she has conceived, even Lady Marchmain writes to Charles, saying, “I went to the garden-room this morning and was so very sorry” (148). She is sorry because, in spite of Charles’s best efforts, Sebastian has followed his father’s footsteps – away from her.

In fact, the language in which Charles thinks about the fissure in the family sounds vaguely like that with which he discusses how his father chased his aunt away: “You couldn’t keep him; he ran away. So will Sebastian. Because they both hate you” (163). The crisis is of family, not of faith, but the breaking up of family results in the loss of faith, contingent as it is upon love. In one of the most memorably haunting passages of the novel, Charles leaves in the manner of an estranged spouse: “But as I drove away and turned back in the car to take what promised to be my last view of the house, I felt that I was leaving part of myself behind, and that wherever I went afterwards I should feel the lack of it, and search for it hopelessly…” (169). Only God can suffice this incredible longing. He has become separated from those whom he has grown closest to, as a “door had shut, the low door in the wall I had sought and found in Oxford; open it now and I should find no enchanted garden” (169). That world has turned itself against him, prompting him eventually to turn from that world.

But long before such a departure can readily occur, he gets entangled with Sebastian’s sister, Julia Flyte. Julia slowly becomes enamored of the prosaic divorcee, Rex Mottram, but her decision to marry him marks a certain divorce from reality according to Charles, since, “She was wondering, dispassionately and leagues distant from reality, whom she should marry” (180). The Jesuit of the family recommends she confess, so, “[f]rom that moment she shut her mind against religion” (189). Communion with Rex runs against her communion with God, since she then “refused to make her Christmas communion” (189). Charles intuits the union of faith and family when he ascertains how Rex’s conversion to marry Julia recalls Lord Marchmain’s conversion to marry her, as “it brought back memories of another courtship and another conversion” (191). Furthermore, when Julia professes her lack of concern over the fact that Rex was previously married, her impudent insouciance prompts Cordelia to declare, “I hate you” (197). This scene is an ample example of what A.A. DeVitis, an acquaintance of Waugh, maintains when he writes that “the Marchmains must reconcile themselves to the idea of God compensating for lack of social benefits” (42). Abandoning the precepts of one’s faith in matters of marriage is a quick way to cut oneself off from family in Brideshead.

Cordelia in her simplicity sheds light on the situation for Charles. She encourages him to attend a Tenebrae service – another step in the liturgical trajectory of the story – that he might experience something of how the Jewish people felt when divorced from their temple. Then, she ties this to how her father told her mother to bring his “family to the faith of their ancestors” (220). God uses family to build faith, so the sacred would not be sacred without the profane. In any event, Cordelia acknowledges that “It takes people different ways” (220). However, she utters the most oft-quoted line of the narrative, quoting Chesterton: “I caught him… with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon a thread” (220). People can run away from God, but God never runs away from them; divorce exists only on the profane side of the sacred.

Cordelia also provides an admirable degree of insight into why her mother is so disliked. Divorce from God prompts divorce from others, almost more than the other way around. Cordelia declares, “I sometimes think when people wanted to hate God they hated Mummy… When they want to hate Him and His saints they have to find something like themselves and pretend it’s God and hate that” (221). She extends this phenomenon to the vocational confusion of the children. Basically, one cannot divorce himself from God’s call to a specific state of life and still be happy any more than one can run from His call in general. She asserts, “If you haven’t a vocation it’s no good however much you want to be; and if you have a vocation, you can’t get away from it, whoever much you hate it. Bridey thinks he has a vocation and hasn’t. I used to think Sebastian had and hated it – but I don’t know now” (221-222). Waugh knows full well that the Will of God is Love; thus, when his characters divorce themselves from God, they divorce themselves from loving others. Easter – the critic, not the season – recognizes that “[s]uch is the drama of life… all stemming from separation from the Creator.” Furthermore, divorce from the love of others makes it that much harder to love the One Who created them.

When Charles stops at the beginning of the second book to reflect on his project, he realizes that “the human soul enjoys these rare, classic periods [of memory], but, apart from them, we are seldom single or unique; we keep company in this world with a hoard of abstractions and reflections and counterfeits of ourselves… all in our own image, indistinguishable from ourselves to the outward eye” (225). Indeed, Laura Coffey claims that these “‘abstractions’ and ‘counterfeits’ achieve a unity and harmony only through the realization [sic] of the divine aspect of memory” (71). Charles strikes at the principle of distinction and union between people through memory, illustrating thoughtfully that approaching the sacred by means of the profane requires a destruction of the false dichotomy between who we are and who we think we are.

This reflection amply introduces the arrival of his wife, Celia, into the narrative. Her absence heretofore only makes her all the more peripheral, which is fitting considering that Charles responds to her question as to whether he has fallen in love with anyone new by saying, “No. I’m not in love” (231). In fact, he reflects how, “[t]hroughout our married life, again and again, I had felt my bowels shrivel within me at the things she said… [yet] my cuckold’s horns made me lord of the forest” (268). Dustin Faulstick discerns quite rightly that “in his relationship with his wife and children, Charles is guarded, distant, and passionless” (179). Furthermore, Celia’s adultery prompts Charles’. Furthering the liturgical trajectory of the story, Charles recalls Cordelia’s reference to the Tenebrae, seeing his own life through the lens of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem: Quomodo sedet sola civitas (237). While he turns from Celia to Julia, Julia replies, “I don’t know if I want love” (256), for “by that time Rex and she were out of love” (257). This tenebrous sense of religious abandonment proceeds from Charles’ and Julia’s mutual abandonment of their spouses and to each other.

Despite the fact that Charles believes “our solitude was broken” (261) by breaking their marital vows, loyalty to God precedes loyalty to others. At first, Julia beseeches Charles, “Oh, my darling, why is it that love makes me hate the world? It’s supposed to have quite the opposite effect. I feel as though all mankind, and God, too, were in a conspiracy against us” (276). Jeffrey Heath aptly assesses their romance: “Their defiant and private love makes them hate both God and the world” (179). While Charles assuages her fears with platitudes, Julia’s fear explains her flight from family.

Like Sebastian before Julia, she looks to Charles in his agnosticism as a bulwark against the flawed idea of God she received from the flawed relationship between her parents. Thus, she seeks union in division, going against the tide of the world but conflating God with that which she wishes to escape through Charles. Meanwhile, Charles seeks to divorce himself from his wife and children so that Julia can divorce herself from her family, after they have experienced some “real peace” (279) at least, in spite of the war on the horizon. Again, Waugh relates love to war. Julia gradually comes to understand that “real peace” is not possible through divorce, for she feels “the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all” (279). Only memory weds the past and the future, a reason for Charles to pen his experiences at all; however, one cannot make sacred a profane design.

Things come to a head between the Seven Dolours (286) and the Sacred Heart (287), when Julia recognizes that to live with Charles is to live without Christ and His Mother if she continues “putting him away, forgetting him, finding you, the past two years with you, all the future with you, all the future with or without you, war coming, world ending – sin” (287). Her choice for Charles leads not only away from the world but away from the One Who created it, resulting in a supreme divorce in the move from the sacred to the profane. She unites her mother’s suffering for her sin to Christ suffering for her sin when she rants to Charles: “Mummy dying with it; Christ dying with it, nailed hand and foot… always the midday sun and the dice clicking for the seamless coat” (288). Her treachery before God is what separates her not only from God but the whole world, especially those nearest to her, like her mother. Indeed, Charles observes how “she wept her heart out for the death of her God” (290). Rightly then, she becomes most frustrated when Charles hopes to relegate her emotion to mere catharsis rather than genuine conversion. Laura White points out how this scene demonstrates “Waugh’s position that Charles’ aesthetic point of view leads him to fail spiritually and morally” (188). He passively dismisses her emotions in the way one would a play: “This is the reconciliation scene” (291). But reconciliation hardly ever transpires of a sudden.

As to their divorces, Charles’ self-estranged father proffers the best advice. He says, “If you couldn’t be happy with her, why on earth should you expect to be happy with anyone else? Take my advice, dear boy, and give up the whole idea” (296). Though Rex is more than a little self-interested with regards to his own wife, he makes a profound point in stating, “I’ve never known a divorce to do anyone any good” (297). While Brideshead’s fiancée believes the nicest members of a Catholic home are the lapsed ones (297), Nanny Hawkins doesn’t make it a part of her faith to decide on the matters of her family members (301). Neither Charles’ father, Rex, Bridey’s widow, or Nanny Hawkins can reconcile God and Julia. A desire for reconciling her yearning for the sacred with her entanglement for the profane must come from within her, not Charles.

Charles, perceptive as he is, detects her complicated feelings. He notes the following trend:

The nearer our marriage got, the more wistfully, I noticed, Julia spoke of it; war was growing nearer, too – we neither of us doubted that – but Julia’s tender, remote, it sometimes seemed desperate longing did not come from any uncertainty outside herself; it suddenly darkened too, into brief accesses of hate when she seemed to throw herself against the restraints of her love for me like a caged animal against the bars (330).

She is divorced from her true self in desiring to divorce Rex in favor of Charles, which would divorce her from her faith in the process. Thus, she feels the swell of hate and tenderness simultaneously towards him and the whole situation. Even though she admits, “I should say my heart was breaking, if I believed in broken hearts” (340), she declares, “I can’t marry you, Charles; I can’t be with you ever again.” This scene proves Tison Pugh’s contention that the book “stresses the failings of the sexual in the face of the divine” (70). Indeed, Julia intimately associates her actions towards Charles with actions committed against God. She tells him accordingly, “I can’t shut myself out from His mercy. That is what it would mean; starting a life with you, without Him” (340), for she would be setting up “a rival good to God’s.” In the end, then, Christ conquers the turmoil in which two of the main characters – one of whom is the narrator – have enmeshed themselves. Even though they agree that “[n]ow we shall both be alone” (340), no one can be alone who refuses to desert God. He seeks to espouse each of the souls He creates, including Charles, not only Julia.

Charles realizes that this grace is meant for him as well when he returns to the chapel at Brideshead for the final time. Though it is as vacant as Jerusalem in the Tenebrae chant, the chapel candle reminds him of the presence of One before Whom countless souls have prayed, “for that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem” (351). Like those “builders [who] did not know the uses to which their work would descend” (350-351), the family he met at Brideshead unwittingly led him to see the patient devotion God has for man, a patience men and women often lack for each other. Though we may not always wait for other people, Waugh’s novel proves that God will wait as long as the history of the world for every person; as long as we remain with God, He will remain with us, contra mundum.

[1] “Typescript dated 18 Feb. 1947 in Waugh manuscripts, University of Texas Humanities Research Center.” This citation information, in turn, came from Beaty’s chapter on Brideshead in The Ironic World of Evelyn Waugh: A Study of Eight Novels.

Works Cited

Beaty, Frederick. “Chapter Eight: Brideshead Revisited.” The Ironic World of Evelyn Waugh: A    Study of Eighteen Novels. DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP, 1992. 145-165. Print.

Coffey, Laura. “Evelyn Waugh’s Country House Trinity: Memory, History and Catholicism in    Brideshead Revisited.” Literature & History 15.1 (2006): 59-73. Academic Search         Complete. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.

DeVitis, A.A. “Chapter 4: Roman Catholicism and Brideshead Revisited.” Roman Holiday: The   Catholic Novels of Evelyn Waugh. New York: Bookman Associates, 1956. 40-53. Print.

Foden, Giles. “Waugh versus Hollywood.” 2004 The Guardian Online. 5 May 2013             <;.

Heath, Jeffrey. “Chapter 12: Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Charles Ryder.” The Picturesque Prison: Evelyn Waugh and His Writing. Quebec:         McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1982. 161-183. Print.

Mooneyham, Laura. “The Triple Conversions of Brideshead Revisited.” Renascence: Essays on   Values in Literature 45.4 (1993): 225-236. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.

Pugh, Tison. “Romantic Friendship, Homosexuality, and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.”             English Language Notes 38.4 (2001): 64. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2013.

Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles       Ryder. New York: Back Bay Books, 2008.

American Pilgrim: Catholic Kerouac On the Road



  1. The Catholic Kerouac

Kerouac’s Catholicism has been drawn into question (and understandably so, one might add) by reason of his chronic alcoholism and orgiastic proclivities, alluded to abundantly in his most famous novel, On the Road. Thus, some critics dismiss the roman a clef as little more than a sybaritic manifesto, while others embrace the book as a catalyst of liberation from all forms of bourgeois conventionality. Both approaches miss the mark. Kerouac was simply a sinner seeking a Savior, so he goes On the Road to find Him. Indeed, Kerouac wrote that the work “was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him.”[1] Contrary to popular opinion, such an ambitious thematic statement situates On the Road firmly within the tradition of pilgrimage literature.

Patricia Johnston admits that On the Road is a “bit more pilgrim than tourist on Turner’s sliding scale – but they cannot be complete, bona fide pilgrims for want of this already established center… the liminality of pilgrimage is undertaken for its own sake.”[2] Alan Miller seconds Johnston’s critical opinion, claiming that Kerouac’s writing “is the idealized record of a pilgrimage, or set of pilgrimages, which can profitably be understood by recourse to a type of analysis that has as its lineage the ideas of van Gennep, Durkheim, and Turner.”[3]

Whereas Johnston and Miller are inclined to emphasize the Buddhist element in Kerouac’s compositions, Douglas Anderson address the fact that the Beats were “‘beat’… in the sense of ‘beatific,’ pure and clean in their poverty – the meek, it had been said in Kerouac’s strongly Catohlic world, shall inherit. Kerouac, both as a Catholic and as a child of the working class… found… strength and the beauty of the ordinary.”[4] While parsing Kerouac’s nuanced mediation between Eastern and Western spirituality lies beyond our present scope, the nature of pilgrimage in On the Road proves to be far more specifically Catholic than is readily assumed, as we shall see.

Before we can delve into the body of the text, a bit of background as to the extent of Kerouac’s commitment to Catholicism is in due order. Long before Kerouac hit the road (let alone put pen to paper in his travel journal), Father Armand “Spike” Morissette, the parish priest of Saint Jean Baptiste in his French-Canadian hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, prompted Kerouac to make a pilgrimage of sorts to Columbia University in New York City; there, he could be close to the publishing industry, so as to fulfill his youthful aspiration of becoming an author.[5] Father Morissette himself had penned a play about Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, entitled The Princess of the Mohawks.[6] This Catholic authorship of Kerouac’s literary vocation would come to no surprise to one of Kerouac’s acquaintances and first biographers, Ann Charters: “Kerouac was of course born a Catholic, raised a Catholic, and died a Catholic… He always remained a believing Catholic. It was just that, for a time, he was a self-taught student of Buddhism.”[7] In a rather surly reply to a fan letter in 1961, Kerouac unambiguously declared, “I am a Catholic Conservative.”[8] Over a year later, Lawrence Ferlinghetti of the mythic City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco defended Kerouac’s claim of Catholicity in no uncertain terms when Time magazine’s editors had the gall to give Kerouac a subpar review:

Since TIME is the Protestant bible to millions of Americans who receive your so- called literary criticism as from a godhead, don’t you think you should at least try       to consider authors as human beings rather than as fodder for your advertising        men and copywriters? …Typical of the distortions and untruths in the article is the         statement that Kerouac is ‘an adoring pantheist’…It happens Kerouac is a             Catholic, and Death has been an insistent presence in all his books… Your cruel,        oh-so-clever annihilation of him only brings Death that much closer to him, and     to us, and to America.[9]

In fact, when the Paris Review inquired as to why Kerouac had never written about Christ, Kerouac exclaimed, “All I write about is Jesus. I am… General of the Jesuit Army.”[10] Tongue-in-cheek or not, Kerouac said the same of his companion On the Road, Neal Cassady, on whom the character Dean Moriarty was based: “He’s a Jesuit by the way… He was a choirboy [sic] in the Catholic churches of Denver. And he taught me everything that I now do believe about anything that there may be to be believed about divinity.”[11] Whether God would concur with Kerouac’s Catholicism is another matter entirely, but the fact that Kerouac confessed to being Catholic is incontestable.

Yet how does Kerouac’s professed piety square with the fast living of the Beat movement of which Kerouac was the godfather? Shortly before his untimely demise, Kerouac went on the show Firing Line in September 1968 and informed the archly conservative William F. Buckley that, “In the papers they called it ‘Beat mutiny’ and ‘Beat insurrection,’ words I never used. Being a Catholic, I believe in order, tenderness, piety.”[12] Rather, the now-iconic term with which Kerouac dubbed a generation could not have been more Catholic in its origins. In his candid essay, “The Origins of the Beat Generation,” Kerouac writes in the rich language of a mystical pilgrimage right in his own backyard: “I went one afternoon to… Ste. Jeanne d’Arc in Lowell, Mass., and suddenly with tears in my eyes I [sic] had a vision of what I must have really meant with ‘Beat’ anyhow when I heard the holy silence in the church… the vision of the word Beat as being to mean beatific.”[13] More boldly still, Kerouac speaks as the pilgrim-prophet of the Beat Movement:

I am not ashamed to wear the crucifix of my Lord. It is because I am Beat, that       is, I believe in beatitude and that God so loved the world that he gave his only   begotten son to it… So you people don’t believe in God. So you’re all big smart    know-it-all Marxists and Freudians, hey? Why don’t you come back in a million             years and tell me all about it, angels?[14]

By all accounts, this quotation is not in jest. Addison Hart Hodges compares him to Qoheleth of Ecclesiastes, as “someone whose very profanity points to the Gospel and its unimaginable Sign of Contradiction”[15]; namely, the Cross. Thus, we would do well to allow these statements from the author himself to inform our reading of his work, lest we risk a superficial assessment at best, or a dishonest one at worst.

Although Father Morissette went so far as to say, “He’s just like Christ to me. I think he’s a modern saint,”[16] and Allen Ginsberg (rendered as Carlo Marx in On the Road) called Kerouac the “American lonely Prose Trumpeter of drunken Buddha Sacred Heart,”[17] some of his contemporaries in the Beat circle was not so quick to absolve Kerouac of his responsibility in the Sexual Revolution. William S. Burroughs (the real-life analogue to On the Road’s Old Bull Lee) said of the matter, “Jesus Christ said by their fruits you shall know them, not by their disclaimers.”[18] Nonetheless, Morissette continued to maintain a more sanguine view, while asking the question on the minds of many:

To me, Jack Kerouac was not only a writer, but a saint, a mystic. He was a sort     of mystic, and I’ve always believed in him. He always said he was fascinated             by the mysterious and religion. And later on, when he was drinking a lot, I             heard about it, so I told him, ‘Jack, you’re not concerned about Hell?’ or       something, and he said, ‘I’m not concerned about Hell; I’m concerned about           Heaven, and I have to be high, because I get my inspiration…’ But he was like     a monk, himself, his bedroom, at his home, with his mother, was very, very           simple. All he had was his bed, a chair, a desk, piles of paper like that, you      know, around him…[19]

Father Morissette was not alone in this assessment, even amongst the literati. Beat novelist John Clellon Holmes said, “Jack’s ground was always Catholicism,”[20] while the Beat poet Philip Whalen writes, “When push came to shove, what he was hung up on was… Catholic saints, and that’s what he really believed in.”[21]

To truly access the depths of Kerouac’s Catholic consciousness and shed light on the prophetic pilgrim quality of On the Road, we need look no further than Kerouac’s vast correspondence for clues, especially in his contemporaneous letters to Neal Cassady, to whom he wrote shortly after their trip to Mexico in On the Road: “The church is the last sanctuary in this world, the first and the last. It is the worldly edifice of the Lord; I’m done sneering at any part of it.”[22] In the same letter, he reveals authentic piety: “The burden is already lifted because the Virgin Mary was; just as our sins are expiated by the sacrifice of the great Lord Jesus, without any of us having to be crucified on a cross.”[23] Furthermore, he muses in a letter a week before how, “The Catholic Church is a weird church; much mysticism is sown broadspread from its ritual mysteries till it extends into the very lives of its constituents and parishioners.”[24] This psalmic spirit of sincere prayer pervades his personal journals as well.

After the events of On the Road, he prays through doubts in the language of pilgrimage: “I have been a city man, with wheels, and walkings all about the inside, I have seen their faces all around me here. I must see your face this morning, God… I cannot see your face in this history.”[25] Indeed, Kerouac drew pictures (some of which correspond to On the Road) that included the Annunciation, the Vision of the Shepherds, Christ on the Cross, and the Pieta, along with a prayer for Pope John XXIII that he had penned himself.[26] He wrote “that children and fathers have a notion in their souls that there must be a way… in all the disorder and sorrow of the world – that is God in men,” which he found On the Road.[27] As Kerouac wrote to Raman Singh on May 24, 1965, “I’m not interested in the LEAST about sociological implications of Beat or any kind of sociological nonsense about life on this here earth planet suspended in infinity… religion explains everything forever… and at last the Second Coming in the clouds. And always the same old angelic moistness in the human eyes.”[28] In this vein, then, it becomes readily apparent that On the Road is the search for a piece of Heaven on Earth, as is any pilgrimage.

Now that we have laid a roadmap, as it were, for why a Catholic reading of Kerouac would be justified in the first place, let us turn our eyes On the Road, so as to observe the ways in which it conveys the pilgrimage of temporal existence towards eternity. While the Buddhist may see the road as the circular symbol of the everlasting, the Catholic may recall the old adage, “All roads lead to Rome.” Throughout this novel, Kerouac writes in the first person under the alter ego pseudonym Sal Paradise (presumably to avoid copyright entanglements occasioned by the lawsuits common to thinly veiled autobiographies). The name itself is significant. Salvatore connotes salvation, which can only be won in Paradise. Therefore, from the very beginning, Kerouac hints at his characters’ eschatological motivations. In fact, Laurence Coupe writes, “For Kerouac this style of writing is the appropriate medium through which he can demonstrate the possibility of the locating the sacred within the profane. The purpose of the prose is revelation.”[29] John Lardas Modern concurs, commenting that, “As a confessional strategy, Kerouac’s writing constituted an act of redemption. His compositional style translated a Catholic anthropology into Spenglerian terms.”[30]

  1. Part 1

In Part 1, Kerouac commences by announcing that “the coming of Dean Moriarty [Neal Cassady] began the part of my life you could call my life on the road.”[31] Although “sex was the one and only holy and important thing”[32] for Dean, he has come as a pilgrim in search of wisdom from Sal, saying, “I’ve come to ask you to show me how to write.”[33] Sal proceeds to denote Dean with Homeric epithets, signaling further the momentous nature of their journey of friendship. Sal sees “a kind of holy lightning… from his excitement and his visions… the holy con-man with the shining mind.”[34] James Terence Fisher explains that, “In his childhood mysticism Kerouac often imbued social outcasts or ‘deviant’ characters with saintly and even Christlike attributes.”[35] While the source of Dean’s supposed “sanctity” is dubious, indeed, the language with which Sal describes him demonstrates that this is no ordinary road trip, but rather that the two men will one day undertake a transformative adventure together.

When Sal finally resolves to set out and follow Dean into the sunset of the West, he hearkens back to Chaucer’s estival beckoning of spring in The Canterbury Tales, confiding how, “I promised myself to go the same way when spring really bloomed and opened up the land… And this was really the way that my whole road experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.”[36] The hyperbolic enticement assumes the tone of an epistle. In the form of a gospel, Sal must give testimony of what he has witnessed. Indeed, Sal epitomizes Dean as “the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming… eager for bread and love… whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, ‘It is your portion under the sun.’”[37] Associating himself with Ecclesiastes, Sal inextricably weaves Dean with bread, love, and the sun, all laden with Eucharistic imagery. Accompanying Dean becomes a religious mission: “I could hear a new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young age.”[38] Friendship necessitates faith for Sal, a faith Dean must test. However, if he passes this test, Sal has hope that “somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.”[39] The journey ultimately transcends both Sal and Dean to encompass the pearl of great price: possession of God Himself and the peace He presents, the goal of any true pilgrimage. Indeed, Fisher further asserts that Kerouac “told a television interviewer that his whole purpose in life was to have ‘God show me his face.’”[40]

After accepting his prep school friend Remi Boncoeur’s cordial invitation to come to San Francisco (a city whose name is redolent of Catholic piety and pilgrimage in and of itself), Sal hitches a ride with a lady who “insisted on visiting an old church somewhere, as if we were tourists.”[41] While a pilgrim would ostensibly stop at churches, whatever Sal considers himself at this point in his sojourns, he does not regard himself as a mere sightseer. Still, Sal extols the scenery unfolding before him in a passage reminiscent of Whitman: “Now I could see Denver looming ahead of me like the Promised Land, way out there beneath the stars, across the prairie of Iowa and the plains of Nebraska, and I could see the greater vision of San Francisco beyond, like jewels in the night.”[42] Like a true pilgrim of the Biblical variety, Sal seeks the Promised Land to satiate his passion for adventure. For him, this revelation occasions as slew of liminal sensations crossing over from death to birth: “I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was half-way across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon.”[43] Taking to the road reveals Sal to himself as he searches for the Promised Land.

Even as Sal ventures to the margins of post-World War II American society, he derives a sense of communitas from the outcasts he encounters throughout the course of his peregrinations. In the back of a truck-bed, a cowboy riding with him invites him to follow him to Montana, saying, “You come up there sometime and see God’s country.”[44] Just like Sal, the cowboy appreciates open vistas as a portal for reception of the divine, even if the desire for such is couched in jocular colloquialisms across much of the narrative. In fact, Sal calls this cowboy “the spirit of the West,”[45] as this fellow traveler embodies the hinterlands as a harbinger of the geographical end of America. A stranger in Sal’s voyage asks him and his haphazard company, “‘You boys going to get somewhere, or just going?’ We didn’t understand his question, and it was a damn good question.”[46] Every pilgrim must ask him or herself this question, if he or she is to be distinguished from a tourist.

As the narrative progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that Sal regards himself not only as a pilgrim, but also as a prophet. As Robert Hipkiss says, Kerouac “will be remembered as the Jeremiah-like prophet of post-World War II Romanticism.”[47] However, Kerouac perpetually undercuts the profundity of his insights by humorous self-deprecation. For instance, he envisions reunion with Dean in Denver in a style that abruptly shifts from the patois to the Patristic and back again: “I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!’”[48] Yet Sal does not only fashion himself into a legend in his own mind; his enthusiasm extends to everyone who fortune brings him into contact with, such that each person becomes touched and transmogrified into a character from his mystical universe. He canonizes Dean, “who had the tremendous energy of a new kind of American saint.”[49] Dean takes up the mantle of the Virgil to Sal’s Dante, as they descend and ascend the rungs of heaven and hell in their American vision quest together.

The fact that Sal regards this junket to Denver as a pit-stop on his peripatetic pilgrimage across America is accentuated by his description of Carlo’s quarters: “It was like the room of a Russian saint: one bed, a candle burning, stone walls that oozed moisture, and a crazy makeshift ikon of some kind that he had made.”[50] In that setting, Sal’s subtle apocalypticism insinuates itself amongst his compeers, when he refers to the eschaton, or “the last things,” in Catholic theology: “Nobody can get to that last thing. We keep on living in hopes of catching it once for all.”[51] As Hipkiss points out, “In the final analysis Kerouac wanted very much to believe in a beneficent God at the heart of things and in the value of human life.”[52] Yet presumably, that “last thing” is the peace only death can bring. In fact, his sense of the impending end times induces him to depart Denver for San Francisco: “Everything seemed to be collapsing… I was itching to get on to San Francisco.”[53] Were it not for the probability that Sal’s friendships will end, he would not have commenced his religious trek in the first place.

In a strange kind of communitas on the liminal regions of the American scene, Sal is not only a purveyor but a pursuer of the wisdom his fellow Americans has to offer him with every new opportunity that presents itself. As a spiritual seeker, Sal’s mixed feelings leave him “wondering what God had wrought when He made life so sad.”[54] As Hipkiss puts it, “the hero quests aimlessly for his lost union of family and friends. He learns that no one really cares sufficiently for others outside the family or established community and tries to accept the loss of caritas.”[55] To a certain degree, every Catholic pilgrimage is an odyssey of the theodicy, attempting to reconcile the idea of a loving God with the existence of suffering in the world. Yet Sal’s solution to this perennial dilemma is breathtakingly streamlined: “life is holy and every moment is precious.”[56] Any real pilgrim comes to the same conclusion.

Once he finally makes it to California, Sal feels even more acutely the ending of everything, literally and metaphorically: “Here I was at the end of America – no more land – and now there was nowhere to go but back.”[57] Sal cannot divorce his desire for Heaven from his desire for Earth, which he freely associates with the female gender, pining romantically, “Oh where is the girl I love? I thought, and looked everywhere, as I had looked everywhere in the little world below… There is something brown and holy about the East.”[58] He passes through wine country down the Grapevine Pass, and the double entendre with the parable of the vine and the branches likely does not escape Kerouac’s attention as a verbal stylist.

Sal’s tryst with a Mexican maiden named Terry during their pilgrimage to Los Angeles highlights how love and loneliness, beginnings and endings, intertwine themselves in his life, like a couple of lost angels: “Then, two tired angels of some kind, hung-up forlornly in an LA shelf, having found the closest and most delicious thing in life together.”[59] As Hipkiss writes that “the quest for ecstasy and oneness with God has perpetuated an incorrigible loneliness, the final position of the quintessential Beat.”[60] In fact, he hallows the whole metropolis, given its Spanish appellation, as “all of it under those soft Southern California stars that are lost in the brown halo of the huge desert encampment LA really is.”[61]

However, Hollywood is a sanctuary of cinematic pilgrimage, as Kerouac himself confides through his protagonist Sal: “Everybody had come to make the movies, even me.”[62] Instead, he enjoys the fine life: “Ah, it was a fine night, a warm night, a wine-drinking night, a moony night, and a night to… be heavengoing. This we did.”[63] Sal conflates romance with Paradise, and every time Terry says “manana,” he thinks it must mean “heaven.”[64] Furthermore, he attributes a salvific agency to her very presence when God seems to be absent: “I looked up at the dark sky and prayed to God for a better break in life and a better chance to do something for the little people I loved. Nobody was paying attention to me up there. I should have known better. It was Terry who brought my soul back.”[65] In the final assessment, no film is a match for the prospect of the Elysian reaches that Sal has really sought to achieve, whether through friendship, love, adventure, or prayer.

III. Part 2

In Part 2, Kerouac continues this theme of pilgrimage through the eyes of Sal. Therefore, he paints his newfound guide, Dean, in an eremitical simile: “Dean had to drive with his scarf-wrapped head stuck out the window, with snowglasses that made him look like a monk peering into the manuscripts.”[66] One aspect of Sal’s wandering is his own reconnaissance for a vocation to matrimony: “All these years I was looking for the woman I wanted to marry… so I can rest my soul… This can’t go on all the time… We’ve got to go someplace, find something.”[67] Never-mind the fact that Sal’s first marriage fell apart in divorce, no spouse is God, as any married person will tell you. Nevertheless, Carlo poignantly inquires, “What kind of sordid business are you now? I mean, man, whither goest thou? Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”[68] Here, Ginsberg’s parallel figure echoes Saint Peter asking Christ “Quo vadis?” when he sees Him walking on the way to Rome, whereupon Our Lord is said to have responded, “To Rome, to be crucified again.” Whether for marriage or not, Sal seeks the sacred, and Carlo detects this august pursuit in them, even if Dean is more scatterbrained about it.

Sal marvels at the flights of fancy that Dean’s soul takes On the Road. He listens to Dean frantically preach from behind the wheel:

And of course now no one can tell us there is no God. We’ve passed through all     forms… Everything is fine, God exists, we know time… And not only that but we         both understand that I couldn’t have time to explain why I know and you know    God exists… Troubles, you see, is the generalization-word for what God exists        in… God exists without qualms. As we roll along this way I am positive beyond   doubt that everything will be taken care of for us.[69]

Dean’s unshakeable faith not only in the existence of God but also his abandonment to God’s Divine Providence mark him as a pilgrim, as Sal recognizes: “I had never dreamed Dean would become a mystic. These were the first days of his mysticism, which would lead to the strange, ragged, W.C. Fields saintliness of his later days.”[70] Nancy McCampbell Grace articulates that the narrative “is just as much about finding God as it is about finding freedom and America.”[71] While there is something irremediably risible about attributing the heights of holiness to Dean – let alone Fields – Kerouac’s hearty appreciation for joie de vivre recalls the true mystic Saint Hildegard von Bingen’s sentiment that you can never enjoy the things of Heaven until you enjoy those of Earth.

Even as he admires Dean, it is women who offer salvation. For Dean, who grew up on the mean streets of Denver without parents to speak of, promiscuous sex was a way to return to birth through death, “beseeching at the portals of the soft source, made with a completely physical realization of the origins of life-bliss; blindly seeking the way he came,”[72] for he “had never seen his mother’s face. Every new girl, every new wife, every new child was an addition to his bleak impoverishment. Where was his father?” Thus, the pilgrimage (though profligate) is a search for one’s ultimately eternal origins, looking for the God whose love exceeds that of any parent or spouse. Sal remembers how, “My aunt once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness.”[73] Although the possessive pronoun before “women” alienates enlightened sensibilities, Sal orients all females towards the light of the Mother of God by voicing the desire to kneel at their feet to attain the peace only forgiveness can provide. In fact, Grace writes that Kerouac is “more akin to the Virgin Mary and Child, two of the essential divine components of Catholic orthodoxy. The pairing paves the way for Sal’s narrative of salvation.”[74] As Regina Weinreich adduces, Kerouac’s invocation of “the Virgin Mary of Mexico” in other works is “after all, the ultimate symbol of the purity of woman, in the Catholic church and elsewhere.”[75]

The company of Dean distills Sal’s own native quasi-mysticism, as he struggles to remember a dream about the specter of death chasing him to refuge:

I told him a dream I had about a strange Arabian figure that was pursuing me          across the desert; that I tried to avoid; that finally overtook me just before I     reached the Protective City… Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all    of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached       heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will             overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days that         makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the        remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and          can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to    die? In the rush of events I kept thinking about this in the back of my mind.[76]

Ergo, the circuit around the USA is an escape from fate, not simply a bachelor’s joyride, for Sal. Furthermore, the vitality of the female element in his psyche comes to the fore as the act of procreation constitutes a way to simultaneously remember and forget imminent destruction. The road goes from birth to death. As a pilgrimage, then, life On the Road forces him to confront his own mortality in order to seek transcendence, even as he tries to avoid the unavoidable.

Even when Sal and Dean hit up the jazz joints, they are still on a pilgrimage in search of God, as acutely aware of His presence as his absence. When a particularly talented pianist leaves his bench, “Dean pointed to the empty piano seat. ‘God’s empty chair,’ he said… God was gone; it was the silence of his departure.”[77] Carlo is skeptical of the fruits to be gotten by their journey into the West, patently referencing the eschatology of Dies Irae and the Grail legend: “The days of wrath are yet to come… You’ll all go flying to the West Coast and come staggering back in search of your stone.”[78] Sal plays upon this theme, writing how, “It was drizzling and mysterious at the beginning of our journey. I could see that it was all going to be one big saga of the mist.”[79] Linguistically, he connects the mist of San Francisco with mystery and mysticism. Grace opines, “In terms of the Catholic Christian quester, Sal’s response to the vision places him more congruently within what I call the more progressive mystic tradition, which, as represented by St. Teresa of Avila, encourages tolerance for human discretion and playful mocking of the human ego.”[80]

On the way there, they meet a Jew by the name of Hyman Solomon with a book in his hand, but he “was only looking at the words, as though he had found the real Torah where it belonged, in the wilderness.”[81] The pilgrim significance of the fact that they take this book-toting Hebraic character to the town of Testament is not lost upon Dean, for one: “Now you see, Sal, God does exist, because we keep getting hung-up with this town, no matter what we try to do, and you’ll notice the strange Biblical name of it, and that strange Biblical character who made us stop here once more, and all things tied together all over like rain connecting everybody the world over by chain touch.”[82] For Dean the pilgrim, every stranger On the Road serves as a messenger of celestial portent.

Through Dean, Sal learns to view each person as an icon of the divine on the road of pilgrimage. Indeed, he rejoices how, “He and I suddenly saw the whole country like an oyster for us to open; and the pearl was there, the pearl was there.”[83] With this newfound faith, Dean declares, “Don’t worry ‘bout nothing… Ah! God! Life!”[84] Fittingly, for all his half a million words, Kerouac’s tombstone succintly states, “He honored life.” The pearl of great price is to be found by having faith throughout one’s life. As Sal later says, “But no matter, the road is life,”[85] which intentionally echoes Christ’s pronouncement, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” more than any Buddhist maxim. On the other hand, Grace locates the pearl not within the Bible but with the Manichean ‘Song of the Pearl,’ wherein amazing creatures engage in epic struggles.[86]

After all, not all Beats are Catholic on this pilgrimage. When Sal stops in New Orleans to meet with Old Bull Lee, he calls him “a Kansas minister with exotic, phenomenal fires and mysteries,”[87] yet his apocalyptic tendency is pagan in origin, as he “had begun to spend long hours with the Mayan Codices in his lap.”[88] Lee tells Sal how, “Mankind will someday realize that we are actually in contact with the dead and with the other world, whatever it is.”[89] The presence of Lee, no doubt, sparks Sal’s rather Buddhist internal realization through “a mystic wraith of fog over the brown waters that night… that everything I had ever known and would ever know was One.”[90] Thus he continues across “the vastness of old tumbledown holy America from mouth to mouth.”[91] Between Dean and Lee, Sal begins to regard his native land as a repository of divine wisdom to be espoused.

People and places take on a higher meaning when travelling across America becomes a pilgrimage. They pass over the Trinity River of Liberty, where Sal says, “We passed an apparition; it was a Negro man in a white shirt walking along with his arms upspread to the inky firmament. He must have been praying or calling down a curse.”[92] After passing Las Cruces (The Crosses), “in Arizona at dawn… there was a heaven of sunrise… transmuting clouds of gold.”[93] In Sal’s eyes, Arizona augurs Biblical import. Like angels, they “floated and flapped down to the San Joaquin Valley”[94] of California, wishing the hitchhiker whom they pick up “Godspeed.”[95] Then, upon his return to the Bay Area, Kerouac colorizes it as the land of eternity, a natural successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome: “It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific… smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.”[96] Under Kerouac’s pen, the City is certainly a place of pilgrimage.

Like any pilgrimage, Kerouac’s faith deepens and matures during his time On the Road. Parents, paramours, and pals all fail Sal’s faith, leaving him with God alone in their wake: “I lost my faith in him [Dean] that year… and had the beatest time of my life.”[97] In the face of such “end-of-the-continent sadness,”[98] the sense of cosmic war overcomes Sal as he tells his San Francisco fling “about the big snake of the world that was coiled in the earth like a worm in an apple… I told her his snake was Satan.”[99] As Grace writes, “Sal’s prophecy is a fascinating synthesis of secular, theological, and literary tropes holding forth a twentieth-century statement on etiology and eschatology… the ancient symbol of life as an unbroken circle.”[100]

However, there is a happy ending in Sal’s prophetic imagination: “A saint… will destroy it… when the snake dies great clouds of seminal-gray doves will flutter out and bring tidings of peace around the world.”[101] Then, even an opium den turns into a place of pilgrimage when a woman upbraids Sal, declaiming, “O son! Did you not ever go on your knees and pray for deliverance for all your sins and scoundrel’s acts? Lost boy! Depart! Do not haunt my soul.”[102] At that moment, Sal fuses Buddhist and Catholic insight into death as a passage from time into eternity, the intent of his pilgrimage:

I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the     complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment         in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my         heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a           plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated            emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind         Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t          remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy.

While this is no conventional prayer of repentance given its Buddhist ontology of nirvana, it is Kerouac’s assertion of the relative illusion of the material world in the face of the Divine.

  1. Part 3

As we move into Part 3 of On the Road, the roundabout trips become even more explicitly a pilgrimage. Sal begins by announcing, “I saw myself in Middle America, a patriarch,”[103] contrasting staid stability with his itinerant modus vivendi. Between Colorado and Utah, like any prophet, he exults, “I saw God in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, ‘Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.’”[104] Thus, the point of On the Road is the last destination of any real pilgrimage: Paradise.

This quest revives for a time Sal’s veneration of Dean, in spite of (and even, due to) his peccadilloes: “I suddenly realized that Dean, by virtue of his enormous sins, was becoming the Idiot, the Imbecile, the Saint of the lot.”[105] He continues: “That’s what Dean was, the HOLY GOOF,”[106] and, “He was BEAT – the root, the soul of Beatific.”[107] Omar Swartz explains that Dean is “the ‘holy goof,’ a Christlike figure who attempts to lead the people from the cultural restraints of post-World War II America to a modified age marked by artistic, sexual, and experiential freedoms. Within Dean, an example of a new consciousness and spirituality is promoted and canonized by Kerouac.”[108] This perhaps gives Dean more credit than Kerouac himself would. Sal is, after all, still a figment of fiction. While On the Road, Sal says that “everything was behind him, and ahead of him was the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being.”[109] The Fool for Christ is more of a venerable tradition in the East, but here, it find a new expression, illustrating as Dean does that trust in Providence and detachment from material possessions is the only path to joy, in this life or the next, and even in the face of a multitude of indiscretions.

This acceptance of diurnal existence as a spiritual revelation counters Scholastic abstraction, but such disdain for academia does not invalidate Kerouac’s Catholicism, considering that Aquinas came to regard the Summa as a “bunch of straw.” As Fisher points out, Kerouac “made an inadvertent contribution to the growing struggle between scholasticism and Catholic personalists.”[110] After passing through the aptly named city of Sacramento, Sal and Dean pick up some Jesuit college students, but Sal scoffs at how they “had nothing on their bird-beans except a lot of ill-understood Aquinas for stuffing for their pepper.”[111] As On the Road goes to show, reading cannot replace the people one meets on the street as a path to the beatific vision so beautifully articulated by Aquinas. Sal muses further upon the nature of beatitude, verging into Buddhist thought in the process: “What difference does it make after all? – anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven? What’s earth? All in the mind.”[112] Though any Thomistic theologian will tell you that Heaven is more than merely a place of mind, Sal’s sentiment expresses Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s belief that the soul in the state of grace carries Heaven in the heart.

  1. Part 4

In Part 4, Sal acquires deeper knowledge of the nature of his criss-crossing migrations across the land that he loves. When he re-convenes with Ed Dunkel (real-life Al Hinkle), Sal calls “his compassion unnoticed like the compassion of saints.”[113] No visit between friends is random for the Catholic Kerouac, for whom each rendezvous is a pilgrimage to behold an apparition of holiness incarnate. Another traveler they meet by the name of Henry Glass shares this fundamental perspective, relating how he read the Bible in solitary confinement and how “they’s some real hot things in that Bi-ble.”[114] However, Sal cannot see the fire in Glass that he sees in Dean, admitting that he had “no native strange saintliness to save him from the iron fate.”[115] This dubious holiness Sal observes in Dean can take an ominous turn: “Suddenly I had a vision of Dean, a burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain… I saw his wings… I saw the path it burned over the road.. like wrath to the West.”[116] For Sal, the chaos of Dean’s private life becomes an avatar of the avenging angel of death to be seen in the Bible. As Swartz says, “Dean embodies the self-sacrifice of the mythic Christ – Dean suffers his madness and other deprivations so that others can learn from his experience.”[117]

Like the Nietzsche which Dean liked to read, his dynamism seems to transcend good and evil, and it is this dynamism that Sal gravitates towards, since it is the principle distinguishing their kind of travel from tourism: “He was finally an Angel… like any Angel he still had raes and furies… demonically and seraphically… He was no tourist.”[118] It prompts Tim Hunt’s prescient question, “Is the road salvation or damnation?”[119] This almost gnostic dualism makes their pilgrimage an escape from death as much as a pursuit of life, again in the Biblical language of Lot’s wife: “Denver receded back of us like the city of salt, her smokes breaking up in the air and dissolving to our sight.”[120] The duo goes through the city named after Saint Anthony of Padua all the way to “the end of Texas, the end of America…”[121] with liminal geography defining again the fatalism of cosmic demise. As Tim Hunt theorizes, “To the extent that the Mexican pilgrimage has religious dimensions, Sal has had a perception of absolute life and absolute death.”[122]

Furthermore, once these American pilgrims cross over the “mysterious bridge” into Mexico, “it looked like Holy Lhasa to us.”[123] This is the land where the East meets the West for Sal and Dean, and it is made an explicitly eschatological experience for Sal, at least: “For when destruction comes to the world of ‘history’ and the Apocalypse of the Fellahin returns once more as so many times before, people will stare with the same eyes from the caves of Mexico as well as from the caves of Bali, where it all began and where Adam was suckled and taught to know.”[124] Dean’s sensitivity to the divinity dwelling in the spirits of others apotheosizes him in Sal’s eyes, as Sal sees “in myriad pricklings of heavenly radiation” that Dean “looked like God” when Dean says of a young Mexican lad that his “lovely eyes surely do prophesy and indicate the loveliest of souls.”[125] Sal sees God in Dean, because Dean makes the dedicated effort to see God in others all along their pilgrimage across America and beyond. Thus, as Benedict Giamo of Notre Dame asserts, “Such intimate knowledge about the end of things – and the transient factor in the nature of existence” made Kerouac “above all, a ragged priest of the word, a prose artist on a spiritual quest for the ultimate meaning of existence and suffering and the celebration of joy in the meantime.”[126]

While the two spend a stint in a brothel that Sal mistakes for “a pornographic hasheesh daydream in heaven”[127] (the heaven of Mohammed, perhaps), sensual indulgence only heightens Sal’s eschatological instincts at the sound of a mariachi band, whence “all these tremendous numbers resounded and flared in the golden, mysterious afternoon like the sounds you expect to hear on the last day of the world and the Second Coming. The trumpets seemed so loud I thought they could hear them clear out in the desert, where the trumpets had originated anyway.”[128] Since all religious pilgrimage mirrors the journey of humanity towards the Heavenly Jerusalem, Sal’s pilgrim mindset can even turn a brothel into a chapel, which may not be as strange as it sounds considering the fact that the Apostle to the Apostles, Saint Mary Magdalene, was once a prostitute. As Giamo explains, the road sometimes led “Kerouac away from a strictly Christian form of ecstatic mystical union and toward an embrace of the aesthetic and hedonistic factors in the nature of existence.”[129]

To fully shed the impurity they have incurred, the men must ascend the mountain in Mexico to let the children come to them. Dean moves forward with the intensity of a man on a mission, avaricious for any sign of the divine: “Dean drove on with his mouth hanging awe, ten miles an hour, desirous to see every possible human being on the road. We climbed and climbed.”[130] When they get to the top, they look into the Mexican children’s eyes and see that they “were like the eyes of the Virgin Mother when she was a child. We saw in them the tender and forgiving gaze of Jesus. And they stared unflinching into ours… Still they penetrated us with sorrowful and hypnotic gleam… In their silence they were themselves.”[131] In these little innocents, Sal and Dean have finally found Jesus and Mary present in their midst. As a token of benediction, like the pearl of great price, one of the children presents Dean with her crystal, a symbol of faith and trust: “Then Dean poked in the little girl’s hand for ‘the sweetest and purest and smallest crystal she has personally picked from the mountain for me.’”[132] Like crystals, the purity of the children reminds Sal and Dean of Christ’s Sermon upon the Mount, when He said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” On the Road has been a pilgrimage all along to see the face of God, and they found Him by receiving these little ones in His Name.

But the pilgrim becomes a prophet as they come down from the mountain, for they must now give that which they have received. The Mexican children keep following the car as they depart, so Dean asks Sal if they would keep following them forever. Sal responds in the affirmative, carrying them in his heart. Indeed, Sal exclaims, “Wake up and see the shepherds, wake up and see the golden world that Jesus came from, with your own eyes you can tell!”[133] Through the pilgrimage, they have regained their faith, so now, they must go throughout the world spreading the good news. Dean genuinely pleads, “‘Oh, Lord what shall I do? Where will I go?’ He looked to heaven with red eyes, he almost wept.”[134] When he abandons Sal to his sickness, Dean tells him, therefore, “Wish I could stay. Pray I can come back.”[135]

Sal reflects how, “The end of our journey impended. Great fields stretched… over old missions… in the late sun… We’d made it, a total of nineteen hundred miles from… Denver to these vast and Biblical areas of the world, and now we were about to reach the end of the road.”[136] Now that he has seen God on the mountain, Sal baptizes Beat imagery with a Catholic consciousness of pilgrimage: “In downtown Mexico city thousands of hipsters… padded along… selling crucifixes and weed… kneeling in beat chapels next to Mexican burlesque shows in sheds.”[137] After all, as Kerouac later wrote in Time magazine’s “Beat Mystics,” “Christ invites everyone, including the outcasts. So there’s not contradiction at all between Christ… and a hipster.”[138] Through his prophetic pilgrimage to a land not yet as afflicted with secular materialism, Sal has learned that the wheat and the chaff must abide side by side in this world, just like him and Dean. Or, as Giamo puts it, “If one is to follow Christ’s example… one has no choice but to practice renunciation and wander in the ruins of materialistic American civilization.”[139]

Towards the end of On the Road, Sal has a mystical experience confirming him in his new vocation as a prophet, marking the beginning of his real pilgrimage: “I heard the sound of footsteps from the darkness beyond, and lo, a tall old man with flowing white hair came clomping by with a pack on his back, and when he saw me as he passed, he said, ‘Go moan for man,’ and clomped on back to his dark. Did this mean that I should at last go on my pilgrimage on foot on the dark roads around America?”[140] Giamo declares that “this is where the road begins and ends… The mission of the writer is therefore discerned.”[141] He concludes his narration with a rhythmic lullaby to an America that is dying, like the Irish blessing: “So in America when the sun goes down… and all that road going… don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? The evening tar must be drooping… before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth… and folds the final shore… I even think of Old Dean Moriraty the father we never found.”[142] While Sal and Dean did not succeed in tracking down Dean’s drunken dad from Denver, they found a father far better: God, the founding father of all nations.

  1. Conclusion.

As we have seen through Parts 1 through 4 of On the Road, Kerouac deserves a proper place in the pantheon of Catholic authorship, given his penchant for prophecy and pilgrimage across America in the latter days of the last century. His sojourns have inspired others to follow suit and discover the world for themselves, while shaping the cultural imagination of travel in music and film. By listening to his fellow man – even the most depraved – he could hear the Beat of Christ’s Sacred Heart, pulsing with the joys and sorrows of humanity throughout the universe. We can only hope that he finally earned the Beatific Vision he purported to seek so earnestly. Perhaps his spiritual director, Father Morissette, said it best when he quoted the Gospel of Luke at Kerouac’s funeral: “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us On the Road?”[143]


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Charters, Ann. Kerouac: A Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

Coupe, Laurence. “Chapter 2. ‘Go Moan for Man’: Jack Kerouac and the Beatific Vision.”             In Beat Sound, Beat Vision: The Beat Spirit and Popular Song, 56-78. New York,         NY: Manchester University Press, 2007.

Fisher, James Terence. “Chapter 7. Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, the Last Catholic Romantics.” In The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-1962. Chapel Hill:       University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Gewirtz, Isaac. Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road. New York Public Library: New York, 2007

Giamo, Benedict. Kerouac, the Word and the Way: Prose Artist as Spiritual Quester.         Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.

Gilmour, Peter. “Blessed are the Beatniks.” U.S. Catholic 64, (March 1999): 7.

Grace, Nancy McCampbell. Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination. New York:         Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Hart, Addison Hodges. “Chapter 4. The Bible’s Kerouac: Ecclesiastes.” In Knowing Darkness: On Skepticism, Melancholy, Friendship, and God, 51-72. Cambridge, U.K.:        William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.

Hipkiss, Robert A. Jack Kerouac, Prophet of the New Romanticism: A Critical Study of     the Published Works of Kerouac and a Comparison of Them to Those of J.D.   Salinger, James Purdy, John Knowles, and Ken Kesey. Lawrence: Regents Press    of Kansas, 1976.

Hunt, Tim. “An American Education.” In Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers:      Philadelphia, 2004.

Johnston, Patricia. “Dharma Bums: The Beat Generation and the Making of           Countercultural Pilgrimage.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 33, (2013): 165-179.

Kerouac, Jack. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956. Ed. Ann Charters. New York: Viking, 1995.

Kerouac, Jack. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1957-1969. Ed. Ann Charters. New York: Viking, 1999.

Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. New York: Viking Press, 1957.

Kerouac, Jack. “The Origins of the Beat Generation.” Playboy, June 1959, 42-79.

King, David. “Discovering the Catholic in Jack Kerouac, Author of the Beat Generation.”             In The Georgia Bulletin, January 3, 2014.

Lerner, Richard and Lewis MacAdams. “What Happened to Kerouac?” 1986. Duration     1:36:49. Accessed         December 15, 2016.

Mansfield, Howard. “The Roots of ‘The Road.’” The Washington Post. June 27, 1988.

Miller, Alan L. “Ritual Aspects of Narrative: An Analysis of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma            Bums.Journal Of Ritual Studies 9, no. 1 (1995): 41-53.

Modern, John Lardas. The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Morrissette, Wilfred. “Re: Father Morrissette Boulevard in Lowell.”        June 30, 2001. Accessed December 15, 2016.  

Swartz, Omar. The View from On the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac.           Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999.

Walsh, Joy. Jack Kerouac: Statement in Brown. Ed. Ford F. Ruggieri. New York:   Allegany Mountain Press, 1984.

Weinreich, Regina. The Spontaneous Poetics of Jack Kerouac: A Study of the Fiction.          Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987

[1] Peter Gilmoure, “Blessed are the beatniks,” (U.S. Catholic 64: March 1999), 7.

[2] Patricia Johnston, “Dharma Bums: The Beat Generation and the Making of Countercultural Pilgrimage,” Buddhist-Christian Studies 33 (2013), 176-177.

[3] Alan L. Miller, “Ritual Aspects of Narrative: An Analysis of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums,” in Journal Of Ritual Studies 9, no. 1 (1995): 43.

[4] Douglas R. Anderson, “Chapter 14. Emerson and Kerouac: Grievous Angels of Hope and Loss,” in Philosophy Americana: Making Philosophy at Home in American Culture, (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2006), 225.

[5] Howard Mansfield, “The Roots of ‘The Road,’” The Washington Post. June 27, 1988.

[6] Wilfred Morrissette, “Re: Father Morrissette Boulevard in Lowell,”,June 30, 2001, accessed December 15, 2016,

[7] Ann Charters, Kerouac: A Biography (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973), 190.

[8] Jack Kerouac to Bill Michell, February 15, 1961, in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1957-1969, ed. Ann Charters (New York, NY: Viking, 1999), 283.

[9] Charters, Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1957-1969, 346.

[10] James Terrence Fisher, “Chapter 7. Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, the Last Catholic Romantics,” in The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-1962, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 224.

[11] Ibid, 224.

[12] Charters, Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1957-1969, 455.

[13] Jack Kerouac, “The Origins of the Beat Generation,” Playboy, June 1959, 79.

[14] Ibid, 32-23.

[15] Addison Hodges Hart, “Chapter 4. The Bible’s Kerouac: Ecclesiastes,” in Knowing Darkness: On Skepticism, Melancholy, Friendship, and God (Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 70-71.

[16] Mansfield, “The Roots of ‘The Road,’” The Washington Post.

[17] Charters, Kerouac: A Biography, 9.

[18] Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdams, “What Happened to Kerouac?” 1986, Duration:1:36:49,, accessed December 15, 2016.

[19] Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdams, “What Happened to Kerouac?” 1986, Duration1:36:49,, accessed December 15, 2016.

[20] James Terence Fisher, “Chapter 7. Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, the Last Catholic Romantics,” in The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-1962 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 228.

[21] Ibid, 228-229.

[22] Jack Kerouac to Neal Cassady, January 9, 1951, in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956, 285.

[23] Ibid, 291.

[24] Jack Kerouac to Neal Cassady, Jan 3, 1951 in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956, 270.

[25] Isaac Gewirtz, Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road, (New York Public Library: New York, 2007), 152.

[26] Ibid, 169.

[27] Ibid, 153.

[28] Joy Walsh, Jack Kerouac: Statement in Brown, ed. Ford F. Ruggieri, (New York: Allegany Mountain Press, 1984), 51-52.

[29] Laurence Coupe, “Chapter 2. ‘Go Moan for Man’: Jack Kerouac and the Beatific Vision,” in Beat sound, Beat vision: The Beat spirit and popular song (New York, NY: Manchester University Press, 2007), 58.

[30] John Lardas Modern, The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 151.

[31] Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: Viking Press, 1957), 3.

[32] Ibid, 4.

[33] Ibid, 5.

[34] Ibid, 7.

[35] Fisher, “Chapter 7. Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, the Last Catholic Romantics,” 218.

[36] Kerouac, On the Road, 9.

[37] Ibid, 10.

[38] Ibid, 10-11.

[39] Ibid, 11.

[40] Fisher, “Chapter 7. Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, the Last Catholic Romantics,” 241.

[41] Kerouac, On the Road, 15.

[42] Ibid, 16

[43] Ibid, 17.

[44] Ibid, 20.

[45] Ibid, 21.

[46] Ibid, 22.

[47] Robert A. Hipkiss, Jack Kerouac, Prophet of the New Romanticism: A Critical Study of the Published Works of Kerouac and a Comparison of Them to Those of J.D. Salinger, James Purdy, John Knowles, and Ken Kesey (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1976), 136.

[48] Kerouac, On the Road, 37.

[49] Ibid, 39.

[50] Ibid, 47.

[51] Ibid, 48.

[52] Hipkiss, Jack Kerouac, Prophet of the New Romanticism, 70.

[53] Kerouac, On the Road, 56.

[54] Ibid, 57.

[55] Hipkiss, Jack Kerouac, Prophet of the New Romanticism, 61.

[56] Kerouac, On the Road, 57.

[57] Ibid, 77-78.

[58] Ibid, 79.

[59] Ibid, 84.

[60] Hipkiss, Jack Kerouac, Prophet of the New Romanticism, 134.

[61] Ibid, 85-86.

[62] Ibid, 87.

[63] Ibid, 90.

[64] Ibid, 94.

[65] Ibid, 96-97.

[66] Ibid, 112.

[67] Ibid, 116.

[68] Ibid, 119.

[69] Ibid, 120.

[70] Ibid, 121.

[71] Nancy McCampbell Grace, Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 2-3.

[72] Kerouac, On the Road, 132.

[73] Ibid, 122.

[74] Grace, Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination, 83.

[75] Regina Weinreich, The Spontaneous Poetics of Jack Kerouac: A Study of the Fiction (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987), 146.

[76] Kerouac, On the Road, 124.

[77] Ibid, 128.

[78] Ibid, 130.

[79] Ibid, 133.

[80] Grace, Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination, 88.

[81] Kerouac, On the Road, 137.

[82] Ibid, 137-138.

[83] Ibid, 138.

[84] Ibid, 140.

[85] Ibid, 211.

[86] Grace, Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination, 84.

[87] Kerouac, On the Road, 145.

[88] Ibid, 144.

[89] Ibid 153.

[90] Ibid, 147.

[91] Ibid, 150.

[92] Ibid, 157.

[93] Ibid, 165.

[94] Ibid, 168.

[95] Ibid, 169.

[96] Ibid 169-170.

[97] Ibid, 171.

[98] Ibid, 170.

[99] Ibid, 171.

[100] Grace, Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination, 96.

[101] Kerouac, On the Road, 171-172.

[102] Ibid, 173.

[103] Ibid, 179.

[104] Ibid, 182.

[105] Ibid, 193.

[106] Ibid, 194.

[107] Ibid, 195.

[108] Omar Swartz, The View from On the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999), xii.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Fisher, “Chapter 7. Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, the Last Catholic Romantics,” 229.

[111] Kerouac, On the Road, 227.

[112] Ibid, 245.

[113] Ibid, 254.

[114] Ibid, 256.

[115]Ibid, 257.

[116] Ibid, 259.

[117] Swartz, The View from On the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac, 75.

[118] Kerouac, On the Road, 263.

[119] Tim Hunt, “An American Education,” in Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, ed. Harold Bloom. (Chelsea House Publishers: Philadelphia, 2004), 52.

[120] Kerouac, On the Road, 268.

[121] Ibid, 273.

[122] Hunt, “An American Education,” 68.

[123] Kerouac, On the Road, 274.

[124] Ibid, 285.

[125] Ibid, 285-286.

[126] Benedict Giamo, Kerouac, the Word and the Way: Prose Artist as Spiritual Quester (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000), xiv.

[127] Kerouac, On the Road, 291.

[128] Ibid, 287.

[129] Giamo, Kerouac, the Word and the Way, 21.

[130] Kerouac, On the Road, 298.

[131] Ibid, 298.

[132] Ibid, 298.

[133] Ibid, 300.

[134] Ibid, 300.

[135] Ibid, 302.

[136] Ibid, 300.

[137] Ibid, 302.

[138] Fisher, “Chapter 7. Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, the Last Catholic Romantics,” 240.

[139] Giamo, Kerouac, the Word and the Way, 8.

[140] Kerouac, On the Road, 306.

[141] Giamo, Kerouac, the Word and the Way, 41.

[142] Ibid, 309-310.

[143] David King, “Discovering the Catholic in Jack Kerouac, Author of the Beat Generation,” in The Georgia Bulletin, January 3, 2014.