Archive for the 'Ideas to Explore' Category

Catharine Maria Sedgwick

September 12, 2006


Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Daughter of federalist lawyer and successful politician, Theodore Sedgwick, who later became a judge of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Liked by Edgar Allan Poe – who hates everyone
Was very popular during her time but is not included in the Cannon
Mother went insane during her childhood
Taught by her father
Brought up a Calvinist, but converted to Unitarianism which led her to write a pamphlet denouncing religious intolerance that evolved into her first novel, A New-England Tale
In her later work, Married or Single, she put forth the bold idea that women should not marry if it meant they would lose their self-respect

Hope Leslie (1827)

Set in seventeenth-century New England
Forces reader to confront the consequences of the Puritans’ subjugation and displacement of the indigenous Indian population at a time when contemporaries were demanding still more land
Recounts a dramatic conflict between British colonists and Native Americans
Is a Historical Novel: not based on actual events but possible situations
Sedgwick describes in the Preface:

“Real characters and real events are, however, alluded to; and this course, if not strictly necessary, was found very convenient in the execution of the author’s design, which was to illustrate not the history, but the character of the times.”

Ideas to Explore:

The significance of eyes
Meaning of natural metaphors and symbols for both parties
Parallel between Mononotto and Fletcher
Narrator’s tone about religion, is it meant to be ironic?


“‘Caution Will against all vain speculation and idle inquiries- there are those that are for ever inquiring and inquiring, and never coming to the truth. One inquiry should suffice for a loyal subject. ‘What is established?’ and that being well ascertained, the line of duty is so plain, that he who runs may read.'” -Sir William Fletcher

“‘No man should be suffered to decline either on the left or on the right hand, from the drawn line limited by authority, and by the sovereign’s laws and injunctions'” -Sir William Fletcher

“Fletcher obeyed the voice of Heave. This is no romantic fiction. Hundreds in that day resisted all that solicits earthly passions, and sacrificed all that gratifies them, to the cause of God and of man- the cause of liberty and religion. This cause was not to their eyes invested with any romantic attractions. It was not assisted by the illusions of chivalry, nor magnified by the spiritual power and renown of crusades. Our fathers neither had, nor expected their reward on earth.”

“These are the men of genius- the men of feeling- the men that the world calls visionaries; and it is because they are visionaries- because they have a beau-ideal in their own minds, to which they can see but a faint resemblance in the actual state of things, that they become impatient of detail, and cannot brook the slow progress to perfection.”

“Never was a name more befitting the condition of a people, than ‘Pilgrim’ that of our forefathers. It should be redeemed from the puritanical and ludicrous associations which have degraded it, in most men’s minds, and be hallowed by the sacrifices made by those voluntary exiles.”

“‘Magawisca,’ she said in a friendly tone, ‘you are welcome among us, girl.’ Magawisca bowed her head. Mrs. Fletcher continued: ‘you should receive it as a signal mercy, child, that you ahve been taken from the midst of a savage people, and set in a christian family.’ Mrs. Fletcher paused for her auditor’s assent, but the proposition was either unintelligible or unacceptable to Magawisca.”

“Two young plants that have sprung up in close neighbourhood, may be separated while young; but if disjoined after their fibers are all intertwine, one, or perchance both, may perish.”

“‘She says, madam, the baby is like a flower just opened to the sun, with no stain upon it- that he better pass now to the Great Spirit. She says this world is all arough place- all sharp stones, and deep waters, and black clouds.'” – Magawisca, translating from Nelema

“She turned away, as one conscious of possessing a secret, and fearful that they eye, the herald of the soul, will speak unbidden.”

“‘They are a kind of beast we don’t comprehend-out of the range of God’s creatures- neither angel, man, nor yet quite devil.'” -Digby

“‘I think you have caught the fear, Digby, without taking its counsel,’ said Everell, ‘which does little credit to your wisdom; the only use of fear, being to provide against danger.'”

“‘You need not fear it; I can honour nobel deepd though done by our enemies, and see that cruelty is cruelty, though inflicted by our friend.’
‘Then listen to me; and when the hour of vengeance comes, if it should come, remember it was provoked.'” -Everell, Magawisca

“Magawisca crept to her bed, but not to repose- neither watching nor weariness procured sleep for her. Her mind was racked with apprehensions, and conflicting duties, the cruelest rack to an honourable mind.”

“‘Thank, thank you, Everell,’ said the little girl as she mounted her pinnacle; ‘if you knew Hope, you would want to see her first too- every body loves Hope. We shall always have pleasant times when Hope gets here.'” – Faith Leslie

“The scene had also its minstrels; the birds, those ministers and worshippers of nature, were on the wing, filling the air with melody; while, like diligent little housewifes, they ransacked forest and field for materials for their house-keeping.”

“‘You call me a bird of ill-omen,’ replied Magawisca, half proud, half sorrowful, ‘and you callt he owl a bird of ill-omen, but we hold him sacred- he is our sentinel, and when danger is near he cries, awake! awake!'”

“‘Oh!’ said Magawisca, impetuously covering her eyes, ‘I do not like to see any thing so beautiful, pass so quickly away.'”

“‘Ah, Magawisca! so I thought,’ said Jennet. ‘She knows everything evil that happens in earth, sea, or air; she and that mother-witch, Nelema. I always told Mrs. Fletcher she was warming a viper in her bosom, poor dear lady; but I suppose it was for wise ends she was left to her blindness.'”

“In the quiet possession of the blessings transmitted, we are, perhaps, in danger of forgetting, or undervaluing the sufferings by which they were obtained. We forget that the noble pilgrims lived and endured for us… No-they came not for themselves- they lived not to themselves. An exiled and suffering people, they came forth in the dignity of the chosen servants of the Lord, to open the forests to the sun-beam, and to the light of the Sun of Righteousness- to restore man- man oppressed and trampled on by his fellow; to religious and civil liberty, and equal rights- to replace the creatures of God on their natural level- to bring down the hills, and make smooth the rough places, which the pride and cruelty of man had wrought on the fair creation of the Father of all.”

“‘And I am a coward,’ replied Magawisca, reverting to her habitually calm tone, ‘if to fear my father should do a wrong, even to an enemy, is cowardice.’ Again her father’s brow softened, and she ventured to add, ‘send back the boy, and our path will be all smooth before us- and light will be upon it, for my mother often said, ‘the sun never sets on the soul of the man that doeth good.'”

“‘He has the skin, but not the soul of that mixed race, whose gratitude is like that vanishing mist,'” -Mononotto, in regards to Everell

“Everell sunk calmly on his knees, not to supplicate life, but to comment his soul to God. He clapsed his hands together. He did not- he could not speak: his soul was ‘Rapt in still communication that transcends / The imperfect offices of prayer.’ At this moment a sun-beam penetrated the trees that enclosed the area, and fell athwart his brow and hair, kindling it with an almost supernatural brightness.”

“‘Dear Everell,
This is the fifth anniversary of the day you left us- your birth-day, too, you know; so we celebrate it, but with a blended joy and grief, which, as my dear gaurdian says, is suitable to the mixed condition of human life.'”

“‘I hope you have not forgotten the autumnal brilliancy of our woods. They say the foliage in England has a paler sickly hue, but for our western world- nature’s youngest child- she has reserved hermany-coloured robe, the brightest and most beautiful of her garments. Last week the woods were as green as an emerald, and now they look as if all the summer-spirits had been wreathing them with flowers of the richest and most brilliant dyes.'”

“‘I seated myself on the foot-stool at his feet, so that I could look straight into his eyes; for many a time, when my heart has quailed at his solemn address, the tender spirit stationed in that soft hazle eye of his- so like yours, Everell- has quieted all my apprehensions.'”

“‘…Jennet is such an obstinate self-willed fool! I believe she will be willing to see Nelema hung for a witch, that she may have the pleasure of saying, ‘I told you so.’
Poor Nelema! -such harmless, helpless, lonely being- my tears fall so fast on my paper, that I can scarcely write. I plabe myself for bringing her into htis hapless case- but it may be better than I fear. i will leave my letter and try to sleep.'”

“‘However, the singularity of the case only served to magify their wonderr, without, in the least, weakening their faith in the actual, and, as it appeared, friendly alliance between Nelema, and the evil one. Indeed, I was the only person present whose belief in her witchcraft was not, as it were, converted into sight.'”


Charles Brockden Brown

August 24, 2006


American novelist, historian, magazine editor
Regarded as the most ambitious and accomplished US novelist before Cooper: wrote 7 novels in 2 years
Writing covers multiple genres: novel, short story, essay, historiography, reviews
Touchstone for understanding the Early Republic
Born to a Quaker family, initially intended for a legal career
Died of tuberculosis at 39

Wieland (1798)

“Wieland or The Transformation: An American Tale”
Gothic novel
Novel of authority misrepresented and imagined, a terrifying account of the fallibility of the human mind and of democracy
Set in rural Pennsylvania before the American Revolution; relates how a small community is disturbed by the intrusion of the mysterious Carwin whose extraordinary verbal gifts cast doubt among them
Narrator Clara is intended for the private- novel in letter form, journals, notes- but forced into the public by both Carwin and Pleyel
Brockden states in the “Advertisement” section about his intentions for writing the book:

“His purpose is neither selfish nor temporary, but aims at the illustration of some important branches of the moral constitution of man.”

Ideas to Explore:

The use of eyes in the novel
The transformation of private to public
The “family” as a representation of early America
The fault of the victim
Issues of trusting evidence


“I feel little reluctance in complying with your request. You know not fully the cause of my sorrows. You are a stranger to the depth of my distress. Hence your efforts at consolation must necessarily fail. Yet the tale that I am going to tell is not intended as a claim upon your sympathy. In the midst of my despair, I do not disdain to contribute what little I can to the benefit of mankind. I acknowledge your right to be informed of the events that have lately happened in my family. Make what use of the tale you shall think proper. If it be communicated to the world, it will inculcate the duty of avoiding deceit. It will exemplify the force of early impressions, and show, the immeasurable evils that flow from an erroneous or imperfect discipline.”

“His morals, which had never been loose, were now modelled by a stricter standard. The empire of religious duty extended itself to his looks, gestures, and phrases. All levities of speech, and negligences of behaviours, were proscribed. His air was mournful and contemplative. He laboured to keep alive a sentiment of fear, and a belief of the awe-creating presence of the Deity. ideas foreign to this were sedulously excluded. To suffer their intrusion was a crime against the Divine Majesty inexpiable but by days and weeks of the keenest agonies.
No material variation had occured in the lapse of two years. Every day confirmed him in his present modes of thinking and acting. it was to be expected that the tide of his emotions would sometimes recede, that intervals of despondency and doubt would occur; but these gradually were more rare, and of shorter duration; and he, at last, arrived at a state considerably uniform in this respect.”

“Was this the penalty of disobedience? this the stroke of a vindictive and invisible hand? Is it a fresh proof that the Divine Ruler interferes in human affairs, meditates an end, selects, and commissions his agents, and enforces by unequivocal sanctions, submission to his will? Or, was it merely the irregular expansion of the fluid that imparts warmth to our heart and our blood, caused by the fatigue of the preceding day, or flowing, by established laws, from the condition of his thoughts?”

“We were frequently reminded how much happiness depends on society.”

“The sound of war had been heard, but it was at such a distance as to enhance our enjoyment by affording objects of comparison.”

“He urged, that to rely on the exaggerations of an advocate, or to make the picture of a single family a model from which to sketch the condition of a nation, was absurd.”

“The will is the tool of the understanding, which must fashion its conclusions on the notices of the sense. If the senses be depraved, it is impossible to calculate the evils that may flow from the consequent deductions of the understanding.”

“So flexible, and yet so stubborn, is the human mind. So obedient to impulses the most transient and brief, and yet so unalterably observant of the direction which is given to it!”

“Something whispered that the happiness we at present enjoyed was set on mutable foundations. Death must happen to all. Whether our felicity was to be subverted by it to-morrow, or whether it was ordained that we should lay down our heads full of years and of honor, was a question that no human being could solve.”

“I have not lived so as to fear death, yet to perish by an unseen and secret stroke, to be mangled by the knife of an assassin, was a thought at which I shuddered; what had I done to deserve to be made the victim of malignant passions?”

“My brother was a much more sanguine reasoner than our guest. Even in some of the facts which were related by Carwin, he maintained the probability of celestial interference, when the latter was disposed to deny it, and had found, as he imagined, footsteps of a human agent. Pleyel was by no means equally credulous. He scrupled not to deny faith to any testimony but that of his senses, and allowed the facts which had been supported by this testimony, not to mould his belief, but merely to give birth to doubts.”

“My errors have taught me thus much wisdom; that those sentiments which we ought not to disclose, it is criminal to harbour.”

“Ideas exist in our minds that can be accounted for by no established laws.”

“I used to suppose that certain evils could never befall a being in possession of a sound mind; that true virtue supplies us with energy which vice can never resist; that it was always in our power to obstruct, by his own death, the designs of an enemy who aimed at less than our life. How was it that a sentiment like despair had now invaded me, and that I trusted to the protection of chance, or to the pity of my persecutor?”

“Are human faculties adequate to receive stronger proofs of the existence of unfettered and beneficent intelligences than I have received?”

“‘Surely,’ said I, ‘there is omnipotence in the cause that changed the views of a man like Carwin. The divinity that shielded me from his attempts will take suitable care of my future safety. Thus to yield to my fears is to deserve that they should be real.'”

“I have lost all faith in the stedfastness of human resolves. It was thus that in periods of calm I had determined to act. No cowardice had been held by me in greater abhorrence than that which prompted an injured female to destroy, not her injurer ere the injury was perpetrated, but herself when it was without remedy. Yet now this penknife appeared to me of no other use than to baffle my assailant, and prevent the crime by destroying myself. To deliberate at shuch a time was impossible; but among the tumultuous suggestions of the moment, I do not recollect that it once occurred to me to use it as an instrument of direct defense.”

“Should I confide in the testimony of my ears?”

“Surprize is an emotion that enfeebles, not invigorates.”

“Carwin’s plot owed its success to a coincidence of events scarcely credible. The balance was swayed from its equipoise by a hair.”

“Have I not reason on my side, and the power of imparting conviction?”

“Reputation and life might be wrested from me by another, but my rectitude and honor were in my own keeping, and were safe.”

“Alas! my heart droops, and my fingers are enervated; my ideas are vivid, but my language is faint; now know I what it is to entertain incommunicable sentiments. The chain of subsequent incidents is drawn through my mind, and being linked with those which forewent, by turns rouse up agonies and sink me into hopelessness.
Yet I will persist to the end. My narrative may be invaded by inaccuracy and confusion; but if I live no longer, I will, at least, live to complete it. What but ambiguities, abruptnesses, an dark transitions, can be expected from the historian who is, at the same time, the sufferer of these disasters?”

“‘Madness, say you? Are you sure? Were not these sights, and these sounds, really seen and heard?'”

“Was I not likewise transformed from rational and human into a creature of nameless and fearful attributes? Was I not transported to the brink of the same abyss? Ere a new day should come, my hands might be embrued in blood, and my remaining life be consigned to a dungeon and chains.
With moral sensibility like mine, no wonder that this new dread was more insupportable than the anguish I had lately endured. Grief carries its own antidote along with it. When thought becomes merely a vehicle of pain, its progress must be stopped. Death is a cure which nature or ourselves must administer: to this cure I now looked forward with gloomy satisfaction.”

“Presently, I considered, that whether Wieland was a maniac, a faithful servant of his God, the vistim of hellish illusions, or the dupe of human imposture, was by no means crtain.”

“‘Catharine was dead by violence. Surely my malignant stars had not made me the cause of her death; yet had I not rashly set in motion a machine, over whose progress I had no controul, and which experience had shewn me was infinite in power? Every day might add to the catalog of horrors of which this was the source, and a seasonable disclosure of the truth might prevent numberless ills.'” -Carwin

“Were views so vivid and faith so strenuous thus liable to fading and to change? Was there not reason to doubt the accuracy of my perceptions?”

“Alas! nothing but subjection to danger, and exposure to temptation, can show us what we are.”

“I listen to my own pleas, and find them empty and false: yes, I acknowledge that my guilt surpasses that of all mankind: I confess that the curses of a world, and the frowns of a deity, are inadequate to my demerits. Is there a thing in the world worth of infinite abhorrence? It is I.”

“‘Sister,’ said he, in an accent mournful and mild, ‘I have acted poorly my part in this world. What thinkest thou? Shall I not do better in the next?'” -Weiland

“Such was my weakness, that even in the midst of these thoughts, my mind glided into abhorrence of Carwin, and I uttered in a low voice, O! Carwin! Carwin! What hast thou to answer for?”

“Such is man. Time will obliterate the deepest impressions. Grief the most vehement and hopeless, will gradually decay and wear itself out. Arguments may be employed in vain: every moral prescription may be ineffectually tried: remonstrances, however cogent or pathetic, shall have no power over the attention, or shall be repelled with disdain; yet, as day follows day, the turbulence of our emotions shall subside, and our fluctuations be finally succeeded by a calm.”

“I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-toungued deceiver would have been baffled and repelled.”

Jack Kerouac

July 5, 2006


Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac
American novelist, poet, artist
Part of the Beat Generation
Didn’t start to learn English until the age of six
Discharged during World War II on psychiatric grounds
Divided most of his adult life between roaming the vast American landscape and living with his mother in her New York City apartment
Writing often reflects a desire to break free from society’s mold and to find meaning in life
Suffered from alcoholism

The Town and The City (1950)

Kerouac’s first major work
Essentially an autobiographical novel
Written in a conventional manner over a period of years; before Kerouac’s spontaneous style of writing
Influenced by Thomas Wolfe (the title is reminiscent of Wolfe’s The Web and the Rock)
The city represents figures of the early beat circle

Ideas to explore:

A potential parallel between Kerouac’s use of rain in Chapter 5 of Part 2 (see quotation) and James Joyce’s use of snow in The Dead

The friendship between Alexander Panos and Peter Martin


“Out on the hillside, by the cemetery, the rosy sun slants in through the elm leaves, a fresh breeze blows through the soft grass, the stones gleam in the morning light, there’s the odor of loam and grass- and it’s a joy to know that life is life and death is death.
Theses are the things that closely surround the mills and the business of Galloway, that make it a town rooted in earth in the ancient pulse of life and work and death,m that make its people townspeople and not city people.”

“When all the family was stilled in sleep, when the streetlamp a few paces from the house shone at night and made grotesque shadows of the trees upon the house, when the river sighed off in the darkness, when the trains hooted on their way to Montreal far upriver, when the wind swished in the soft treeleaves and something knocked and rattled on the old barn-you could stand in old Galloway Road and look at this home and know that there is nothing more haunting that a house at night when the family is asleep, something strangely tragic, something beautiful forever.”

“This is the Martin family, the elders and the young ones, even the little ones, the flitting ghost-ends of a brood who will grow and come to attain size and seasons and huge presence like the others, and burn savagely across days and nights of living, and give brooding rare articulation to the poor things of life, and the rich, dark things too.”

“The women rock back and forth in the old creaking swing, reaching mechanically into the popcorn bowl, musing, contented, belonging to the wonderful darkness and the ripe June world, owning it, as no barging man of the house could ever hope to belong to any part of the earth or own an inch of it.”

“Like almost every other kid in Galloway, Tommy could not make up his mind whether Friday night was more exciting than Saturday morning, or even whether Saturday night itself could contest the issue. On Friday night school was all over and in that throbbing darkness all one had to do was sit back and think of the whole weekend of freedom ahead. But the weekend could not properly begin till Saturday morning at eight sharp when, after a hurried breakfast of cereal with bananas and sugar and milk, the whole broad world of daylight and skies and trees and woods and fields and The River were just waiting to be had. However, just because the weekend began at eight o’clock sharp on Saturday morning did not mean that it could be quite so mysteriously enjoyable as the Friday night anticipation of that beginning. There was something about Friday night that none of them could deny. It was richer, more leisurely, they made plans, mapped routes and campaigns, sat back and stretched their legs, pondered, meditated on affairs to come, consulted withe fellow chieftains, laughed tolerantly, moved about casually. There was no rush, no losing of one’s head, no sinking feeling of desperation that it was all slipping away in the hour-glass of day. Friday night was a time for lounging, far-seeing, statesman like convocations.”

“He never wanted to kiss her because she was altogether too voluptuous-her lips were too yielding and rich when he pressed his own against them, his hand around her waist inadvertently probed too much soft shapely flesh. These were things about her that he never dared to dwell upon because he loved her as if she were an angel. Darkly, with a bitter melancholy, he wanted to spend the rest of his life watching her sulk and brood. This annoyed Mary.”

“Even then Francis is filled with a strange pleasure and the belief that he is the only mortal soul in the town who has frighteningly understood the meaning of life and death.”

“The depth of a woman’s heart is as unknowable as that of man’s, but nothing like restlessness and feverish rue ever abides there. In the very deeps of this heart are contained all the secrets, and the one plain secret of life, which is something that is homely, coarse, sensual, and deep, something that is everlasting because it is serene and waits patiently. A man may spend the night tracing the course of the stars above the earth, but the woman never has to worry her head about the course of the stars above the earth, because she lives in the earth and the earth is her home. A man may yearn after a thousand shades and shapes that surround his fevered life, but to the woman there is only one shade and one shape to things, which she forever contemplates in the fullness of her profundity, and she never loses sight of it.
Some men dig into the earth to excavate whole lost cities and civilizations, they want to find otherworldly mysteries and strange things never known before. But if you dig into a woman’s heart, deeply beneath whatever surface it presents, the deeper you go, the more woman there is; and if you’re looking for mysteries there, you’ll find that they don’t matter.”

“And Peter smiled and hurried on beneath great black branches of November. Yet somehow now, he felt that he had almost betrayed everyone he knew by having performed great feats that required their silence and praise, their awe and embarrassment.”

“At twenty young Joe was the victim of the early fatalism that says: ‘What’s the use anyway? Who cares what happens!’ That frame of mind proceeds on towards even greater excesses in the name of despair, while all the time it is only the sap of youth running over, running wild.”

“When this season comes in New England, a boy is suddenly aware of the whole world awakening with him to all the new things there are, and will be. The time of wintry storms and staying indoors has passed, one more year is achieved towards manhood, and all the plans hatched at the school desk or in the room are almost ready at last to be performed, in the green and sun-glorious summer.”

“What was most important to Francis was that for the first time in his life he heard spoken- and spoken in the articulate fluent language of ‘contemporary thought’- all the misty indistinct feelings that he had been carrying around with him for the last few years in Galloway. At last he realized that he had not been alone in these feelings. Elsewhere in the world other men and women lived and felt and reasoned as he did, other men and women were dissatisfied with the way things were, with society and its conventions and traditions and grievous blotches, other men and women wandered lonely in the world carrying in their hand the bitter proud fruit of ‘modern consciousness.’ They, like him, had been frightened and alone at first, before discovering there were others.”

“Now he was ‘really collegiate’ and all set to go to town. And he spent many days that summer just sitting at his desk, over a book and staring dreamily out the window. On rainy days he saw his future in the distant hazy swell of the hills on the horizon, in the dim blue reaches there, and dreamed nd dreamed of greatness. There was never anything else that could hold his dreamy attention: all was the fulfillment of himself, the future, greatness, a heroic struggle and overcoming of all obstacles.”

“And Peter almost with tears in his eyes late one night realized that other people were also strangers to themselves, and were lonely and troubled like him, and sought each other out cheerfully and with friendship, and perhaps even sometimes felt like he had felt the first night, like confessing everything, confessing all that was so dark and lonely and crazy and fearful in the heart. And he shook his head wincing at the thought of it. He had never felt anything like that before- yet somehow he knew that from now on he would always feel like that, always, and something caught at his throat as he realized what a strange sad adventure life might get to be, strange and sad and still much more beautiful than he could ever have imagined, so much more beautiful and amazing because it was really, strangely sad.”

“In the Spring when graduation time came round, the raw Maine Winter gave way to a sweet and lovely May, incredibly tender, fresh and green, full of morning musics and cool gold-flecked shade in the campus yards. Peter opened his window on the morning of graduation and looked out, and felt like singing. Everything he had done that year seemed excellent and wonderful and all was warm sunshine, peace, birdsong, and loafing young joy. The bells rang in golden light, the boys walked the greens in dazzling white attire among the proud visiting families and girl friends, there were rippling soft sounds of voices in the May morning air, laughter- and something gleeful and wicked that promised the night again, the dark wonderful night that had been their partner in crazy snickering joy all the year long, and that also promised a whole golden and richly dark summertime of home again, home again.”

“‘Do we ever remember our true selves? . . . I remember, I remember,’ said young Alex with a sad smile. ‘Oh, God! after that I couldn’t forget you and your brother. But it’s strange that I never saw you again after that- until this Summer. We had moved away. God, that was years, years ago.’
‘It sure was!’ laughed Peter. ‘We must have been eleven years old, and Joe was about fourteen then.’
‘I was the curly-headed little Greek kid on the sandbank,’ said Panos, smiling mournfully. ‘I didn’t have a chance to tell you the other day, and I wasn’t sure until I’d seen you again that you were the same kid. But you are. Your eyes are still the same- that was what I remembered: your eyes, when you walked up and asked me if I was all right. Forgive me for saying such silly things,’ he grinned sheepishly, ‘but that’s how I remembered you. It was I- the curly-headed little boy on the sandbank.’
‘Well, I’ll be damned! Wait till I tell Joe!'” …
This was young Panos. He remembered the incident of the sandbank with all his heart and with all the soulful intensity of his nature, more than Peter and Joe could ever dream. In his room in the ramshackle Panos house he wrote poetry on reams of paper and actually splashed them with his tears, and barged around the littered room brooding, and wept again when he heard a violin concerto or songs like ‘April in Paris’ or ‘The Boulevard of Broken Dreams,’ or a melancholy, anguished Greek song on the victrola, he went into ecstasies reading Byron and Rupert Brooke and William Saroyan, sometimes he opened his window and howled down his hosannahs of joy on startled passers-by.
Whenever he went downtown to Daley Square, he walked about in his erect mien, sometimes with tears in his eyes because ‘nobody understood.’ People stared at him in smiling amazement, because he was the strangest and most foreign sight to behold in all the town- excepting one Mohammedan woman who lived in the Greek coffee-shop district on Commerce Street and was seen wailing on the streets to Allah each sunset, a woman with whom young Alexander was on the most amiable terms.”

“And what does the rain say at night in a small town, what does the rain have to say? Who walks beneath dripping melancholy branches listening to the rain? Who is there in the rain’s million-needled blurring splash, listening to the grave music of the rain at night, September rain, September rain, so dark and soft? Who is there listening to steady level roaring rain all around, brooding and listening and waiting, in the rain-washed, rain-twinkled dark of night?
What do little children think when it rains on the roof all night, on gable-top and turret? What do little boys write in their diaries? What does little Mickey say tonight?
‘Rain today. No school. Played in my room all day. Ole Charley and me played games in my room tonight. Gee, it’s raining.’
How does the rain needle softly on the waters, and roll with the old river in darkness? Who walks along the river listening to the rain? Alexander Panos- he walks the town at night in sheets of shrouded rain.
‘And I know that I shall die young, I know that I shall die. . .’
In his room, in the feverish white light of the bulb, in the littered room of papers and books, he writes at his desk, he writes to Peter at Penn, and the rain patters on the windowpane, the rain beads his windowpane and rolls softly like tears. . . .
‘Pete, old friend, don’t think me insane, but I know, I know that I shall die young, I know I shall die- And yet I am not sad, no, I am not sad- Here tonight it is raining in Galloway- and the nostalgic reverie of old songs returns- ‘April in Paris,’ Peter, and ‘April Showers’ and ‘These Foolish Things’ and ‘In My Solitude’- And why do these songs return to me always, and so many others- ‘Jalousie’ and ‘Dark Eyes’ and that ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’- The oldies stealing back to haunt me in the faint melody above the pitter-pattering rain-‘
The pattering drone, the lull, the drowse of water falling, and all the thousand little rain feet in vast and twinkleddark, and all the old gaunt houses waiting beneath the trees, with dripping weeping eaves, and huge rotted sea-smells of rain all around- and the river bulging slowly-
-Don’t forget to close your window before you go to bed, Ruth!
-Pretty wet outside, hey, Ma!
-Gee, it’s raining.
Foggy rain falling on Galloway, Galloway dark at night, the streetlamps dripping-rain spearing down the darkness, splashing in the street- the vast million-twinkled rain splash all around, all around- and the old wagon in the rain, the soggy rag in mud, the tin can tinkling in the alley- and the town sleeping in the rain, and the old dark river there- what did it say? What did it say?
Old Ernest Berlot the barber lies abed listening to the rain, it splatters and shatters on the courtyard, it drums and roars, vast, vast, ad God, but it’s strange, he remembers so much, and God, but he feels sad and old.
Splashing rain, splattering, dark and wet, in all the puddles and cobblestones and gutters, and this immense old silence in the town, all thoughts rain-drowned, mute, and dark . . .
-So like I say, I always thought Bob was a pretty nice fella, you know? After all is said and done, you  know?
-Give me another cup of coffee while you’re there, will you, Jimmy?
-Yup. Hey, gee! It’s really coming down now, ain’t it? Look at it coming down out there!
-It’s really raining all right.
All of life is soft and dark now, and the huge and shrouded rain falls everywhere, in warm and rain-blue dark:
It falls in the muddy loam beneath the pines, in the marshy bottoms of rainwashed earth, in the secret thickets of the wet woods at night, in the brooding hidden ditches, the culverts trickling, in the mystery and darkness of rain-haunted woods and heavy-hanging trees at night, in puddled earth, in rain-darkened bracken at the end of the road.
And the rain falls sleeping on swarded meadows all greendark and damp, it falls washing on old stonewalls, and weeping on marble stone, and flowers there, and wreaths, it seeps and washes into every secret deep.
It falls on highways too. George Martin comes driving home in the rain-hushed midnight hour, his lights go reaching across the slanted rainfall, across the asphalt glistening wet, and the rain spears in his window, the windshield wiper blurs and clicks, blurs and clicks, blurs and clicks. . . . What wonder and strangeness is in his heart? What does the sudden sight of the town all desolate and rain-blurred there, its lonely lights haloing in the darkness, its empty streets, its houses brooding under trees, what does the sight of the town rain-drowned and silent do to him? What awaits him there?
All thoughts, all hearts are melted softly, and asking raining questions, and waiting and listening all night long.
The river swells and elbows darkly through folded shores, all bulging, all softened by rain.
Still the shrouds of rain come down.”

“‘Don’t mind me! Go ahead with your friends,’ cried the man, gripping Peter’s arm again and pushing him back and forth slightly. ‘Don’t mind me, I’m nothing, I’ll be dead in a couple of days.’
‘No!’ cried Peter. ‘Take this nickel and go down to the ward, they’ll clean it. Take this quarter too. Eat! You need some food, some energy, or that thing’ll get you! You can’t go around like this!’
‘Peter, are we going?’ called Francis. ‘Please! Let’s go now.’
‘Now go and do as we say,’ said Peter, shoving a coin in the man’s side pocket. ‘Isn’t that right, Al?’ he demanded. ‘Shouldn’t he do that?’
‘By all means,’ said Panos in a deep, sad, grave voice. He had been watching everything in silence.”

“Peter went home that December for Christmas week.
He sat in the train wide awake at dawn, and leaned his head wearily against the back of the seat with his face turned to the frosted window in grave attention. The Boston-bound express sped eastward in the frozen Rhode Island dawn, and he suddenly sensed a new joy swelling up in him, something strange, something exultant, something that came to him from the scene outside the window where the sun had just appeared on the gray horizon and was spreading a cold rose light over the snowy fields and lonely farmhouses and over the forests of ragged birch that were everywhere slowly turning away from the sweep of the train’s progress, all of it remote and beautiful through blurs and streaks of blown snow and flying steam that whipped past his window form the locomotive. He realized, almost with a shock, that nothing could be more beautiful to him that these stretches of snow and these woods all tainted pink from the dawn. It all belonged to his own New England; he was rediscovering his earth, which he had been away from too long, it seemed.”

“Nothing that the university taught him could match for him the power and wisdom of his own kind of people, who lived and drew their breath in this rugged land joyous with tidings of towns, plain, homely, genuine and familiar, that he saw rolling by him again.”

“All of Peter’s emotions rose marveling in his soul, and a film of tears came to his eyes. He was home and his brother Joe was miraculously at his side. The locomotive whistle was howling at the gates of Galloway where years ago as a boy he had lain in his room listening for it in the night dreaming of voyages and great personal events, and he knew that now the sound of the whistle was carrying across the rooftops of his hometown, clear across the river to his family’s house on the old road, and he knew that he would never grow old and weary of his life.”

On The Road (1957)

Considered largely autobiographical
Inspired by the drug-fuelled cross-country car rides that Kerouac made with Neal Cassady
Written in the stream of consciousness narrative
Follows Sal Paradise, seen as Kerouac’s alter ego, and friends on a cross-country road trip, spending time in Colorado, California, Virginia, New York and Mexico
Carlo Marx is Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady is Dean Moriarty, Old Bull Lee is William Burroughs
The characters are introduced in brief vignettes, similar to those in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales 


“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”