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A progressive story of one individual seen as a memory from an outside perspective. 

James Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century. Joyce was born to a middle class family in Dublin, where he excelled as a student at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, then at University College Dublin. In his early twenties he emigrated permanently to continental Europe, living in Trieste, Paris and Zurich. Though most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce’s fictional universe does not extend far beyond Dublin, and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, that follows the intellectual and religo-philosophical awakening of Stephan Dedalus as he begins to question and rebel against the Catholic and Irish conventions with which he has been raised. The awakening of the main character comes forward with a strong moral struggle and a remarkable evolution. In fact, the novel is a Bildungsroman, meaning that it brings a major evolution over the main character, Stephan, who is also an alter-ego of the author.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is written into a free indirect speech, meaning that Joyce weaves together the subjectivism and the objectivism that arises from storytelling a psychological plot. The connection between Joyce and his character helps the story and gives a strong sense of authenticity. Joyce stays behind the text and outlines the psycho-moral struggles. He uses a method of involuntary remembrance that brings back memories based on an affective attitude. Joyce uses a third-person narrative that allows a close examination over the plot, Stephan being nothing more than a premise, a base on which the author creates his novel. Nevertheless, Stephan’s role to the novel is essential, in order to delimit literature from biography.

The social environment is subordinated to a psychological space. In fact, all the “outside” events are marked by the inner world of the character. The spiritual condition is often similar to the influential agents from the exterior. Stephan’s heart beats in the rate of his universe. The narrative has the same peace as the Stephan’s inner world.

“I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.”

The intellectual and moral awakening of Stephan is the main theme of the novel. The individual is marked by a strong yearning to be free as he slowly discovers a world where he takes a more and more important part. From beginning to end, Stephan moves from a shy, dull and conventional character towards a free, mature individual capable of making decisions, of taking his fate into his own hands, fact supported by the final decision of leaving Ireland in order to pursue his artistic goal into a more libertine Europe.

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On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac. On the Road is based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across America. It is considered a defining work of the postwar Beat Generation with its protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry, and drug use.

When the book was originally released, The New York Times hailed it as “the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principal avatar he is.”

The author

Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady

Jack-Louis Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. From his works we remind: On the RoadDoctor SaxThe Dharma Bums, Mexico City BluesThe SubterraneansDesolation AngelsVisions of CodyThe Sea is My Brother, and Big Sur.

Kerouac met Neal Cassady, who would become Dean Moriarty, in December 1946 and began his road adventures in 1947 while writing what would become The Town and the City. The adventures themselves, which took place between 1947 and 1950, were meant to help him overcome writers block during early attempts to write the book. It was through letters and other interactions with his friends that Kerouac decided to write the first person narrative that became On the Road as we know it today.

The publication process was another adventure unto itself, which took a major psychological toll on Kerouac. He was discouraged by the struggle (even though he continued to write during the period) and finally agreed to substantially revise the original version after years of failed negotiations with different publishers. He removed several parts in order to focus the story and also to protect himself from potential issues of libel. He also continued to write feverishly after its publication in spite of attacks from critics.

Just the old road, the eternal road, the one that lives forever after its passengers go away

Beat Generation

“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.”

The idea of what it means to be “beat” is still difficult to accurately describe. While many critics still consider the word “beat” in its literal sense of “tired and beaten down,” others, including Kerouac himself promoted the generation more in sense of “beatific” or blissful.

The Beats were seeking out a way to navigate through the world. As John Clellon Holmes put it, “everywhere the Beat Generation seems occupied with the feverish production of answers—some of them frightening, some of them foolish—to a single question: how are we to live?”. Beats are not lost but how they are searching for answers to all of life’s questions. Kerouac’s preoccupation with writers like Ernest Hemingway shaped his view of the beat generation. He uses a prose style which he adapted from Hemingway and throughout On the Road he alludes to novels like The Sun Also Rises. “How to live seems much more crucial than why.”

In many ways, it is a spiritual journey, a quest to find belief, belonging, and meaning in life. Not content with the uniformity promoted by government and consumer culture, the Beats yearned for a deeper, more sensational experience. I was looking for a novel that presents a form of uniformity and consumer culture rejection, but also I was yearning for a deep, sensational and moral experience and this is what On the Road offered me.

I wasn’t that familiar with the Beat movement. This was my first novel of such content, but nevertheless, I learned  that “being beat” means “being beatific”. Kerouac is closer to the real definition of this movement, or this is the impression his novel left to me. Our purpose in life is one of the most disturbing problems we ever encounter. Why to live? is a question that burdened many minds across the time and some of them might have even come to a close answer. But why should we look that far? How to live? seems to be a problem of more greater importance and that is the life philosophy that On the Road adopts. Not knowing what your purpose is, represents the trigger that Kerouac pulls in order to create a  surprising adventure. The closest meaning of our life stays, after all, in front of us, in the living itself.

I think there is sensitive link between happiness and sadness, between pleasure and pain. I already said that On the Road comes closer to the figurative sense of the “beat”, but the literal sense of this word is not completely off the beaten track as well. On the Road does not come from bad attitudes, from being beaten down, as Fight Club does, if the comparison is allowed and does not promote those attitudes as well, like the above mentioned novel does.

To sum up, the Beat movement is a searching in life, a combination between the 2 senses of the word. Being a representative novel of this generation, On the Road is filled with youthful energy and reflects the searching of something in life (something we all search for, something we all must find for ourselves), on an endless road, road that has no constraint or rules for those for want to truly live, to experience and feel the life at its real value. The moral lesson this novel offers are priceless and that is why the Beat Generation has something special in it.

Themes, characters, plot, style and such…

That is not Jack Kerouac, but the Sam Riley, the one that plays Sal Paradise in the 2012 film

The novel tells the story of Sal Paradise who travels across America in order to find himself among his friends like the iconic Dean Moriarty who was raised on the road and lives to be on the road. The road represents the intrigue from which the actual plot takes place. The road is also a symbol, meaning the path in life, the evolution and the movement, the activity of life. The main ideas of the Beat Generation, the longing for belief and meaning in life, are reflected in On the Road.

Although the book can be viewed through many lenses, several major themes rise up from a deeper study. Kerouac has admitted that the biggest of these themes is religion. In a letter to a student in 1961, he wrote: Dean and I were embarked on a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him. This idea of an inward adventure is illustrated in all of the experimentation. The Beats had a more liberal definition of God and spirituality closely related to personal experience. Besides the main plot of the novel which is the travelling across America, On the Road shows multiple ethical values.

The main character is an alter-ego of Jack Kerouac, named Sal Paradise, a person that shares some biographical features with the author. Dean Moriarty, his fellow traveller, is also based on a real person, Kerouac’s friend, Neal Cassady. In fact, Kerouac is known for using real life persons as a base of his characters and real life experience as a base of his stories. Other characters such as Carlo Marx and Old Bull Lee are based on important figures of Beat Generation like Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughts, in this specific order. All the characters are supposed to be based on real persons, but I won’t bore you anymore.

The travelling from the novel are inspired by the travelling of the author and Cassady. In this order of ideas, we may ask ourselves: where do Kerouac and Cassady end and where do Paradise and Moriarty begin?, where do the adventures of Kerouac and Cassady end and where do the adventures of Paradise and Moriarty begin?, what is reality and what is fiction?…All those questions shouldn’t represent a big problem. The motive of writing is not that important. What really comes forward is the adventure and the ethics that follows it. Therefore On the Road has a real life substrate and we may lose ourselves in the story, we may confound with the characters, because the expressive force lies in the plot.

I am not trying to say that the character of On the Road are unsubstantial, even if only Sal and Dean arise. Paradise is young, he reflects the formation of the man on the road, he evolves, he is a hybrid form of Dean. He takes the part of narrator. On the other hand, Dean is more attractive, he is a carefree attitude, he has a sense of adventure, he was raised on the road, he is free-spirited maverick eager to explore life. I’d say that Dean becomes tha main character of the novel, while Sal remains in his shadow. After all, On the Road is a true Bildungsroman.

On the Road is a novel consisting of mainly male characters and we can assert that it examines the ideas of masculinity and also mobility in the 1950s. While these concepts may seem unrelated, Kerouac weaves them together to provide another form of rebellion against the social norm of conformity.

The narration is simple, concise, expressive and the style of Kerouac is modern. I think that when you manage to catch life in few words you accomplish a form of literature more valuable than all the beautiful phrases in the world and this is exactly what the style of Kerouac aims to do. After all, more modern novelists and poets focus towards a simple and concise style, yet expressive. There are some metaphorical speeches now and then, especially when the narrative gets deep, but you won’t have any problem in decoding them. Kerouac is a great and simple to follow writer, intense and expressive when he wants to be so.

The novel was adapted into a film in 2012, a film maybe not as great as the novel, but for sure faithful to it

The main theme of the film was already named as The Song of the Week, here, on Futility.

Conclusion

On the Road is an inspiring novel. The ethical values of it are something to think about, or in a better use of words, something to feel about. It is an interesting novel, a must-read if I may name it so. I really enjoyed reading On the Road and I strongly recommend it to you in order to discover another side of life, in order to discover a very interesting and modern cultural movement and in order to learn some life lessons.

On the Road is quite a minimalistic novel, focused on a simple moral and aesthetical expression, based on life experience, showing that the Beat movement deserves a place in the culture of the second half of the 21st century.

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‘Something to die for’ – A criminal mastermind with a killing story

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a novel written by Jeff Lindsay, the first in his series about serial killer Dexter Morgan. It was released in 2004 and formed the basis of the Showtime TV series Dexter, which aired in 2006. It tells the story of Dexter Morgan, a serial killer who works as a forensic blood spatter pattern analyst at Miami Dade Police Department.

The book begins with the image of the glorious, full, fat, reddish moon and ends with the same image. The intrigue of the novel is formed by a whodunit premise. The plot revolves around a thrilling race against mysterious killer, while Dexter is pulled in a fast paced and thrilling plot, attractive and catchy.

The novel is centered on its main character, Dexter Morgan, it revolves around him. The whole universe of the book gets subordinated to Dexter and his voice becomes the novel’s perspective, the voice of the narrator. The story is told by Dexter who also explains and analyse the events of the plot. Darkly Dreaming Dexter is built around its main character and on a larger scale identifies with him.

Michael C. Hall plays Dexter in the TV series and does a brilliant job

Dexter is a charming character. Dexter describes himself as not being capable of having any sort of feelings and not being compatible with most of his human fellows. In his way, Dexter is a very individualistic character, almost to selfishness and egocentrism. Anyhow, he is able to explain and to analyse the life of the others around him. He adapted himself to society through a false mask of great charisma, humor (in a dark, ironic and smart way) and neatness. The other characters see only the surface of his person, although the reader gets the chace to explore Dexter’s deepest personality because of the first person perspective and monologues.

”Whatever made me the way I am left me hollow, empty inside, unable to feel. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’m quite sure most people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake all of it.”

The truest form of Dexter identifies with the deepest part of him, the so-called Dark Passenger, an inner voice who dictates his criminal urges. This passenger takes the wheel at some points, because, after all, the desire is the base of our soul and Dexter makes no exception, even if he is calm, neat, logical and planned. In a way, he manages to remain at some level “human”.

Dexter might sound like a bad character, but he is not at all like that. Dexter’s killing are controlled by a moral code, Harry’s code, which tells him to kill only murderers who escaped the system. Also, this code is helping Dexter not to be caught. In a way the Dark Passenger is an opposite state of his personality among Harry’s code.

A strong moral struggle appears in the novel as well:

‘I’m not sure what I am. I just know there’s something dark in me. I hide it. I certainly don’t talk about it, but it’s there always, this Dark Passenger. And when he’s driving, I feel alive, half sick with the thrill of complete wrongness. I don’t fight him, I don’t want to. He’s all I’ve got. Nothing else could love me, not even… especially not me. Or is that just a lie the Dark Passenger tells me? Because lately there are these moments when I feel connected to something else… someone. It’s like the mask is slipping and things… people… who never mattered before are suddenly starting to matter. It scares the hell out of me.’

Jeff Lindsay’s style is short, concise, but expressive and powerful. The story is directed by Dexter who explains all the plot through his voice. There are no dialogues, but only indirect speeches subordinated to Dexter’s voice. There is an inclination towards reflection and insights, towards powerful description and psychology, great aspects if we think that Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a psychological novel, focused on one character and on his perspective over the world and over the plot.

The TV show approaches the killing part better. If in the novel Dexter kills only 1 man, in the TV show he manages to put down a couple of individuals.

The 1st season of the TV show was based on the novel, although there are some differences between book and film. The big difference arises out-of-the-way some of the characters are seen, but also there appears some changes in the plot as well.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a sharp wrote and told story, charming through its main character around which it revolves, strongly psychological, entertaining and attractive as well.

 

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Futility

"Futility of futilities, all is futile"

Sorry

"Live to the point of tears"