The Whitsun Weddings

Explore the presentation of music in On the Road and The Whitsun Weddings 12th Grade

This essay will focus on the tenorman passage from “On the Road” and the poem “For Sidney Bechet” from “The Whitsun Weddings” to explore how Jack Kerouac and Philip Larkin both use language to allow the reader to experience the music they write about. Their language is mimetic of music. However, whilst Kerouac is concerned only with an individual performance and the atmosphere of the night, Larkin comments on the more universal aspect of music and its ability to transcend sorrow and evoke happiness or, at least, relief.

Kerouac’s language is mimetic of the music heard in the bar. He lends instruments their own voice, with non-denotative dialogue like “EE-YAH!” and “EE-de-lee-yah!”. This provides the reader with a more pro-active experience of the trumpet’s music, and the modulation between capitalized and uncapitalized words mimics the dynamics of music, allowing readers to imagine the capitalized “YAH” as forte and the uncapitalized “yah” as piano. Furthermore, the dashes which break up the musical phrases (“ee-de-lee-yah”) convey the sense of a rhythmical beat to the trumpet’s music. Kerouac also uses onomatopoeic language (crack, rattle-ti-boom, crack”) to evoke the sound of the drums. The mimesis extends to the sung words...

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