Dharma Bums

Dharma Bums Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Kerouac's writing style reflect or compliment his protagonist's attitude? What are its limitations?

  2. 2

    How does Kerouac portray his own protagonist? Is he sympathetic, critical, or objective? Use concrete stylistic evidence to support your claim.

  3. 3

    On an explicit level, Ray seems to be a full-fledged follower and admirer of Japhy. Is Japhy and Ray's relationship as straightforward as it seems? What can be said about Ray's occasional tinges of jealousy or sarcasm towards Japhy?

  4. 4

    According to Ray, one of the most important virtues is charity, and one of the gravest vices is righteousness. Does he live by his own standards? Has he achieved the capacity to be truly merciful without self-aggrandizement?

  5. 5

    Discuss the portrayal of women in The Dharma Bums. Based on Kerouac's impersonal viewpoint, does he share his characters' opinions about females?

  6. 6

    Zen Buddhist teachings are often structured around koans, or paradoxical riddles. What paradoxes or tensions can be found in Ray's life? Does it seem possible that they might be resolved?

  7. 7

    When Ray sees Japhy bounding down from Matterhorn, he suddenly stumbles upon the euphoric revelation that "you can't fall off a mountain." Discuss this quote in terms of Ray's personal attitude toward life.

  8. 8

    In Chapter 25, Japhy teaches Ray about a series of Buddhist teachings and riddles that seem to have absurd conclusions. What are the implications of these bizarre and surprising stories? Can any similar conclusions be extracted from the main plot of Kerouac's book?

  9. 9

    Who or what shares the blame for Rosie Buchanan's suicide? Could her untimely death have been prevented?

  10. 10

    Analyze Kerouac's style in the last few chapters of the novel when he writes about Ray's stint on Matterhorn peak. Do any prevailing "moods" shine through the writing? What does Kerouac's tone reveal about Ray's own emotions?