On the Road

The Romanticism of a Bum Named Neal Cassady College

Neal Cassady is the quintessential beat character who seems almost fictional because of how fantastical he is depicted. Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac illustrate Cassady as if he is an unattainable concept. However, he is just as real as they are. They convince him to try his hand at writing so the world can see the same potential for greatness that they see in him. He is the beat-est of them all because he had the hardest, grittier life. To be beat, is to have struggled and come out the other side a stronger person. To endure life’s challenges and to still be able to enjoy the little things, is the only thing humans can hope for. It is the will to not give up on the world, even after seeing the worst it can do.

John Clellon Holmes was a fellow beat writer and observed many of the tales that Ginsberg and Kerouac told about the notorious Neal Cassady. He was a little older than them and was able to personally describe what the beat generation was like from the point of view of an outside insider. He defined the beat generation as “a generation of extremes . . . [but] no desire to shatter the ‘square’ society in which he lives, only to elude it” (Holmes 4). They only wanted to change the stereotypes and create a different form...

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