Mon 10 Apr 2006
“East’ll meet West anyway. Think what a great world revolution will take place when East meets West finally, and it’ll be guys like us that can start the thing. Think of millions of guys all over the world with rucksacks on their backs tramping around the back country and hitchhiking and bringing the word to everybody” (203).
I believe that this quote embodies much of what “The Dharma Bums,” by Jack Kerouac, is about. Eastern ideals are expressed throughout the book, especially in terms of the Buddhist religion. The “revolution” that is being spoken of in the above quote is as Ray, the main character, states: “the Rucksack Revolution” (110). This revolution is one in which the Buddhist culture is embraced by those not privy to it’s ideals.
This “revolution” is a vision that Ray sees. It is one “of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making you girls happy and old girls happier…” (97). The idea is, essentially, that everything one needs is on their back – that to be completely content, the Eastern ideals need to be embraced into a Westernized culture.
This westernized culture that Kerouac writes is best described in terms of the “television viewer” conformity. In describing this sense of Eastern culture meeting the West, Ray says, “[…] there was a wisdom in it all, as you’ll see if you take a walk some night on a suburban street and pass house after house on both sides of the street each with the lamplight of the living room, shining golden, and inside the little blue square of the television, each living family riveting its attention on probably one show; nobody talking; silence in the yards; dogs barking at you because you pass on human feet instead of on wheels” (104). This quote shows that this rucksack revolution is a way of avoiding suburban American conformities. The last line, “dogs barking at you because you pass on human feet instead of on wheels,” shows that the person with the rucksack – the one embracing the revolution – is different from those that sit in their living rooms watching television like the mass populace. They embrace suburban living. Ray embraces the “rucksack revolution.”