Shanaya Bh.


In class, we have mentioned that the idea of control seems to be a common thread in many of the chapters. One quotation in particular embodies the Pranksters’ thoughts and ideas behind the control that the Beatles have over their fans when they attended their concert.
“Control—it is perfectly obvious—they have brought this whole mass of human beings to the point where they are one, out of their skulls, one psyche, and they have utter control over them—but they don’t know what in the hell to do with it, they haven’t the first idea, and they will lose it.” (Pg. 206)
Kesey himself holds a similar control over the Pranksters. At the anti-Vietnam rally, he notices the speaker before him standing high above the crowd like Mussolini. He addresses the crowd by telling them how senseless the anti-war movement is, comparing it to a game that they have all been fooled into playing. They seem to be not much more different than the sea of 20,000 girls Kesey had witnessed screaming at the Beatles concert. It didn’t matter what the girls were screaming then, and at this moment it doesn’t matter what the crowd of anti-war activists were yelling. All he heard were cries of “Me! Me! Me!” on account of their egos, not caring for the meaning behind the words they are saying. Essentially, they are being controlled by whoever it may be that is telling them what to do, whether it is the Beatles, Kesey, or Babbs once he takes over Keseys position. This is the notion of control that Wolfe aims to discuss through much of the book.

Much of what we have discussed in class has been on the Pranksters finding meaning and significance in everyday experiences. Kesey discusses earlier in the novel the importance of having new experiences, and not walking through the same doors repeatedly. He urges the pranksters to go further than that. He draws a parallel between the ideologies of the pranksters with that of great-founded religions: “There was something so…religious in the air, in the very atmosphere of the Prankster life.” Accordingly, “they all began with an overwhelming new experience.” Through his discussion, he seems to be justifying the principles behind the pranksters and their beliefs, just as one would justify the importance of the principles behind a religion. Followers of a religion form their ‘religious circles’ on account of a highly magnetic founder that draws individuals by providing them with new ‘illuminating’ experiences. These circles become closer, or tighter, and develop their own symbols and ways of life that define that religion. Within these circles, followers believe that the world is divided into those who are “aware” and those who are “unaware” of the principles behind their religion. Wolfe compares this to the pranksters as being either on the bus or off the bus. Through these examples, Wolfe has successfully compared the values of the Pranksters to the values of followers of the great founded religions.

“Japhy wasn’t interested in the Buddhism of San Francisco Chinatown because it was traditional Buddhism, not the Zen intellectual artistic Buddhism he loved – but I was trying to make him see that everything was the same” (115).

This quotation shows that Buddhism, whether “traditional” or “intellectual,” is basically the same thing – at least according to Ray. It can be interpreted as showing Ray’s naiveté; however, it can also be a display of Ray embracing what Buddhism really is – neutral and simple. Perhaps, it can be argued that Japhy often does not embrace the true ideals of what it means to be a Buddhist. Japhy is, indeed, a unique individual that Ray looks up to but Ray may, in fact, be glorifying Japhy to be something he is not. .

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