Elizabeth Fe.


In my Kabbalah class our professor shared the quote “One generation’s revolution becomes another generations fundamentalism” (Ariel pg. 192). This is illustrated in the failure of the Acid Test in The Electric Kool-Aid Test. Kesey and the Pranksters are viewed as squares, because their actions have in part become the norm. Much before the last Acid Test, Mountain Girl observes this. Wolfe says she thinks “‘I have to come here with a bunch of old men who never saw and rock ’n’ roll show before.’” (Wolfe 209). In connection to The Beatles show, the Pranksters paved the way for The Beatles’ movie by “welcoming” them to the scene (213). By pushing the envelope, the Pranksters make it acceptable to be more extreme, as far as counter culture. However, the next generation takes that for granted and then the Acid Test fails. I think that Kesey is being too hard on himself and the others when he says that they “blew it” (411). I think that they just weren’t ready to accept that they were being replaced by the new generation. For them, the last Acid Test was a wake up call.

The first chapter of Dharma Bums illustrates that Ray is happier when he is alone because he can be free. When on the beach after riding on the train with a bum he refers to as the Saint Teresa bum, Ray makes a fire, cooks a meal and “exalted in one of the most pleasant nights of [his] life” (7). He is able to be independent and self sufficient without Japhy or anyone else telling, or showing him, their way of doing something. Ray, while he believes in Zen, partially objects to the idea of trying to make other people change their way of thinking. On the beach Ray feels it is “the way to live. Alone and free” (7). He again separates himself from others when he chooses to follow a deer trail instead of Morley and Japhy. He “had never had a happier moment in [his] life than those lonely moments coming down that little deer trace” (88). Even though he uses the word ‘lonely’, which often has a negative connotation, Ray is happy to be alone. He relates the feeling of happiness back to “when [he was] a little boy” (88). That is interesting because children are greatly influenced by other people.

In The Dharma Bums, Japhy Ryder says “when I was a little kid in Oregon I didn’t feel that I was American at all, with all that suburban ideal and sex repression and general dreary newspaper grey censorship of all our real human values” and he was reborn “in America where nobody has any fun of believes in anything, especially freedom” (31). In order to separate himself from what he perceives to be American, he adopts Buddhism. In Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen, Alan Watts writes that there are those who use their faith to justify themselves. Japhy’s goal may be self justification, however it is the protagonist Ray Smith who is controlled by “an extremely awkward self-consciousness induced in the education of the young” (Watts 608). That self-consciousness is illustrated when Smith feels uncomfortable undressing in front of his friends. Therefore, it is suggested that Smith is not truly Zen.

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