Erica Ro.


In Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the Merry Pranksters are in synch with one another, creating a close bond between the group while on the bus. While Sandy was always paranoid that there was an “inner circle and an outer circle,” Kesey, the Non-navigator, always allowed everyone to do their own thing while on the bus (Wolfe 75). Kesey’s new vision of moving beyond acid results in the first active movement of separation for the Merry Pranksters, Ultimately breaking up the group that once was. The break down of the Merry Pranksters occurs due a change in Kesey’s and the inevitable new generation.
During the graduation of acid, vivid differences in Kesey’s mannerisms are evident. Once instance in which Kesey’s ideas change occurs when he states, “We almost had it…we would have had it. There’s too much noise” (Wolfe 399). This statement proves a change in Kesey because all of the times he lead the Pranksters, he encouraged noise amongst the group. This is evident in the acid tests at the Trip’s Festival. In order to create the LSD experience without LSD, Kesey encouraged the craze to be like a whirlpool, triggering lights movies sweeping across the room, projectors, loudspeakers, rapping and screaming. (Wolfe 259). All of these affects the Pranksters created with their equipment gave the feeling of tripping on LSD. While loud noises were once “the thing to do,” now Kesey has reversed his old ideals in order to create new ones, eventually causing the group to have the opportunity to have a clear separation. Hassler says, “Everybody who’s with us, everybody who’s with us in this thing, move close. If your not part of this thing, if your not with us, then its time to leave…that’s what time it is” (Wolfe 400). This statement ultimately proves the inner circle and outer circle exist, and in the context that results in the Pranksters separation.
It is also evident that times have changed, and a new generation is approaching. This adds to the idea that is time for the Pranksters to go on their way and do their own thing. This is clear when one of the younger Jazz band members says “Like, its so-square!” (Wolfe 408). This proves that the new generation, the hippies, have taken parts of the hipster’s ideals, and altered and changed them into something they thought was way better. This proves that the Pranksters vision is no longer the vision the younger teens want to follow, leaving them out of society’s “inner circle.”
By ending the novel with the Graduation, Wolfe shows the ending of one time period and the beginning of another. He also proves that visions do exist, and can change at any time. Although the Pranksters were no longer viewed as the central figure, it is evident that to this day, they are worshiped and valued to an even greater extent for their innovative ways and their contributions to literary work. The Pranksters will live on forever!

In the journalism entitled “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” Tom Wolfe portrays the lifestyle of Kesey and the Merry Pranksters through their experiences on LSD. While on the bus with the Merry Pranksters, Wolfe shares experiences portraying Kesey’s abilty to inflict control amongst the group, which ultimately leaves some of the Pranksters feeling out of the inner circle.
While living out the Pranksters’ “original fantasy,” Kesey finds a way to let control be part of the game (p 67). This is evident through Kesey’s devised game entitled “power” (p 115). A task list was created, and Pranksters were judged in their ability to complete the task. The winner would then gain power over the remaining Pranksters to do whatever he or she wanted. This game ultimately caused problems, leaving many feeling out of the inner circle. Sandy was paranoid to go out and build a fire, fearing they would pull a monstrous prank on him. After the task, many felt that Sandy deserved a five, but he was awarded one three, proving he was not part of the inner circle. While on the bus trip, Kesey also alludes to his power and the inner circle while using the bathroom at the gas station. Kesey explains there will be times when they can not wait for somebody (p 83). He states, “You’re either on the bus…or off the bus” (p 83). This again reveals that there is an inner circle and an outer circle amongst the Merry Pranksters. Those who “stick out” such as Hagens girl, prove that the outer circle exists and those who are in this circle are treated different than those in the inner circle. Wolfe brings up the point, “Is she on the bus or off the bus?” (p 83). This proves that those in the inner circle view those in the outer circle differently, regardless of Kesey’s policy of letting everyone do their own thing and accepting it. I feel the question is, does the inner circle exist due to the power exhibited by Kesey? I personally feel the power he displays is the cause of the inner and outer circle, due to the control he has allowed himself to have and to impose amongst the group. This control that Kesey has established ultimately isolates some and causes a compellation of others, proving the true problem lies within attempting to control a group whose ideological way of life is living free to choose with others of this kind.

In Jack Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums, the main character, Ray Smith, finds himself on an endless search of acceptance between his new Buddhist practice and previous conventional ways held by society. Japhy Ryder has been Rays model for following the steps in becoming square Zen. Throughout the novel, the two men have had their differences in the Buddhist beliefs. This is due to Ray Smiths inner conflict with his previous Christianity within society and his new Buddhist ideas on the mountain.
While Japhy was in Japan, Ray had a vision/enlightenment that would change his ideas forever. While living on the mountain, Ray realized he had been also working on grounds owned by the government. This is evident through Rays explanation that he is getting paid. He states, “Which I did, I had to do, I was getting paid” (232).Although this is something that Japhy might not except, it was ok for Ray. This displays Rays ability to finally become his own person. Rather than living in Japhy’s shadow, he has found his own light. Japhy had assisted Ray by providing a path in which to follow. Rays appreciation to Japhy’s help is evident in the passage that states, “It’s a damn shame Japhy ain’t coming back this year. He was the best lookout we ever had and by God he was the best trail worker I had ever seen” (p.244). This clearly shows that Ray appreciates Japhy’s existence, and even though he found himself, he still misses the man who influenced him in finding himself. Ray finally became his own person, thinking and acting in his own manner rather than mimicking Jaffe.
Ray’s finding of his own inner self, realizing that he can integrate Buddhism with this past conventional ways, makes ray happy and joyful. This is evident when Ray says, “Then I jumped up and began singing and dancing and whistling through my teeth far across Lightning Gorge and it was too immense for an echo” (236).
This makes Rays happiness in himself and his beliefs evident to the reader. He also continues by saying “ I was feeling happier than in years and years, since childhood, I felt deliberately and glad and solitary” (236). In finding a happy medium between Buddhism and Christianity, the free wilderness and the populated city, Ray realizes that Japhy had been right. Although he respects Japhy’s influence on his personal enlightenment, he also knows that part of this change has come from within him. After using Japhy’s path as a guide to find his own, he could finally become unattached from his previous suffering and surroundings, turn down the trail, and continue “back to this world” (244). This ultimately shows the progress Ray has made in his life, the influence of Japhy Ryder, and the ability to finally let go, be free, and find himself.

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