In my original presentation, I knew I wanted to focus on the Beat Movement of the 40’s and 50’s and the artists who were involved. After reading The Typewriter is Holy, however, I realized that I hated every member of what I had previously thought of as the “Beat Generation.” In The Typewriter is Holy, Bill Morgans thesis was that Allen Ginsberg was the head of the Beat Generation. The more I thought about this thesis, the more I realized that I wanted to argue a similar idea with a different subject. From the beginning of my research I was drawn to Carolyn Cassady, the only consistent woman figure in the group. She also seemed to me to be the only morally upright person, which also attracted me. After finishing Cassady’s memoir, Off the Road, and with the help of our class session last week, I decided that I wanted to argue that Cassady acted as the “mother” for the entire group of the Beats surrounding her (including her husband, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg).
Thus my subject changed from the beat movement to Carolyn Cassady’s influence on the Beat Movement. I’m curious to see how Carolyn’s influence can change the accepted idea of the Beat Generation as a male-dominated movement. I am still going to use the letters between the Cassadys, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg as sources, but now my main source is going to be Carolyn’s book. I am fascinated by Carolyn’s independent spirit in a decade dominated by the image of the ideal housewife.
In a letter to Neal, Allen Ginsberg writes, “Jack is full of Carolyn’s praises and nominates her to replace Joan Burroughs as Ideal Mother Image, Madwoman, chick and ignu” (Cassady 184). While raising three children by herself, Carolyn also tried to teach the men of the Beat Generation responsibility and morals. I don’t think it matters whether or not she succeeded in her final goal; what is important is that she tried. While she did divorce Neal before his death, she stayed faithful to him until his death, and she loved him for many years after their divorce. This faithfulness and kindness kept the Beat Generation together for longer than the men were interested in it.
One of Neal’s lovers wrote to Carolyn after Neal’s death, summing up Carolyn’s personality perfectly: “Please try to find some happiness for yourself- you’ve lived for him so long, and you’ll get and deserve such pleasure if you’d love someone else. I love you Carolyn. And I wish you all the tolerance, patience and devotion you’ve shown, and love” (Cassady 426).