Sunday, September 21, 2014

From Door Wide Open

The letter presented, from the collection of correspondents between Jack Kerouac and Joyce Johnson, is truly an enticing read. Joyce, while never fully achieving a status as legendary as Kerouac, spent time writing to Jack as they moved from affair to fading into solely friendship. To me, this is an amazing look into the life of a woman in the Beat movement; while she writes in the confessional, tell-all manner of the Beats, she still manages to give a glimpse at being a young woman in the 50's. This is an era that is depicted nowadays through television shows such as Leave It to Beaver, etc. The idea of women being more like a servant (cooking, cleaning, raising the children) is usually the idea conveyed through the media of the time—did June Cleaver have any personal interests? Yet, through her letter, Johnson managed to completely throw that idea out the window. Her letter to Kerouac shows a young Bohemian love, one where the modern convictions of the time did not drown out their detail on how they felt. In a time where women were not treated as equals (not that they are entirely now, but it was much more severe) she shines through, showing her intelligence; not just in what she has learned, but what she has discovered about herself. The most empowering part of this letter was for me is just how much she cares for Jack, and you can see it throughout. Whether it be her praising of On the Road (2998) or her beautiful confessions, "I remember walking with you at night through the Brooklyn docks and seeing the white steam rising from the ships against the black sky and how beautiful it was and I'd never seen it before—imagine!—but if I'd walked through it with anyone else, I wouldn't have seen it either" (2998), she makes her point clear and shows how strong and dedicated she is.

Another thing that this letter had me thinking about is if this would have been seen as unorthodox. Women were not always seen as the ones to express themselves so forwardly. Of course, it's been around all throughout history, but in the 1950's, I can't help but feel people might have been a little off-put by a woman being so open, and so expressive. Many may argue it shows weakness, vulnerability; I, however, think that this shows more strength than anything. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree you could clearly see how much she cared for Jack and how eager she was to get to him. She was ahead of her time in the way she expressed her feeling so openly and direct, kinda nice to see that.