Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Long Live the Hobo

In Kerouac's essay "The Vanishing American Hobo," the reader is absorbed into the world of the homeless during the 50's to 1960. Kerouac goes on to paint the picture of a hobo as being a grand spectacle, a national treasure of sorts. His descriptions brought out this sense of profoundness in the homeless; it were as if the hobos were enlightened, or at the very least, more intelligent, and more American. Being a hobo is seen as the ultimate freedom (on page 2977, Kerouac describes it as "the special footwalking freedom").

Kerouac names many—as he considers them—famous American hobos, who he believe truly represent the idea of America, and the idea of freedom. Such examples include:

"Benjamin Franklin was like a hobo in Pennsylvania" (2977).
"Did [Walt] Whitman terrify the children of Louisiana when he walked the open road?" (2977).
"...a definite special idea of footwalking freedom going back to the days of Jim Bridger and Johnny Appleseed" (2977).

Kerouac uses these men to identify the hobos not as criminals, but as educated, free individuals. He argues in the essay that the culture of the time was boring, and uninspiring. He views the hobos as being the truest of individuals, living in a whole other world, one where they are constantly inspired by the struggle to survive, as well as the freedoms they endure without things like bills, work, etcetera  to hold them back. Kerouac views the society of the time as being startlingly un-American. He sees the policing of the homeless, as well as the negative stigma placed by society, as a horrible crime to our country, as well as crippling our founding values. By discriminating against the homeless, we are discriminating against the true individuals, the ones who are truly free.

The final line of the essay makes strong his point: "The woods are full of wardens" (2982). Through this one line, the reader can seemingly pick up on the tone of the essay. While it maintains a light-heartedness in its telling of a hobo and their lifestyle, it is a rather dark essay. It warns us of the cost, of the way society looks down upon these people, and how it can harm you rather than bring you the enlightenment you seek. Kerouac has a very amazing presentation of moods, and this essay is a great example of it. 

1 comment:

  1. I really liked that you brought up the point about how Kerouac controls mood. For the most part it is really dark, but at the same time there are a few parts that are almost romanticizing and basking in the glory of what the hobo used to be and lifestyle means. It feels really inspired, but overall leaving you with a sense of bitterness.