Guest Blog on Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg's friend, 1953.

Cara Cerino is a sophomore student at the University of California. She is my extern for two weeks and has her own blog on banned-book authors: When she found out I had a series on famous Enneagram types, she wrote the following piece about Kerouac as a Romantic. See my web site for a list of famous types. – Elizabeth.

Kerouac’s Romantic Ride

Jack Kerouac, the face of the Beat Generation, was no stranger to controversy. The backlash for his iconoclastic novel, On the Road, is unsurprising given the cloistered era of the 1950s. The coarse language, the misogynistic attitudes of the male characters and the immoral actions of the women all lead to this book’s banning. His novel’s frenetic style and breakneck pace, which wouldn’t suit everybody, has a lot to do with his personality. In the Enneagram personality system, where the digits one through nine each correspond with a personality type, I see Kerouac as a four, the Romantic.

As told by the Enneagram system, the four-Romantic is a dynamic type. At once, the Romantic is in love with life and embittered with others. They are usually introverted, but if they are under the influence of the three wing, the Achiever, they can be extroverted. Each number has two wings, the numbers directly in front of and behind the main personality type. For example, a Romantic has a three, the Achiever, and five, the Observer, wing; with one wing usually dominant over the other. I believe that Kerouac had a strong five wing, meaning that he was more introverted and cerebral than outgoing and goal-oriented. However, Kerouac’s gregarious nature in his younger years, seven years before On the Road  was published, emanated from his exuberance for the world’s offerings.

A four-Romantic’s lust for life can be contagious. An example in On the Road, is his experience in the jazz club where he becomes enthralled with the music and he, along with his friends, arrive at an almost transcendent state. The intricate, beautiful melodies of the jazz improvisations could catch a four like Kerouac’s sense of wonder and imagination. Another characteristic of the Romantic is a sense of longing for things lost or things they never had in the first place. There is always something better just beyond their reach. This is delineated excellently in part one of the novel when Kerouac’s protagonist, Sal, says, “Somewhere along the line I knew there would be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.” His Romantic characteristics are the driving force that keeps him on the road.

The unfortunate side of the four’s personality is the predilection to become melancholic and depressed. This is shown in On the Road, but more tragically in Kerouac’s life. In the beginning of part three in On the Road, Sal is feeling despondent and lonesome because none of his friends are around. Without that outside stimulation, Kerouac’s main character cannot find it within himself to be cheerful about existence. In Kerouac’s real life, although the book is very closely tied to it, one of his biographer’s called him, “truly (instead of fashionably) miserable[.] Kerouac expressed his unhappiness nakedly in his art and was not taken seriously.” His critics had trouble reconciling the role he played in his younger years, when he wrote many of his books, and the dejected personality that came later from fame and maturity. Wallowing in woe is a Romantic characteristic.

The book’s creation was a four-like process. The free-flowing style with which the original scroll was written, an attempt at conveying the improvisation of Kerouac’s contemporary jazz musicians, could only have come from a Romantic. They have a creative disposition and an emotional depth that one doesn’t find as readily in the other types. Stream of consciousness writing is probably mastered most adeptly by fours. Because of the content and style of this book, many more conservative critics didn’t react to On the Road favorably. Only someone with a deep longing for life and excitement as well as the creativity to display his thoughts in an innovative way could have come up with such a masterpiece. His authentic experiences needed to be recorded faithfully whether society approved or not, as was displayed by its ban.


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