The Dharma Bums Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Dharma Bums

Jack Kerouac's easy going book describes a year or so in the life of Ray Smith a poet and self professed Dharma Bum as he searches for the Meaning of Life by following the Buddhist Way. Ray hangs out with his friend Japhy and other poets in San Francisco getting drunk, going to poet evenings and generally having a wild Bohemian time. The friends take a trip to the High Sierras to climb the Matterhorn and get in touch with their spiritual side. Next Ray hitch hikes across America to visit his mother for Christmas and then spends three months sleeping in the garden and meditating in a nearby wood. Returning to San Francisco by hitch hiking once again he returns to the partying and womanising (although Ray never seems to get lucky). They have a grand party to send Japhy on his way to join a monastery in Japan and then Ray and Japhy spend a final couple of days hiking on the Marin Trail getting back to nature. Finally Ray spends the summer as a fire look-out in the mountains and enjoys the solitary life. As the friends are all Buddhists the book explores their own Western version of Buddhism. The friends pray, meditate and party and there is nothing they want more than to see a million American kids with rucksacks on their backs hitch hiking their way across the States following the Buddhist Way!      
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The review of this Book prepared by John Marcel

Chapter Analysis of The Dharma Bums

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Struggle over    -   religious issues Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Drinking/Drugs problems?    -   alcohol Pearls of wisdom from homeless?    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   unemployed Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American) Unusual characteristics:    -   Super sensitive soggy jelly muffin


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   10 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Southeast    -   Midwest    -   Pacific NW    -   California Mountains/Cliffs    -   Yes Mountains:    -   climbing on trails Forest?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   actual description of hetero sex    -   Boob talk! Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Jack Kerouac Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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