Cover image for Jack Kerouac's Duluoz legend : the mythic form of an autobiographical fiction
Jack Kerouac's Duluoz legend : the mythic form of an autobiographical fiction
Jones, James T., 1948-
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Publication Information:
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 278 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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PS3521.E735 Z734 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the only critical examination of all of Jack Kerouac's published prose, James T. Jones turns to Freud to show how the great Beat writer used the Oedipus myth to shape not only his individual works but also the entire body of his writing.

Like Balzac, Jones explains, Kerouac conceived an overall plan for his total writing corpus, which he called the Duluoz Legend after Jack Duluoz, his fictional alter ego. While Kerouac's work attracts biographical treatment—the ninth full-length biography was published in 1998—Jones takes a Freudian approach to focus on the form of the work. Noting that even casual readers recognize family relationships as the basis for Kerouac's autobiographical prose, Jones discusses these relationships in terms of Freud's notion of the Oedipus complex.

After establishing the basic biographical facts and explaining Freud's application of the Oedipus myth, Jones explicates Kerouac's novels of childhood and adolescence, focusing on sibling rivalry. Supporting his contention that the Beat writer worked according to a plan, Jones then shows how Kerouac revised The Town and the City (1950), his first published novel, in Vanity of Duluoz , the last novel published in his lifetime, to de-emphasize the death of the father. He treats three versions of Kerouac's road novel—including On the Road —as versions of Oedipus's fateful journey from Corinth to Thebes. And he argues that Pic , often considered peripheral to the Duluoz Legend, replicates the Oedipal themes.

Jones demonstrates that Maggie Cassidy , The Subterraneans , and Tristessa share a form that results from Kerouac's unresolved rivalry with his father for the love of his mother. He discusses Kerouac's replacement of the destructive brother figures in On the Road and Visions of Cody with the constructive hero of The Dharma Bums . He also shows how the Oedipal structure of the Duluoz Legend applies to Kerouac's nonfiction.

In the penultimate chapter, Jones explains how Big Sur , Kerouac's story of his alcohol-induced nervous breakdown, actually marks the climax of the Duluoz Legend. The alcoholism, Jones insists, is not the cause but a symptom of a breakdown brought on by his attachment to his mother. He shows how Kerouac's obsession with his family repeats Oedipal themes throughout the Duluoz Legend. Finally, he deals with Oedipal themes in Kerouac's nonnarrative work, including Old Angel Midnight , Some of the Dharma , The Scripture of the Golden Eternity , and several poems.

Author Notes

James T. Jones , a professor of English at Southwest Missouri State University, is the author of A Map of Mexico City Blues: Jack Kerouac as Poet and Use My Name: Jack Kerouac ' s Forgotten Families .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Jones (Southwest Missouri State Univ.) makes the basic assumption that Oedipus--both myth and complex--is the key to Kerouac's fiction. Taking Kerouac seriously as a literary craftsman, the author applies a Freudian approach to Kerouac's work and asserts that the Oedipus complex provides an essential structuring device for the series of novels and short stories that the Beat king designated the "Duluoz legend." According to Jones, in each novel warring-brother figures struggle with each other, and with a father, to accomplish the winning or the loss of the mother, an archetypal situation that Kerouac saw at the heart of contemporary US neurosis. It was not the Cold War causing problems--it was Mom. Jones takes the easy Freudian step from fiction to fact, asserting that Kerouac's desire for his own mother was an overwhelming force and compelled him to write. During his lifetime, Kerouac was well aware of his friends' jokes on the subject, and several times in his letters he asks Allen Ginsberg, perhaps naively, what is so wrong about a boy loving his mother? Though a bit heavy-handed, this book is provocative and interesting. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. M. H. Begnal; Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
1 Introduction: "the Brothers"p. 1
2 Holy Ghosts: Visions of Gerard and Doctor Saxp. 33
3 Mystical Revisions: the Town and the City and Vanity of Duluozp. 57
4 The Place Where Three Roads Meet: Pic, on the Road, and Visions of Codyp. 86
5 Triangles: Maggie Cassidy, the Subterraneans, and Tristessap. 115
6 Exposed on a Mountaintop: the Dharma Bums and Desolation Angelsp. 139
7 Fragments of a Legend: Lonesome Traveler and Book of Dreamsp. 170
8 The End of the Road: Big Sur and Satori in Parisp. 190
9 Faith and Fate: Poetry, Old Angel Midnight, Pull My Daisy, the Scripture of the Golden Eternity, and Some of the Dharmap. 214
10 Conclusion: "rumbling, Rambling Blues" and "citycitycity"p. 241
Works Citedp. 267
Indexp. 273