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mirza's avatar

Can anyone please explain this Jack Kerouac quote ?

Asked by mirza (5052points) January 4th, 2008

Even after reading On The Road for the second time, I have yet to understand the full meaning of this quote. This is obviously pretty important (its even on the back-cover). I understand the mention of Dean Moriatry and his father. But I am unable to make any sense of the part with the pooh bear, the peaks and I think I am unable to understand some of the imagery . So can anyone please explain this quotation in its entirety.

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

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11 Answers

Eight's avatar

A little geography might help. JK is sitting a pier on the west side of Manhattan looking across the Hudson river to New Jersey beyond which lies the great mass of the American Midwest and west and he senses that under the same sky above him, the Hudson, the rundown piers, is the sky above some kid in Iowa clutching a teddy bear trying to fall asleep while he, Jack Kerouac, remembers Dean Moriarty, his cultural road parent/mentor and the vast unknowables of life itself that enfolds us all. Dig?

Ma-goo's avatar

Well, yes—dig. When reading JK, I always kept in mind that he & his traveling companians were usually totally high on drugs & alcohol and you know the astounding revelations that can be had in that state. I think he’s just realizing the vastness of this beautiful land of America, plus contemplating the mysteries of life. What I always remember from “On the Road” is how they used to coast down the mountain to save on gas. I do that whenever possible. Also, I always felt sorry for their poor womenfolk.

soethe6's avatar

God is Pooh Bear…that just means that God is a fiction told to us to keep us comfortable. He later says that the only thing we can be certain of is that we’ll grow old. That is, bad things can happen, good things can happen. If God is Pooh Bear, the only “guarantee” we have of any justice or happy outcome is a mere fiction. This frightening thought stands in tension with the paragraph’s overarching imagery: the scene of a nation being tucked into bed like a child. “folds the final shore in” compares the west coast to the blanket on the far side of a child being tucked in. But who is doing the tucking? Likely, it is Kerouac himself; the nationalist imaginary articulated in his own work may be seen to work in parallel to the necessary fictions of God, and of Pooh Bear. In each case, what comes out is a sense of awe, wonder, adventure, and a false but necessary redemptive narrative—a story about how things are going to be OK in the end (you will be saved (God), life is play so don’t worry (Pooh), and America shall prevail (Nationalism)).

coolgereamer232's avatar

Hi, i’m just a highschool student but i read this book so i could write a final term paper on Kerouac.
we had to chose from a list of authers and i liked his stuff anyway.
It was amazing book and i had a very calming revoltion in the middle of it, wich i needed very badly at the time. So i also think this book helps people.
here is my answer. in all the research i did from this book, the character Dean was taken after the real life friend of Kerouac’s, Neal Cassidy, a fellow Beat. IT is also said that JK wrote the book from many of his on the road exseriaces with Neal cassidy and Allen Gensburg(portrayed as Carlo Marx in the book), who happened to be the leading poet of the Beat generation. .
Another paper i read was about a man who was very close to Neal when he was a child. The man said that Neal used to read the Pooh Bear books to him very often.
i think this is a privet joke that some writers often do. Neal seemed to have a fondness for Pooh Bear, so as a joke and an ode to him he put that in the last paragraph of his book. it could either be a way of silently saying “this is for you” or “you treat Pooh Bear like a God”. there is a good chance that Pooh bear could have come up in a conversation when they were drunk or high(After all, you know the wierd conversations friends have when their like that). as you know Kerouac himself died at age 47 from and interal hemorage cause by long term alcoholism. so i think it’s very possibe
But it still bothered me so i pitched it to some one else who haddn’t read the book. They said that it made since since pooh accepted everyone and went along with alomst anything and forgave everyone, if it wasn’t for his hunny eatin disorter and being stuffed with fluff, he could very well be close to God. Thats what my friend said anyway.
So maybe he felt God would go along with the things they were doing for the time being and forgive them in the end.
as far a Nationalism goes in the book. I feel Kerouac was against convilional society and the American dream of the day and age of post war America(that was every man had a little white house, 5–9 job, and a wife and kids.) notice how often the antagonist are offten members of mainstream society(like the cops he worked with) and how poor Dean is victiomied by convetional society in the end because he can’t fully conform to it after all the years he spent on the road and at parties and jumping from home to home as a child. it left him confused and empty.
i belive he was really attack convetional life styles and saying that you shouldn’t curse the people who don’t live like you or the rest of society. that would be a good chance to relate God and Pooh Bear.
it really was a great book

hatman22's avatar

am i late to this or something? can you say tao of pooh? and guess what jk freaked in that
lookout tower on goat mountian could’nt handle the great outdoors cityboy he was and a great mind

ling_pi's avatar

May be I came here too late. Anw, here is my understanding of the text (I tried rewriting it in easier way, excuse me Mr. JKerouac and his fans :D):

So at sunset in America I sit on the broken down pier of Hudson river watching the long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that stretches to the West Coast. At the same time and under the same sky, I sensed all that road of life that is going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of the going of the road. In Iowa, I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry instead of cheating them with some stupid tales or demanding them to stop. I sense that tonight the stars’ll stop shining, the dream will be perished and don’t you know that God is nothing but a character invented to comfort naïve and innocent people? Before it becomes totally dark, there’s actually some dim light from the evening star. But don’y you know that it’s the total night with the absolute darkness that can bless the painful earth. The ultimate night darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in. In that darkness, nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old. Then I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found. I think of Dean Moriarty over and over under the dark sky, on the broken pier with broken dreams and beliefs.”

But I stil don’t get the idea why it must be Iowa where the children are crying but not some where else, and if this image is a metaphor for something else.

wondersteph's avatar

ling_i, I love your translation. I’m a huge fan of Kerouac, but I think the way you’ve broken it down makes it easier to digest. Kudos!
I’m with you on the Iowa and children crying part, however. Perhaps there was something political going on in Iowa at the time this was written?

Bioplasmic's avatar

Ling pi “nothing but a character invented to comfort naïve and innocent people”
Pooh is more than that. If you want to understand Buddhist thinking / Taoism as mentioned above read Winnie the Pooh it’s deeper than you think!

kpritchett26's avatar

what does it matter what everyone here thinks the meaning is kerouac was a poet and poetry has its own vibe whatever it means to you it means to you and what it means to the other individuals it means to them have your own opinion open your mind and let mystery answer the questions kerouac said what he wanted to say and thats that don’t ask others to create your reality only you can create your reality

thisisclarke's avatar

I am unsure if A.A. Milne intended this when he wrote the stories (although it is very likely), but Benjamin Hoff wrote a book titled “The Tao of Pooh” using Winnie-the-Pooh’s characters to explain Toaism. The concept P’U or “the uncarved block” means that things in their original simplicity possess a natural power. This is what this quote means to me—Winnie-the-Pooh in his simplistic happiness embodies Godliness.

eduardohorta's avatar

In a Brazilian Portuguese translation, you find “você não sabe que Deus é a Ursa Maior?”, lit. “don’t you know that God is Ursa Major?”. Maybe it is possible to infer from the description of scenery that Kerouac is actually talking about the constellation, I don’t know.

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