The Dharma Bums Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 51 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Dharma Bums.
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The Dharma Bums Summary & Study Guide Description

The Dharma Bums Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.

Ray Smith, a mid-thirties East Coast beat writer gaining national attention, travels to Berkeley, California and lives with Alvah Goldbook, an East Coast beat poet at the beginning of his career. Ray meets the younger Japhy Ryder, a student of Zen Buddhism and outdoors enthusiast. Ray and Japhy forge a strong friendship based on mutual experiences and a shared love for Buddhist philosophy, poetry and the simple life.

The two men, joined by Henry Morley, an eccentric librarian, go on a mountain climbing adventure. While the experienced hiker Japhy easily reaches the summit, the neophyte climber Ray clings to a ledge a hundred feet from the summit, too terrified to move. The two then return to Berkeley and have several experiences, supported by a wide circle of friends, sharing everything from ideas to girlfriends.

Ray returns to his mother's home for Christmas, hitchhiking and riding trains, hobo-style, across the United States of America. He spends several weeks in the North Carolina woods surrounding his mother's house in contemplation and meditation, seeking and finding enlightenment. Newly interested in primitive nature experiences, Ray also accepts a summer job as a fire lookout in the Cascade Mountains, a job opportunity first suggested by Japhy.

After spending a few months doing nothing at his mother's house, Ray once again hitchhikes and bums across the United States. This time, he takes a Southern route and makes a brief stop in Mexico where he discovers the allure of cheap sex, alcohol and marijuana is no longer as intriguing as a simple night of clarity alone in the clean and clear desert of Texas.

Ray arrives in Berkeley and lives with Japhy in a tiny shack in an area bordered by wilderness. The two men resume their friendship and spend many hours discussing poetry, Buddhism, philosophy, Christianity, women and wine. Ray has made substantive progress on his path to enlightenment and no longer looks to Japhy as a philosophical instructor. He sees him instead as a fellow traveler on the path of life. The two men, joined by a wide circle of friends, have several adventures and share many experiences.

After several wild and tumultuous parties, Japhy sails away to Japan to study, and Ray hitchhikes, walks and hikes north to Washington State, where he spends several weeks isolated on the top of Desolation Peak, working as a fire lookout. His time alone becomes an incredible personal experience full of happiness and enlightenment.

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This section contains 410 words
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