Character Analysis of Ray Smith in Jack Kerouac's 'Dharma Bums'

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Introduction Personal enlightenment may be defined as a lifelong journey towards truth and self-knowledge. That is what it is for Ray Smith, the narrator of The Dharma Bums. Ray's journey in this book is comprised of several smaller journeys, each of which is an attempt to get closer to truth and self-knowledge. The basic premise of the search seems to be that the path towards enlightenment is the path away from materialism; this is a lesson that is reinforced for him throughout the novel. Along his path he encounters strangers, friends, and family members, all of whom add in some way to the knowledge and experience gained along the way. This paper will look examine Ray's pursuit of personal enlightenment in a chronological manner, taking a close look at four of his experiences. In this way it will demonstrate that for Ray Smith, and for his fellow Dharma Bums, enlightenment is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; enlightenment is the journey itself. Hopping the Freight Train/The Saint Theresa Bum When we first get to know Ray Smith, the narrator, he is an able-bodied man hopping a freight train in in Los Angeles 1955. In the first sentence, there is a clear indication that this is a character who lives on the fringes of society. Within just a few paragraphs, we learn that he is no run-of-the-mill tramp. He is a well-seasoned traveler, has a generous nature, and is given to periods of deep philosophical introspection, even on seemingly commonplace acts. For

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