Neal Cassady Essay

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Neal Cassady: The Man Who Set The World Free

Neal Cassady grew up as a quasi-homeless wayfaring boy with his alcoholic, unemployed father in the projects of Denver. His unconventional upbringing led to adolescence rife with theft, drug use, and extreme sexual awakening at a young age. Cassady grew up quite quickly and led an overexposed life, which foreshadows his death at the age of 42 of exposure, next to railroad tracks in Mexico. His life, however, seems to be regarded by many as the eighth wonder of the world. He was full of an interminable curiosity and energy, and was considered by many as the herald angel of the Beat Movement. The oft-used term to describe Cassady, "Damaged Angel," has its source in Cassady’s
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Cassady epitomizes these attitudes through his lifestyle, a lifestyle of limit pushing and rule breaking. From his childhood, he had always been testing boundaries. By the time he was 18, it is estimated he had stolen over 500 cars, just for fun.

Cassady, through a close friendship beginning at age 20 with Jack Kerouac and a twisted relationship with Allen Ginsberg, provided much of the inspiration for the quintessential Beat poems and texts. Even his correspondence with the two of them is considered Beat literature, for it encapsulates the ideals and attitudes of the counterculture and the Beat Generation. Cassady appears in Kerouac’s On the Road as the legendary Dean Moriarty and Cody in Visions of Cody. Cassady as Dean Moriarty in On the Road captured the spirit of Neal as the ultimate Beat.

Allen Ginsberg was introduced to Neal Cassady in 1946 in New York City and was instantly enamored. The young Jewish poet from Paterson, New Jersey saw Cassady as an ideal hero and mate. Their early sexual relationship and Cassady's later rejection of Ginsberg both had a significant effect on Ginsberg's writing. (Richman). Jack Kerouac (Sal) tells the story of when Dean (Neal) met Carlo (Allen Ginsberg) in On the Road, "Two keen minds that they are, they took to each other at the drop of a hat. Two piercing eyes glanced into two piercing eyes – the holy con-man
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