The Dharma Bums Review Book

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The narrator, Ray Smith, exhibits an aura of a carefree soul being one who is defiant despite some of the harsh conditions he faces as explained in the book’s introduction...

The Dharma Bums Review

The narrator, Ray Smith, exhibits an aura of a carefree soul being one who is defiant despite some of the harsh conditions he faces as explained in the book’s introduction. Notably, he gets on a gondola that seems to be uncomfortable, but Ray is unperturbed describing it as an ordinary experience and the preferred mode of travel. The narrator is consumed and absorbed in fantasies as evidenced by his connection with nature being in the gondola and at the beach. The opener sheds light regarding spiritual matters as seen through the lenses of Ray who glances into the future and dispels some of the thoughts associated with perfection and charitable acts. Undoubtedly, the title ‘Dharma Bums’ offers insight regarding struggles faced in life that make individuals targets of the police and shunned by the public. At the onset, Ray meets a little bum who fits the description of being humble and an ideal citizen who cannot be suspected for any misbehavior. Therefore, the title underlines the possibility of having likable individuals and others who are despised because of their raucous and sporadic behaviors.

One of the important concepts evidenced in the book concerns the need for simplicity as the means of being happy. Ray is depicted as a man living dangerously and moving from meditations, individual studies, to being at the center of drunken poetry parties. Hence, the narrator epitomizes simplicity and its role in determining the happiness of an individual. For example, Ray and Alvah Goldbook lacked an icebox in their kitchen but were happy because they had hot water and a tube in their bathroom. Therefore, one mishap is offset by other successes, and it remains inconsequential to ‘Dharma Bums.’ Ray explains his experiences and interactions with Japhy Ryder who created the phrase used for the book’s title. Japhy’s character blends well with Ray’s because of his scholarly pursuits and intense love for parties.

Ideally, Japhy’s religious beliefs and studies of Zen Buddhism influence the character and person of Ray who is a writer living and exemplifying the need for simplicity. Ray develops a liking for Buddhism and the associated philosophies as he interacts with Japhy. However, when the pair and Henry Morley embark on a mountain climbing mission, Ray’s fears are exposed since he is terrified to move and reach the summit unlike Japhy who undertakes the task effortlessly. Ray exemplifies simplicity, and his acts can be termed as being sporadic as he moves from one place to the other. For example, when he visits his mother’s home, Ray spends most of the time outdoors as he meditates and contemplates about different life experiences. Ideally, the carefree nature portrayed is balanced with the quest for enlightenment at the personal and spiritual levels. Furthermore, interactions with nature are targeted at exploring physical and spiritual capacities.

Ray experiences clarity as he ages and becomes less fascinated by some of his past activities including indulgence in alcohol, cheap sex, and drugs. He seeks to connect with nature and explore spiritual and scholarly matters that enrich his soul. Undoubtedly, Ray’s life when he interacts with Japhy takes a turn, and he succumbs to some of his weaknesses including partying and taking hikes and walks to other territories. However, Japhy enriches Ray’s philosophical perspective, as the two engage in lengthy discussions about religion, wine, women, and poetry. At the onset, Japhy was superior in philosophical issues and offered guidance to Ray. However, matters changed and Ray’s activities grow his capacity intellectually to challenge some of the positions and notions he had identified himself with previously. The narrator reveals the need for evolution and a change in one’s mindset, as exemplified by Japhy who epitomizes ‘Dharma Bums,’ and fails to transition and accept better living conditions.

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