Kerouac is the voice of the Beat Generation, though he is much more sensitive than his friends. In his best work, On the Roadm he is sincerely interested in the journey, in the different places and cities, in the people he meets, in the various aspects of American life. His sympathy, his good humor, his spirit of observation make his book a pleasant chronicle of the Beat's behavior. Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. His family were French speaking immigrants, and Kerouac had a conventional Catholic education in his hometown. He was sent to prep-school in New York, and offered a scholarship to Columbia University. Here he met Allen Ginsberg and others who formed the nucleus of the Beat movement, notably William Burroughs and Neal Cassaday. Cassaday was a young man of immense physical and sexual energy and appetites, apparently untouched by any sense of restraint. He had grown up in Denver, spending most of his childhood in a dormitory fo rthe poor, looking after his aged father, an alcoholic. Cassaday's elder brothers regularly tormented him, and at the age of fourteen he ran away from his family and lived on his own. By the age of twenty-one he had stolen 500 cars, been arrested ten times, and spent fifteen months in jail. After spending some time in a reformatory, he was granted a State scholarship went to Columbia University.
Cassaday's immense hunger for adventure formed one of the Beats' writings, and he was also one of their models of behavior. It was his life that inspired some of Kerouac's best work, including On the Road.
Under the influence of Cassaday and Ginsberg, Kerouac dropped out of university and devoted himself to writing and an experience. He found in this group of friends the kind of intimate, affectionate family which he had never possessed - he called Cassady his "brother" . Much more sensitive and introvert than his friends, Kerouac became a chronicle of the group's activities and one of the stable centers of this shifting kaleidoscopic group.
He eventually rejected the Catholic religion, replacing it with classical Buddhism. His books remained unpublished for many years. On the Road was finally published in 1957, six years after it was written. Its success gave Kerouac a few years of relative prosperity and security, but alcoholism and drug abuse had destroyed his health. He died in 1969, at the age of 47.