Summary of the Railroad Earth by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac: The Railroad Earth
Objective summary
This short story is a tale about living in San Francisco in the middle of the 20th century. It focuses on the everyday life of the lower and the lower middle class, whose members are at offices in the afternoons, waiting for finally finishing their day. They are so eager to go home, that a feeling vibrates throughout the air, the feeling of the “impending rush of their commuter frenzy”. The poor people of San Francisco: bums, African Americans are just wandering on the streets of the city, living from hand to mouth, having almost nothing. They are lucky if they find some cents to spend them at the Public restaurant. Most of the times they do not eat anything just buy alcohol at the liquor store. They lose weight, get sick then die like the “thin sickly littlebum”, who “weighed about 50 pounds” when the wagon took him to the morgue. At this point the narrator remarks that there are a bunch of “half dead deadbums”, who are not noticed by the society or by the people of San Francisco. They live and die miserably, yet they remain unknown, fade away without the care of other people.

Subjective summary
The Railroad Earth is an interesting story, reflecting some major social issues of the USA of the ‘50s. The problem of social inequality is represented only from one side, from the side of the “bums”. I believe the cause for this is the fact, that the writer lived only among this kind of people: the poor, the unemployed, the homeless.
The language which is used by Kerouac in this short story differs from the common literary language. The lines have some sort of rhythmical features, musicality can be observed in certain parts of the text. Sometimes the words, expressions are spontaneous, similar to the spontaneity of jazz, for example: “I should have played with her shurro-uruuruuruuruuruuruurkdiei”. Kerouac also uses the repetition of words to emphasize his thoughts, for example: “half dead deadbums bums bums bums...