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On the Road Jack Kerouac, father of the Beat generation, almost an explorer of American society, documented his journeys across our nation in the guise of Sal Paradise in his signature novel, On the Road. Some felt that this book was an attack on America, and others praise it as the definition of Americas culture. To myself, it was fascinating tail of adventure, people, and life. Kerouac puts into reality what I only dream of. This novel is a beautiful description of life at that time, and mentions many familiar locales. The writing style, train of thought directly to paper, makes this book seem that much more real and unique.
This book covers more ground than I could imagine. The basic plot is a story about a college boy, Sal Paradise (symbol of Jack Kerouac), who wants to get out and trek across the country, and go wherever life may lead him. His primary motivation behind this rite of passage or quest, is the one and only Dean Moriarty who in real life, is none other than Neal Cassidy. Deans ambitious, million-mile-an-hour lifestyle attracts Sal to the point where he drives across the country just to see him. Dean is the most lovable, annoying, happy, undependable character in the novel.
He is everything in one, the hero, the antagonist, and the conflict. The first trip went from New York, Sal's hometown, to Denver, to San Francisco, to L. A. Sal begins this trip alone to meet up with his friends in Denver. His first few attempts to hitch a ride are unsuccessful, and ends up taking a bus to Chicago. Once in Chicago, his hitching begins.
He goes through a series of wild rides, including a ride on a flat bed truck, full of vagabonds. Finally, Sal arrives in Denver, only to find that his old friends have divided into two groups. Dean has been ostracized for being so wild, and Sal is forced to make a decision about who he is going to hang out with. There is no contest, and off to Deans he goes.
The only other person amongst the original group of friends that will hang out with Dean and Sal is Carlo Marx, representing the real life Allen Ginsberg. The three visit in Denver for a while, until Sal gets itchy to move, and goes to San Francisco. In San Francisco, Sal meets up with an old buddy, Remi Bencoeur. Remi ends up having a terrible job as a cop, and a difficult girlfriend, who resents both of them. After a while, Sal decides that this is not for him, and heads down to Southern California, and meets a beautiful Mexican girl named Terry. He works with Terry and her family for a while until he gets the need to be on the road again and finally heads back to New York.
Sal's second trip takes him from Virginia to New York, to New Orleans to San Francisco, then back to New York. This section of the book opens with Sal living with some of his relatives in Testament, Virginia. One day, none other than Dean shows up at his door, along with his girlfriend, Marylou, and a friend by the name of Ed Dunkel. This four of them drive to New York, then back down through Virginia to New Orleans. In New Orleans, they stay with Old Bull Lee, who in real life is William S.
Burroughs. After a short stay in Louisiana, they head to San Francisco without Ed. Shortly into their trip, Dean ditches Sal and Marylou, to visit his wife. This leaves Sal feeling used and alone, and he decides to go back home.
The next trip takes Sal from New York to Denver to San Francisco and back again. Once in New York, Sal forgives Dean, and actually takes the cross-country trip to Denver just to see him. Once in Denver, Sal finds that his old friends have deserted it. He works in Denver for just a short time, and heads to San Francisco where he meets up with Dean. Dean has had some terrible luck, and his relationship with Camille is falling apart, so Dean and Sal end up on the street. After a few problems, Dean and Sal head off to the coast, and decide to go to Italy.
They never get to Italy. They end up driving a Cadillac for somebody to Chicago. Once in Chicago they spend their time listening to jazz, until they head back to New York. The final trip of the book, Sal goes to Denver by himself, and found by Dean.
They go off for one last wild ride to Mexico. They spend a crazy night in a little town with a roomful of prostitutes and an old Mexican woman who sells marijuana out of her backyard. Sal gets very sick, and finds further proof that Dean is only there in the good times, because Dean left Sal there by himself. In the end section, Sal and Dean bump into each other in New York City. Sal has prior plans to go see Duke Ellington, but has impulses to ditch that and head out with Dean once again. Finally he decides that he is going to go to the concert, realizing that sometimes you just need to grow up, leaving Dean, ending the book.
This is only the basic plot of the book, but this is just the framework for a bigger picture that is painted by Kerouac. This is a painting of life and American experience. The Beat generation was defined in this book, and even human nature made its way into the book. Deans crazy, fast-talking, cowboy style of life appeals to us all.
The freedom from responsibility that Dean seems to have, is something that we all dream of, but then Sal's character brings us back into reality, and shows us that the lifestyle of Dean is not all it is cracked up to be. Dean seems to finally lose in the end. He is defined by a quote from the book. This is after Dean ditched Sal and Marylou, and Sal has forgiven him and decided to see him. Dean has the gall to say, You have finally come to me (p. 182). Sal finally leaves Dean in the end, without anyone.
Even the guy that he depended on, Sal, left him at the end. Sal, though he was just much a traveler and hipster as Dean, took responsibility when he needed too, and he grew up. At the end of the book, the reader is left wondering what ever became of Sal and Dean. Did they meet up again? Did Dean ever settle down some where?
These questions are left unanswered, but I think for the better. The novel was not about making the reader feel good, or complete. It was a diary of sorts, which was written just to be written. Jack Kerouac defined not only life and America in this book, but took the opportunity to define himself. We as the readers, are only observing Kerouac's experiences to wonder about our own. I quote from the book, no one knows whats going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old (p. 310).
On the Road, does not answer and life questions, it just tells it like it is, so to speak. This book has been on my list of books to read for a while now, and now I can take it off. I expected something totally different, yet I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the book because not only did I identify with many of the characters, but it also rekindled the travelers spirit that I once had.
I have lived in seven different states, and had grown accustomed to having to pick up and move. I lost that love for the road after I stayed here in Mississippi for more than two years, and after reading that book, I gained that love back. What I got from the book as I was reading it actually made it difficult to read, because I wanted to do everything at once. Deans energy snaked its way into me and made me fidgety and antsy. I finally had to just sit myself down and make myself read the book.
This is what this book is about, flying by the seat of your pants, and I loved that about it. Jack Kerouac has written a book that will forever be a classic. Many people do not like this book, many do. Whatever the opinion of the book is, it is part of our culture. I fell into Kerouac's style and enjoyed the book, but even if I had not liked it, it would still be recognized as an important piece of literature. The Beat Generation is Jack Kerouac, or at least defined in his signature novel, On the Road. 340
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Research essay sample on Sal And Dean Jack Kerouac