A Memorable Journey
Jack Kerouac's exhuberant novel, On the Road, follows a group of restless young friends criss-crossing America in second-hand cars while finding their 'kicks' in jazz, girls, drugs, and intense conversations about love, poetry, and serenity. Exposing the underground Beat lifestyle of the 1950's, Kerouac celebrates the defiance of a generation chasing the freedom promised by the American Dream while committing themselves to instinct and emotion.
Sal Paradise, a struggling writer living off veteran benefits and a generous aunt, narrates the novel with an awestruck wonder at his collected experiences of traveling the road. Frustrated and stagnate with his negative, bookish, and pretentious friends around campus, Sal yearns for new visions, richer experiences, and a release for the stirrings accumulating in his soul. The unpredictable, dizzying tornado of energy named Dean Moriarty embodies Sal's attitude of the spiritual potential that life contains and Sal "shambles after" him, hoping to reach that potential. Sal's hero is regarded as a long-lost brother and in Dean's "excited way of speaking I [Sal] heard again the voices of old companions and brothers under the bridge..." Born in Denver, Dean's mother died young and his father became a drunk hobo, leaving Dean in a childhood complete with reform school and harmless criminal offenses. Sal explains that Dean's criminality "was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea-saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the plains...." Dean's passionate disregard for social responsibility and the chaos he invites into his life, such as juggling two wives and stealing cars, results in a mad dash for the opposite side of the country, because the road turns his passion into fulfillment and the road is his soul's journey towards holiness. To Dean, the only way to 'dig' the world is with a car because "the road must eventually lead to the whole world." After a stationary, and consequently, frenzied period of time in Denver, Dean and Sal bolt for the road and Sal remarks that, "It was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then continue with his soul... calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened."
"On the Road" takes place in the 1950's, a time when rampid paranoia controlled America and a new generation came to view society as...