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Treatment Of Women In Jack Kerouac’s On The Road

2352 words - 9 pages

The Treatment of Women in On The Road          

 
       The women in Jack Kerouac's On The Road were, it seems, not afforded the same depth in character which the author gave the men. The treatment of the women characters in both word and action by Sal and Dean seems to show that women could only be a virgin/mother figure or a whore. Throughout the novel there are many instances in which women and their feelings or actions are either referred to flippantly or blatantly degraded. It can be said, however, that Sal (Kerouac) did not necessarily agree with this narrow female identity, and there is evidence to support this claim. The novel also shows though that Sal did participate in this male forced female stereotyping whether he wanted to or not. This is not to say that Sal (Kerouac) is necessarily malicious in his treatment of women but more possibly he is merely acting in accordance with the way he was raised and the way in which society treated women at the time. In effect while Sal and the novel may try to make points against the poor treatment of women, on the whole the novel tends to reinforce the sexist male domination at the time. The novel, on a certain level endorses the narrow female identity and the virgin/whore dichotomy contained therein, while at the same time attempting unsuccessfully to rise above the limited female identity.

Women play a key role in this novel in many ways. In the case of Dean, for example, there always seems to be a woman around to make his experiences more real to him somehow. So, in consequence, there are many instances of the diminishment of the female identity. These can be seen in the novels treatment of the female characters like Marylou, Sal's Aunt, and Terry. Marylou is repeatedly talked about, not talked to. In the part in which Dean wishes Sal to sleep with Marylou the only dialogue that goes on is either Sal's or Dean's. Marylou has no lines. All she really has is a little "go ahead". That is all and that really does not even imply cooperation; only coercion like "go ahead and You do Your thing to me". Dean is flippantly wanting Marylou to sleep with his friend with little regard to anything she feels. She is a women, and, what is more to Dean she is a whore so of course she will sleep with Sal. To Sal's credit though he does ask what she wants or thinks from the start but this sudden care seems to arise due to his own nervousness and insecurities not any kind of genuine feeling for Marylou. Her identity as seen through the eyes of men would fall into the whore stereotype of women. This is the exact opposite from Sal's Aunt. The most apparent treatment of Sal's Aunt as something less than an equal comes at the end of part one. Sal has just returned from his first trip west. He is tired. He has been starving for three days now and of course eats everything in the house. Then his Aunt's few extensive lines in the entire novel occur, and in a decidedly motherly fashion she says "Poor little...

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