“On The Road” by Jack Kerouac

On The Road, so far, has presented itself to me as quite the unique story. It is a first person narrative told from the perspective of “Sal” Paradise as he travels around the U.S.A .As of now, The story itself has been rather bland. Sal hitch hikes across the country, never staying in one place too long. Although rather boring now, I feel the story is one with a slow start and sense it ascending to something more remarkable. What really stands out about this book to me is the writing style of Jack Kerouac. Kerouac strays from the conventional writing style of most successful authors, and creates his own rushed vague sort of style. He never lingers on one point to long, unless it is quintessential knowledge. He keeps the story at a fast moving pace to keep the reader interested, which I feel is most likely necessary for this stories lengthy and particularly uneventful exposition. This sort of style is also reflective of the narrator. Sal is always rushing along, devising plan after plan, never sure of what is actually going to happen. What makes Sal unique is that he seems to aspire to something his friends don’t.  Unlike his friends, he isn’t a fan of stealing, and is never satisfied too long with the life he’s living. It seems to me that Sal isn’t particularly fond of living day by day. This is partially because of his inability to rebound from long nights of partying like his friends are. He also seems rather depressed. Although happy for the first week or so in any particular place, Sal begins to become overbearingly Cynical. He begins to hate the traits of those around them that he once loved. What I can feel this story leading up to is some sort of large falling through between Sal and his friend Dean. Many of Sal’s more mature acquaintances recognize Dean as a no good con artist, but Sal has grown to fond of him to recognize this himself. I predict some sort of scheme is going to go wrong and Sal is going to be thrown under the bus one way or another. Hopefully though, this will be the event in Sal’s life that puts him on the track to the life that he wants to live.

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7 responses to ““On The Road” by Jack Kerouac

  1. What I found most interesting in the first quarter of On the Road is the exotic characters, who are for the most part friends of Sal, such as Carlo Marx, the eccentric intellectual and poet; Dean Moriarty, the sexaholic from the West with the criminal background; Roland Major, who fancies himself a Hemingway in his silk dressing gown talking of French wines; and Remi Boncoeur, the Frenchman who more than lives up to his name (‘good-heart’) as a devoted friend, blows everything at the races, and has quite the  predilection for stealing.  I also enjoyed Kerouac’s small, hilarious details.  For example, Sal eating nothing but apple pie and ice cream on his trip across the continent, becoming quite the connoisseur of this ‘nutritious and delicious’ food.  Though when the story begins,  it is somewhat bland and scattered, sometimes even going off on Steinbeckesque uninteresting tangents, by the end of chapter 11, I found myself very much caught up in the feeling of confidence and of throwing care to the wind that permeates the narrative.  As far as Sal having a depressive, unsatisfied life is concerned I cannot agree.  Even though Sal’s lack of self control on occasion makes him do things he later regrets, he is always on one escapade or another, whether gorging on fistfuls of (stolen) chocolate ice cream with Remi, trading stories with flatbed mates, getting into the opera, or hunting for women, Sal’s life on the road is often enjoyable.  When plans don’t pan out, he moves on.  
    -M. Rigby

  2. Miles pointed out the unique and exotic characters in the first quarter of the book. This trend continues in the second half of the book with the introduction of Terry. After ruining Remi’s night with his step father, Sal decides it is time for him to leave Remi and head back east. Knowing Sal’s devil-may-care attitude, it is no surprise when he spontaneously becomes infatuated with a Mexican women he sees on the bus. As I said earlier, living up to the idea of exotic characters, Terry has a complex and unique background. This brings me to the point that “On the Road” is a character driven book, not a plot driven book. It is indeed the uniqueness and development of the characters that moves the story along. Admittedly, I had been (and still am) drudging through this book waiting for some sort of twist in the plot, like maybe some elaborate scheme or heist Sal would pull off with Carlo ad Dean, but this hasn’t happened and isn’t going to. So far the plot has been disorderly, and spontaneous. Sal is just traveling across America with no clear direction, and is absorbing the experiences and people around him, which is the reason why character development is so vital to this story. Miles had disagreed with me that Sal was rather sad. This part of the book though, I feel proves my theory. The two events that highlight this are when Sal tells Dean about his dream and when Sal is confused and filled with fear while high on marijuana. Sal’s dream involves him traveling through a desert away from a mysterious figure to a protective city. This is interpreted to be Sal trying to achieve happiness through traveling across America, before death (the figure) catches up to him. Also when Sal smokes marijuana he feels fearful, confused and lost. In both situations, Sal is provided with momentary clarity, allowing him to see how reprehensible and futile his current situation really is.

  3. Looking back at my first post, I find it rather humorous that I predicted that there was going to be some sort of falling out between Sal and Dean. In actuality, quite the opposite has happened. For the first part of the book it is easy to see that Sal thinks very highly of Dean. No matter what anybody says about Dean, Sal holds him to such a high esteem that he just shrugs it off as fallacy. Currently in the story though, for the first time we see Dean show similar feelings, specifically at the hill scene. When Sal and Dean are nearing the end of their stay in San Francisco Dean recognizes Sal’s friendship as important, and a new sense of comradery. No longer is Dean an unattainable figure in Sal’s mind, but now he is at the same level, offering as much to Dean as Dean offers to him. A ever larger change is the practical role reversal that takes place when Dean’s family disowns him. Now from the change of Dean being higher to them both being on the same level, it is as if Sal is now above Dean. Dean’s life is spiraling out of control (as is Sal’s but not quite as much) and Sal provides him with reassurance and friendship. This reassurance that now resides in Sal is a product of the sort of ravenous feeling he gets of past lives whilst in the streets of San Francisco. He is induced with a moment of hysterical clarity, which is rather paradoxical, that comes from Keourac’s later ventures with Buddhism. I’m looking forward to the ending of this book, and hopefully Keourac will not disappoint.

  4. Eamon Colbert

    “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac is a truly wonderful book. What draws most people to this book is that it is recognized as a classic, but in reality, it has a lot more to offer than that name sake. For me, one of the greatest things about this book is how representative it is of the era. The contrast of the past and the present are highlighted in this book. Whether it be the carefree nature of Dean and Sal, the cross country hitch-hiking, or the ridiculously low cost of, well, everything, it is obviously apparent the 1950’s were a much different time period, and this book does a great job of documenting the mindset that accompanied these feeling. Another highlight of this book is Kerouac’s writing style. The sentence structure, flow, and ideas represented in the story evolve to fit the ever changing character of Sal. This can mean going from rushed plot centered sentences, to long detailed sentences conveying the overall beauty of the scene surrounding Sal. Kerouac also does a nice job of implanting humor such as coasting down mountains, and including eccentric characters, like the deformed midget. As far as I’m concerned, these aspects of the story are untouchable. The one area of the story I find lacking is the plot. The whole story is centered around Sal going across the country, almost non-stop, which can easily become repetitive; the only difference in each of the journeys being his outlook on life and Dean. For all of the great aspects of this story, the not so stellar plot holds back the overall greatness of the book, thus earning “On The Road” a score of 8 out of 10.

    • The second quarter of On the Road continues similarly to the first, with the exploits of Sal on his journeys across the continent. There have, however, been some minor changes. Sal is not now, as he once was in the beginning of the novel, a stranger to the roads of America and their ways; thus, the narrative has begun to focus more on his destinations and only give a summary with highlights of what happened, who he met, and how plans changed along the way. Kerouac usually takes the time to give us a taste of the flavor of regions Sal travels through; in this section the South and Louisiana get special attention, as well as California. Kerouac gets the reader in the mood of the places he takes him to: the bustle of New York or L.A., the heat and beauty of Southern California and wine country, and the slowness and dilapidated tiredness of New Orleans. With Sal at our side, we find ourselves on a scenic tour of the major stopping points. On the subject of Sal being depressed, I still say that he has a happy (if slightly more troubled than in the first quarter) life, as the few mentioned instances are so few and short compared to times when he is ‘confused’ or ‘filled with fear,’ and most of the time he is high seems to be at parties or during another time when Sal is doing something pleasurable. His lust for life, experience, and character all prevent Sal from resigning himself to depression.

      • The third quarter of On the Road heralds a period of collapse in Sal’s adventures, mostly brought about by Dean. Dean is having a falling out. Once what held the group together, he has only grown crazier if anything, and as the gang ages and marries the old ways become childish, maddening, and disrespectful. Sal is the only one Dean has left, mostly because he is the only one still free from other ties such as wedlock, work, and children. He is still free to see the world as he chooses, confined only by the contents of his pocketbook and the hospitality of old friends, as the rest of the group once was. Sal, always the more neutral and less freewheeling one in the group, is the subject of conflicting feelings from me. On one hand, I would like him to stay on the road, showing us new places, introducing new friends and old, and continuing to write the story of his youthful adventures on the highways and metropolises of America. On the other hand, however, I would like him to settle down somewhere comfortable, save his money, and keep himself (or even a family) in someplace other than bar and hotel ridden slums. Kerouac has created (or probably constructed from his young self) a character in Sal who the reader really cares about, and alternately and simultaneously wishes crazy adventure and content security upon. Dean and Sal have made their plans to journey to Italy, though they probably never will, and I find myself wishing that they will go, have a final adventure, and settle down to start livelihoods or even families in Umbria, Tuscany, or Sicily.

    • I give On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, nine and one-half stars out of ten. Here is why: Taken along on the journeys of Sal Paradise through North America I could not help but get caught up in the restless adventuresome spirit and optimism of Sal and his friends. That feeling of throwing care to the wind and setting out in search of adventure thinking nothing of money to be saved or work to be done makes the reader alert with anticipation and rearing to be on the road with them. These characters, traveling companions, friends in town, or simply people along the way are crafted in ways that ring so true as to make the reader feel that they already know them and alternately care for or despise them as the main characters do. As for these main characters, notably Sal and Dean, one so wishes them both success and adventure that they become as loved as family. However, the real beauty of On the Road cannot be explained in literary, or for that matter, rational terms. The novel simply has the capacity to touch the reader unexplainably somewhere deep beyond their conscious thought. On the Road awakened some deep, slumbering, innate part of being human and of being alive that is the thirst for adventure, for movement, for the unknown, and makes me wonder what my road will be like.

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