On the Road


Jack Kerouac's 'Great American' Novel, On the Road

"?because the only people for me as the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes, 'Awwwww!'" (On the Road, Jack Kerouac p. 8)
The 40's. A time of the beat generation, a time when life in America was poetic. And Jack Kerouac was there to see it all and tell about it in splendorous detail. Truly Jack Kerouac was a mindful literary genius and his novel On The Road published in 1957 is a great American novel that all citizens should take the time to read.
On The Road begins with Sal Paradise, a beatnik traveler looking for something more in his life than the tedious life he lives, and his hero Dean Moriarty, a true representative of beat life in America and a mad man. Sal desires meaning for his pointless life so he begins a great American journey looking for everything and nothing, following in the footsteps of Dean and his friend Carlo Marx. Instead of making use of the money he has earned he takes to the road on foot and hitch hikes his way across America from New York to Denver, his ultimate goal.
Upon arriving at his destination and reuniting with Dean he realizes Dean's madness, his inability to control his emotions, his vagueness, his incoherence can only imply one thing, Dean's inner genius. Dean and Carlo flee again off towards Texas. Sal Paradise follows looking for 'America.'
Their travels takes them all over the United States on escapades full of sex, drugs, and swing music. Throughout their travels they encounter several people with whom they become attached to in one form or another. Sal is overwhelmed by the beauty in everyone. He begins to see the real America. The America he is easily falling in love with. Dean meets numerous women, four of which he loves dearly and marries. He juggles these paramours with their knowledge of his infidelity and impregnates several of them. By the end of the book he has six children to four different wives. He divorced and remarried till finally he ends up remarried to his second wife, with whom he is determined to remain. They manage to work their way across the country three times with little money. They get by with the help and money of others. Dean and Sal begin to long for so much more than America, so they decide to leave for Mexico and experience more of the world. As they begin to make their way towards Mexico City, they realize the cops are much nicer and less suspicious in Mexico and to them it is like a whole different world. Cut off from technology, poor, hot, and not knowing any better, Dean and Sal fall for the Mexican way of life way. The Mexican girls appeal to them very greatly. Sal and Dean are impressed with the girls wide, curious, and innocent eyes, so much so they cannot have any sexual relations with them. They can only look upon them as they would the Virgin Mary. To Sal and Dean alike, the womens' eyes convey some hidden knowledge of a better world just beyond America. Learning appears to be a prime motive as they extract information out of the natives that they accost.
When Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty arrive in the deeper jungle regions of Mexico, they are beleaguered by bugs they are not familiar with in America. But to Sal it is wonderful and he lies on the roof of the car when it comes time to sleep, breathing in the thick, heavy, humid air of Mexico and letting the bugs bleed him dry. "For the first time in my life the weather was not something that touched me, that caressed me, froze or sweated me, but became me." (On the Road, Jack Kerouac p. 294) Sal starts to appreciate the rank, hot and rotten stench of the jungle as he takes in the evening and attempts to sleep.
Arrival in Mexico City brings joy to the road wearied