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    On the Road and Saint Maybe, by Jack Kerouac and Anne Tyler Essay

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    Wikipedia encyclopedia suggests “the word experience may refer somewhat ambiguously both to mentally unprocessed immediately-perceived events as well as to the purported wisdom gained in subsequent reflection on those events or interpretation of them. Most wisdom-experience accumulates over a period of time, though one can also experience and gain general wisdom-experience from a single specific momentary event. ” In novels On the Road and Saint Maybe, by Jack Kerouac and Anne Tyler, the authors stress upon life as a set of experiences and how these builds a person.

    Utterly and completely carefree are the characters, blowing and twisting on the maelstrom of their whims, each lunging twinge of a mental process reflected in miles. A laughing blue sky above waiting to swallow one alive, a gleefully roaring engine burning hungrily in front, the road and its devils grinning wickedly below, Jack Kerouac”s characters go flying off randomly along the twisted contours of their lives in his autobiographical epic On the Road.

    In Part I, Chapter 11, when Paradise abandons his screenplay in order to find a job,”shadow of disappointment” crosses Remi Boncoeur”s face; even though no words are spoken at this point, the look on poor Remi”s face is quite enough to form a rhetorical appeal. The look conveys the sentiments of the central characters of the book that trivialities such as everyday jobs should be cast aside in favor of following one”s dream. For one, this is an appeal from character; Remi, crestfallen that Sal has turned his back on his dream, is a person who has no qualms about stealing couches, or food, or stripping a ghost ship of its valuables.

    In this way, his desire to live the moment is connected with his questionable morals–a problem somewhat relieved when his general goodness is illustrated by having him try to organize an evening out in order to put his father at ease. When Remi wants something, he takes it, but he”s a decent, big-hearted person overall–almost childlike. It should be observed that he has the amorality of a little kid. Therefore, this appeal from character should be seen as a cry for living one”s dream– an almost naive way of thinking of things, seen from the childlike eyes of Remi Boncoeur.

    Second, this passage contains an appeal to emotion. Remi”s facial expression intends to prod that part of Sal, and the reader, that would like to continually live on and for the moment, chasing dreams, and never for moments surrender to the mundane. Time and again, the characters shift across the blazing heartland of America, yearning for release, for wonder. They live in the thrall of today and now. Of course, there are exceptions, moments where the restless lusting encounters resistance.

    In Part I, Chapter 13, page 96, at the time when he is living with Terry, there is a passage wherein Sal describes picking cotton, and he says “I thought I had found my life”s work”. He and Terry and her boy live together, and Sal temporarily forgets his friends and his wanderlust. Short-lived though this period might be, Sal becomes a “man of the earth” and returns to the “simple life”. Eventually, though, he tells Terry that he has to leave and is on the road again. Not long after, though, he settles down with his aunt for an extended period of time.

    He actually spends a year living the normal life. All it takes is Dean roaring up in a beat-up Hudson to send him back in full force to the road. For most of the rest of the novel, he and his ever-shifting company of friends roam ceaselessly around the continent. In the first chapter of Part three, on page 179, Sal moves to Denver, where he thinks of living the normal life–“I saw myself in Middle America, a patriarch. I was lonesome. Nobody was there…” This last sentence is the key, of course.

    Separated from his friends, most particularly Dean, Sal gives in to the stereotypical American mindset. But when he finds Dean again, and Camille kicks them both out, they embark on another series of excursions, the only binding elements being the road and the mislaid faith in reaching Italy. The pivotal time in the course of their relationship, this is when Dean and Sal make their friendship concrete. Though they never reach Italy, they travel and party and live for the moment, and have seemingly little regret when it is over.

    They go their separate ways for a while, then reunite and, with the company of friends, head out again on the road, this time ending up in Mexico. Here arrives another critical point; Sal falls ill and Dean abandons him. Sal, dejected, eventually recovers from his illness and then returns home. It is in Part Five, pages 305 and 307, that Kerouac describes the continent as “awful. ” This is the last adjective describing America in the novel, it is important in that it relates Sal”s mindset at the end of his travels with Dean. It is not wonderment he feels anymore, but sadness.

    This too is a theme that can be traced throughout the book, entwining itself with the dual theme of freedom. It seems that everywhere Sal goes, he loses a friend or a lover, from Terry to Remi Boncoeur to Dean Moriarty. Apparently, Kerouac seems to be insinuating that freedom brings pain as well as joy, for when a person does what he wants to do when he want to do it; the bridges are in eternal danger of burning around him, leaving him severed, forsaken, and alone. The book finally ends at the parting of Sal and Dean in New York, the final repeated thought being “I think of Dean Moriarty”.

    It would seem that living life for the moment exposed Sal to great ecstasy and torment, but it is the torment that rings the clearest in his prose, the bittersweet quality that echoes through even the happiest passages. “Love is a duel,” rages Sal when he leaves Terry. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his love for the road, where the conflict between pleasure and sorrow escalates awkwardly until the very end, when Sal, weary and sad, watches his best friend disappear around the corner of Seventh Street. Anne Tyler in her novel, Saint Maybe, shows “ordinary” people and their ordinary lives.

    She displays the fact that people in this world are only human and are hence bound to make mistakes, yet they struggle to survive with the attempt to work out the problems they face in relationships and communication. Saint Maybe is an involving story, played out over many years, with appealing characters that grow and evolve. It also provokes thoughts about so many things: religion, redemption, the randomness of life, but above all, the nature of family and how it too affects the course of life. The journey of the seventeen-year-old protagonist, Ian Bedloe, begins when he doesn”t imagine the consequences of his actions.

    He suspects there is more to Lucy’s past and to the problems of her present, than either Danny or the rest of the family has acknowledged. And one night, when Ian”s plans for a romantic evening with his girlfriend-indeed, it is the night he plans to lose his virginity-are disrupted by having to baby-sit Lucy”s children longer than he was supposed to, Ian becomes enraged. And so, on the way home, Ian tells his brother what he suspects about Lucy, and also mentions that the daughter, for whom Danny abandoned his studies to marry Lucy, is not his child.

    In disbelief and horror, Danny commits suicide by driving his car into a wall. This tragedy shatters the Bedloe family, but the family rebuilds into a nontraditional grouping in which blood matters less than love–and love is not automatic but grows through years of familiarity. And the family-building is driven more by chance than choice–as, the characters learn, most of life is; very little turns out how they had planned, but they make the best of what they”re dealt.

    The following year while Ian is away at college, Lucy kills herself with drug overdose, and the daughter along with the two other of Lucy’s children from a previous marriage has to be cared for by Ian’s rapidly aging parents, and he can hardly bear the weight of the guilt on his conscience. He rightly recognizes that the night of Danny”s death will change his life forever. Further, because of his doubts over the veracity of what he told Danny, and the very fact that he had said anything, Ian is racked by guilt over his role in Danny”s, and now also Lucy”s, death.

    Ian wishes that causing somebody”s suicide was something for which one could go to prison, for at least then he would have an identifiable way of paying for what he had done. As it is, he simply wants to confess what he has done. He recognizes the importance of confession, both to “unburden” his own conscience and to test his reading of the situation with others. But Ian initially finds it difficult to do so, primarily because his family and girlfriend do not want to bear the burden of bad news. Or, more strongly put, they might not want to face the truth of what Ian has done.

    He seeks out religion to help him deal with his guilt but it repels him with its shallow and sterile façade of formality. But one day he wanders into a storefront church intriguingly called The Church of the Second Chance. For Ian, the driving force of life is the Church of the Second Chance, which shows him a way to channel his guilt over complicity in the family tragedy. This church’s main doctrine is that total forgiveness will come when one offers concrete, practical reparation for the committed offense. Christ makes up for the difference between the maximum reparation sacrifice one can offer and the damage caused by the sinful behavior.

    God wants to know how far “you’ll go to undo the harm you’ve done” pg. 123, the Reverend tells Ian. “It’s the religion of atonement and complete forgiveness… It’s the religion of the Second Chance” pg. 124. And in Ian’s case, this means a beginning of a new life. He steps away from his education and becomes an apprentice, but he does so hoping to find an insular world of inanimate objects. Such a desire signals an intensified withdrawal from the vagaries of human communication and the vulnerability of human relationships.

    Ian participates fully in the Church’s program of Good Works, and he takes full responsibility for raising the three children. Unfortunately, Ian seems to think he ought to do these things in order to earn forgiveness. After rightly insisting to his father that Christian life requires a commitment of one”s entire being, Ian mistakenly draws the wrong conclusion. The changes in his life, he tells his father, are “something I have to do for myself, to be forgiven” pg 127. Rather than seeing a changed way of life as a consequence of God”s forgiveness, Ian sees forgiveness as something one has to earn through an extensive penance.

    In the process, Ian becomes very cautious in his life. He eventually does discover some grace precisely through the ordinariness of his life. He recognizes that “You could never call it a penance, to have to take care of these three. They were all that gave his life color, and energy, and … well, life. ” Even more, Ian discovers a sense of new life through his encounter with, and eventual marriage to, Rita–a woman hired to “unclutter” the Bedloe house. As Alexander Pope once said, “a man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is by saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

    It is important that a person learns from their mistakes and take out a valuable lesson learned through their decisions and experiences, as life is a constant journey full of such experiences. The world does not stop for anyone’s sake; it simply keeps going and does not put into consideration that the day did not go accordingly to plan, and to understand this is and move on is what builds character. In the novels On the Road and Saint Maybe, Kerouac and Tyler make this notion visible to the readers.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    On the Road and Saint Maybe, by Jack Kerouac and Anne Tyler Essay. (2018, Apr 30). Retrieved from

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