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 travelers. Everything feels like heaven to them as they try to experience it all at once and achieve that great high that can only come from a life well lived. Sal becomes feverish with dysentery and is left behind by Sal who insists, amidst his madness, that he must return to the wife he divorced and remarry her. Sal Paradise is scarcely aware of what’s occurring and later realizes what a rat Dean was for leaving him behind. But by that time, it is too late to do anything about it and so he slowly makes his way by foot to New York. He finally finds a wide-eyed curious maiden as he has always desired and marries her.
Life is good and he occasionally hears from Dean who suprisingly shows up one evening. But in that same moment, he is forced out by Sal’s new wife. Not wanting to tamper with a good thing, he bids Dean farewell, never to hear from him again. In such a simplistic and canned plot, Kerouac writes an ingenious novel about birth, death, and most importantly living. It is a book everyone should read, if only for the reason that it is a parallel of human life and a great representation of the beat generation at it’s epitome.
His style is original. He details everything that his characters see and experience, and that makes for a very readable, deep book. The descriptions go beyond characteristics, but into the realms of ordinary every-day objects’ substance, soul, and meaning. In the same novel where he is telling of a road traveler finding what he wants, he is telling you what life is all about, what life was like when hitchhiking was safe and what life should be like.
Not only does he entertain you but he educates you in the best way he can, through experience. This became the bible of the beat generation, from interpreting the lingo to capturing the essence of life in the 40’s. It demonstrates that people were good back then and even today that rings true, although hitch hiking is less safe. Most people deep inside are inherently good, and the desire to just spontaneaously go off and search for America even now does not seem that far off.
In this book Kerouac is showing it is not just a generational thing but a spiritual thing. We all dream the same dream in a sense. It was written in a very easy to read manner. There was no difficult language in it althought a lot of the slang terms and such were period lines.
But through contrext clues one can easily decipher it. It was like a history book the period time. A period you may not have lived during but could get the feeling of riding the rails with the bums, climbing in a semi with a trucker, attending clubs, listening to the swing and bop pour out of bars. This was the precursor to the hippie style writers. The beat generation was one of the first to attempt to rebel and find youth’s rights.
Kerouac inspired realms of people to cause a youth movement and he showed that there are many people out there who feel as he does. Kerouac wrote the novel to illicit feelings of accomplishment and fufillment. The lessons he gives are to follow those crazy dreams you have, to be mad, to be crazy, to act out your wildest dreams because this is one big, crazy world spinning around and one’s life is so short that you must act and make every single moment matter. Jack Kerouac lets you know that being mad and not down to earth is alright because what is life if you never know what your living for? He makes you desire to go out and find your own personal America and discover all the little treasures in life that are just waiting.
Kerouac uses pentameter in his writing to make On the Road read quickly and smoothly. It is similar to a poem in its flowing and this was an original thing to have done with writing. When he ends the book he ends it on a sad note that does not let you know if that is truly the end or just the beginning. This makes this a extremely interesting book to read.
“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, the evening star most be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie,which is just before the coming of somplete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the preaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old. ” (Jack Kerouac, On The Road p 309-10). As you can tell from that exerpt he does not skip out on details to give you the full picture and the full feeling. Clearly he is a gewnius in is field and this book was well worth reading.
This book deserves to be on the top one-hundred lists. It is a very good book that really digs deep into your soul and seems to extract a part of it and shows it to you for what it really is. Jack Kerouac did a wonderful job on this and inspired me to follow through on my dreams, no matter how crazy and mad they may seem to anyone sane.