On the Road is a novel written by Jack Kerouac who was an American writer in 1951. Kerouac was highly influenced by the events and the people who were around him where his novel On the Road was an autobiographical work which was mainly based on his cross-country adventures which he had together with his friends in the mid-20th century. The events of the novel were believed to have taken place between 1947 to 1950 where it was considered to be full of Americana and it marked the jazz history era which began with Miles Davis who was an American Jazz musician, a composer, a trumpeter and a bandleader and he was considered to be one among the 20th century influential musicians.
Kerouac’s work was mainly based on the events which were happening at the time where on his experiences, he was inspired by drugs, jazz, and poetry experiences in people during the 20th century. A majority of the scenes and people that Kerouac used in his novel were based on real life experiences although he had to change the names and the details of his experiences. Kerouac thought about writing about his experiences immediately after the post-World War II which was a period which was called the beat age. This is because he wanted to experience another kind of life.
Kerouac was able to communicate his feelings and beliefs about the world around him where he used the protagonist of the novel, Sal Paradise who represented him in the novel to share all his life’s experiences in his journey. He was able to give an account of all the events as to how they happened but did not give a reason as to why they happened. He wrote:
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I was only myself, Sal Paradise, sad, strolling in this violent dark, this unbearably sweet night, wishing I could exchange words with the happy, true-hearted, ecstatic Negroes of America. (Kerouac, 180)
Kerouac wrote mainly about the things which were happening during that time which explained the reason as to why he was able to communicate effectively and capture the attention of a majority of the audiences since his personal nature helped in the fostering of a direct link which was there between him and the individual readers because of his real life experiences. His diction was a relaxed syntax which was an attempt to be able to depict all the events in the manner in which they happened and also be able to convey all the emotions and the energy of the experiences that he underwent in his life. Kerouac’s novel was an honest protest. Kerouac sided with the minorities, the poor, and the socially disadvantaged because while he was on the road, he was able to meet witness them in America. Where he wrote:
We arrived in Washington at dawn. It was the day of Harry Truman's inauguration for his second term. Great displays of war might were lined along Pennsylvania Avenue as we rolled by in our battered boat. There were B-29s, PT-boats, artillery, all kinds of war material that looked murderous in the snowy grass; the last thing was a small ordinary lifeboat that looked pitiful and foolish. Dean (...) kept shaking his head in awe (Kerouac, 135).
Kerouac in his novel was more focused on the travels of Paradise Sal where Sal was believed to having travelled through the United States of America a couple of times and also his Mexican ventures. In this novel, Kerouac was able to use the characters, settings, and themes in his book so as to relate to the time when the novel was written. Characters are the people that have been incorporated and used in the novel so as to bring out the plot of the novel and the main themes. The main characters in this novel are Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty who was Sal’s friend and was admirable in his sense of adventure and carefree attitude and was a great catalyst in the travels by Sal.
The action of the novel revolved around Sal and dean who were the fictional egos of both Kerouac and Cassady which explained their adventures as they journeyed to San Francisco all the way from New York. When they were still on their way on their journey, they were able to struggle with ideas of permanence and impermanence, race and class, and the conventional life in which they were the expectations that the young people were supposed become members of the middle class white people. Sal and Dean in their adventure they were able to see the death threat and destruction which was brought about by the modernity promises and the white America. Both Sal and Dean were trying to run away from that world that they found in their adventures.
Kerouac was able to introduce to the reader other characters in the novel who also had similar experiences as he had with his friend with exactly the same experiences due to the modern America fringes which was very evident from their drinking sprees and parties, promiscuity, and drug user where he attempted to bring out the America which was considered to be off the map by exploring the dark side of the modernization of the country which led to the moral decay of the youths.
The novel “On the Road” was considered to be an analysis of the 20th century since it held a significance historical significance which showed the American culture which was full of drugs, sex, and a youth which had been lost was a culture which had not been given much attention in the 1940s and the 1950s and was becoming a great concern in the history of the country because of the moral decay in the youths of America. In the 1960s, there were major cultural changes in America where Kerouac strongly believed that it was an influence to the radical student movements during that period.
This novel by Kerouac was able to analyze a period of time when the Post-World War II had begun to take over the consciousness. On the road was able to show the other part of America which was a culture that very few people knew existed since it commented on the “Beat Generation” which was an important and an undeniable phenomenon (Tytell, 340). At that period of time, On the Road was the only writing of the time that characterized the beat generation.
The novel is a reflection of the friendship between Sal and Dean who were close friends where the buddy theme was mainly found in the pop and classic culture. The two men shared their travel experiences which is a male bonding stereotype. This is evident when through their travels they ended up becoming comrades and close brothers. Sal and Dean had completely different characters where Sal believed that Dean did what he did because he was very young and full of life which made him to want to get involved with people around him (Krupat, 398). Sal was obsessed with his friend where he stated that “Dean, who had the tremendous energy of a new kind of American saint…” (Kerouac, 38). This showed that Sal greatly admired Dean, and Dean on the other hand looked at Sal as being a person who was righteous.
Through this reflection Kerouac was able to take a look at his life as being impermanent. This was seen as Sal’s and Dean’s life experiences through their travels took on a different rhythm which was seen in the things that they actually did, the many problems that they faced in their journeys, and the different kinds of messes that they found themselves in, which were part of the road. The novel was a reflection of the life of Kerouac since Sal and Dean reflected the meaning of the Mississippi river where they believed that it begun in secret and it flowed smoothly through America into the sea.
The novel is a criticism of its time since Sal criticized the American West because he was able to realize that technology and modernity was making the transportation system much easier to reach the American West where he strongly believed that there would be left very few places to explore and discover (Tytell, 331). Sal confronted the reality when he visited the Wild West Festival which was in Cheyenne which was a tourist attraction site which could only stimulate the Wild West. The two characters, Sal and Dean they were not very pleased by the modernization and they appeared to having been sad because of the Indian cultures which were in the Mexican Mountains where they had a strong believe that once the highway came to America, it would mean that the Indian culture would be destroyed completely to give way to the modern America. Kerouac brought out in his novel that any road which led to the America West was actually a road to doom and destruction since it led to the destruction of culture which was very precious for the people even though it gave freedom to a tourist or a traveller.
Kerouac in his novel criticized the family social structure and the jobs which were made available to the men which made the men not to be able to find a good life. Kerouac failed to portray the relationships which exist between women and men because he did not record the women who were being subjected to the conventions of the society and the same pressures which were also experienced by the men. This is very evident were Sal and Dean saw the women as a representation of a force which pushed against the hopes that they had for freedom (Podhortez, 351). Kerouac ignored the women in the novel because they did not participate in the journeys that the men took where it was only in the end of the journeys by the men that they fed and sheltered the men. In the novel, Dean was married three times where he divorced all of them and abandoned them to fend for themselves and their children (Krupat, 401). Ed Dunkel who is also another character in the novel also married a woman and abandoned her on a New York trip when he ran out of money (Askew, 384). Throughout the novel, the women are brought out as objects which are disposable by the desires of the men. Sal and Dean were not interested in helping out the women to solve the conflicts after the women told them how irresponsible they were.
Kerouac tried to make opinions about the world clear to the reader because the documented travels in the book were fictionalized but they were purely based on real life events and travels where the writer, Kerouac, travelled with Neil Cassady who was his friend. These travels in the novel were in the historical period America was growing into its political, technological, financial, and political status. This is because with the soldiers returning home back from the war there was the reunification of families and the emergence of jobs which showed that there were was a new era of the company man and an upward mobility where the ideal man would then take on a wife, father children, and also take on a job in an office or even in a factory in the post-war America. It was through the emergence of the pop culture during that time when the culture was reinforced through programs in the Television like My Three Sons and How to Win Friends and Influence People which helped the people to be able to be successful in their job careers (Askew, 390). On a political view, the world at that period was believed to have been torn the extremes of the two Cold Wars.