On the Road
Portrayal Of Women in Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”
Through diving into Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”, one is given the opportunity to relive the culture of the Beat generation as if experiencing it first-hand. Though, with this comes reliving many viewpoints of the time period. One such view that would likely shock most modern-day readers is the portrayal of women. This essay will explore Kerouac’s depiction of women in his book, “On the Road”, including their objectification/degradation and the contrast between the ideal woman (being portrayed as a quiet and obedient housewife), and real women (portrayed as bothersome to the male agenda).
Throughout the book, the reader becomes acquainted with the female characters through a male point of view – namely, through the eyes of Sal Paradise. From this angle, it is evident that the female characters in the book are objectified and their characters are left incomplete. They are not given complete personalities and characteristics as the males but, instead, are described according to their appearances and lack of intelligence, with little other description. Few women are even referred to by their names – removing their human identities and making them out to be sex objects meant for being looked over for male pleasure. In an example of this, upon seeing his temporary lover, named Terry, for the first time, Sal couldn’t help but to mention that the first thing to catch his eye were her breasts that “stuck out straight and true” and that he thought “her little flanks looked delicious”.
This description of Terry takes away her human identity and brings her down to the level of a tender, juicy steak being drooled over by a famished onlooker. Instead of being described by their personality traits or the way in which they conduct themselves, women in “On the Road” are identified by the sexual functions their bodies can provide to the male onlookers. And when they’re not being described as sexual objects, they’re often labeled as having a lack of intelligence. For example, Sal describes Marylou, the wife of his good friend named Dean, as “a pretty blonde”, but “awfully dumb”. And after just meeting a girl and describing the “beautiful sun-tan on her breast tops”, Sal describes her as “dull” when she would not engage with him in conversation about boyfriends and sex. It appears that men in “On the Road” are quick to label women as unintelligent and uninteresting. If they make out the women to be sexual objects that are otherwise tiresome, perhaps they find it easier to leave them when their sexual cravings drive them elsewhere.
In adding to the insults cast upon female characters in the book, women are commonly and casually referred to as whores despite the actions of the accusers – that may make them a more fitting example of the term. Marylou is referred to as a whore several times, including when Sal sees her taking off with several friends and she leaves him alone in San Francisco. In his state of anger, he says that he “saw what a whore she was”. Despite the fact that she had not done anything to accurately embody the meaning of the insult, Sal sees it as a fit label. Later on, after Marylou and Dean had been living apart with new partners, Sal reports that Dean had become obsessed with her once again and “wanted absolute proof that she was a whore”.
Although Dean had previously been the one cheating on Marylou, he felt absolutely certain that it was she that was the whore. Exemplified by this instance, it is notable that a standard is held for women in “On the Road” that is not held for men, which is to abstain from such wild sexual activity as is acceptable for men to partake in. In another example, while Sal claimed to be searching for a pure woman to marry, he himself became involved with numerous sexual partners and used drugs throughout the book. When he finds a woman suitable to his standards, he describes her as having “pure and innocent dear eyes”. Regardless of the fact that he himself had lived a wild life, he felt that the only type of woman fitting for him to marry would be virtuous. In this, Sal illustrates to the reader that he finds it acceptable for men to engage with as many “whores” as they please, but that the only women suitable for marriage are those who remain pure.
In following the trend of high standards held for women, the ideal female partner, according to the male characters in the book, would be quiet, submissive, and without a mind of her own. She would serve only to satisfy a man’s stomach and sex drive, with all smiles and no complaints. When Sal and Dean were welcomed into a man named Walter’s home late at night, his wife simply smiled and did not ask questions. Sal notes, “she never asked Walter where he’d been, what time it was, nothing… She never said a word…”. To this, Dean says, “Now you see, man, there’s a real woman for you. Never a harsh word, never a complaint…”.
Among themselves, the men praise Walter’s wife for her submissive behavior, which they find ideal. In another example, a house wife prepares a large spread of food for her husband and their visitors, and she is described as apologizing for the peach ice cream not being exactly prepared to her liking. This image paints a picture of a meek woman, whose sole purpose lay in preparing food for men. Her apologies for the peach ice cream seemed to serve as an indication that her main desire in life was to prepare food and do the housework according to the satisfaction of men, as it was her only dialogue. On the opposite end, Sal criticizes Remi Boncoeur’s girlfriend, Lee Ann, for being too outspoken and calls her an “untamed shrew”. Again, this goes to show that the men in “On the Road” do not want to hear the opinions of women. Instead, they ideally expect them to be at home taking care of the house without a single opinion – that is, unless it is to do with perfecting a recipe of peach ice cream.
In contrast to the image of the ideal woman, real women in “On the Road” are illustrated as being controlling and bothersome, and who ruin all the men’s fun. While the motley crew of Sal, Dean, Ed, and Galatea are traveling to Arizona, Galatea (Ed’s new wife) is portrayed as a nuisance who “kept complaining that she was tired and wanted to sleep in a motel”. Concerning this behavior, Sal said that “if they kept this up they’d spend all her money”, and when this did occur, Ed and Dean “gave her the slip in a hotel lobby and resumed the voyage alone”.
In another example, Camille (Dean’s second wife), was described as continually throwing tantrums and not allowing him to go out as he pleased. The way in which both Galatea and Camille are depicted as restricting male characters gives off the notion that real women act as a bother. A majority of the women in the book are depicted in ways that illustrate them to be hinderances to a man’s joy, where the men would prefer them to stay quietly at home while they’re free to run wild on the road as they please. Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” depicts women in an objectified and degraded manner – reducing them to objects only useful for sex and maintaining a household. Furthermore, the female characters are underdeveloped – being described by only their physical features and lack of intelligence, they’re casually labeled as “whores”, and they’re depicted as controlling nuisances to the male agenda.
Absolute Truths and the Narrator’s Perspective in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
A book is a literary composition handwritten or printed usually on sheets of paper bound together, it can be separated in different sections like fiction or nonfiction. The word book, comes from “Old English bōc of Germanic origin; related to Dutch boek and German Buch” (Dictionary). Books were invented with the purpose of record people’s stories and discoveries, so people could document their ideas and make them an available source for others. Nowadays books are the most important reference of information, evidence and entertainment that allow a huge number of people that have access to it to explore the history registered of different countries, people, places or events. The books had served to educate a lot of different generations of human beings by increasing their knowledge about diverse matter topics. Many researches from prestige schools had demonstrated that reading a book helps to develop more effectively different parts of the brain. Books are considerate signatures or footprints of their writers to the humanity. The book “On The Road” (Jack Kerouac) tells the story of a passionate young writer called Sal Paradise from New York City that is looking for a change in his life and that it turn meets Dean a young man with a special and different point of view about life but most importantly, they share a common desire, the desire to explore, experiment, and live on the road.
“On The Road” (Jack Kerouac) is a distinct piece that convey the base of absolute truths from the strict point of view of the narrator. The school Post-Modernism express that by identifying the margins of someone’s knowledge they are able to portray different qualities and features of there own self. It is attempt to interpret the chapters of the book by clarifying in detail the summary of what happens in the story and explaining the author’s experiences. The author tries to motivate its audience to experience the road.
The book “On The Road” (Jack Kerouac) start with the narrator Sal Paradise, who is a young writer from New York City bored, depressed after his divorce lives in his aunt’s house and surrounded by just intellectual friends meets Dean Moriarty. Dean had just arrived from Denver and had just gotten out of reform school, and married a pretty young lady called Marylou. Dean is a frenetic young man full of ideas and with the desire to become a “real intellectual.” Sal likes Dean madness and his uneducated intelligence. Sal finds in Dean the motivation that he had always been looking for to head to the west part of the country that had always called Sal’s attention. In spring of next year everybody set a place to go and start their adventures, Dean leave, back to Denver and Sal promises himself that he will follow Dean to the west soon. The next July of the same year, with fifty dollars in his pocket, having written half novel and left it on top of his desk, with a thorough plan, maps and a path traced by Route 6, Sal decides to start his trip to west. After several failed plans, hitchhiking and several life lessons, Sal head to his different destinations where in each one he experience a new love, friendship, and start working in several jobs in order to survive. The narrator explains extensively the details of the people he met, and the places he visited and the overall characteristics of his trip. After multiples moments and events Sal comes back to New York. In Christmas season of the same year Sal is celebrating holidays with his family in Virginia but few unexpected visitors appeared at the door of Sal’s relatives to help turn upside down Sal’s Christmas. It was Dean, Marylou and Ed Dunkel. Dean offers to deliver some furniture to Sal’s aunt’s house for the relatives. It took them two trips to complete the deliver. Back in New York, Dean and Sal gets reunited with their old friends and party all New Year weekend. The four of them, Sal, Dean, Marylou and Ed Dunkel decide to go to New Orleans to look for Ed’s wife. Sal starts to communicate deeper to Dean about his desire to marry a good woman a settle with her forever; although Dean respected Sal’s ideas he didn’t feel the same way. Sal’s gets influence by Dean and he starts to question himself by feeling confuse and “madness.” Then Ed stay in New Orleans and they head to San Francisco this trip make things really abstract between Marylou who tries to flirt with Sal who doesn’t understand the why but enjoys the joy of having a pretty blond girl interested on him and Dean, who can’t decide what he wants from Marylou. After getting to San Francisco Dean comes back to his other wife, Marylou start dating a new guy by the second night they gets in San Francisco and Sal remains alone in a huge and magnificent city. In spring Sal goes to Denver to work in a wholesale market for a while but with not friend around he start to feel lonely, he envy the people from his neighborhood. After, Sal spends the night with a rich woman he knows, and in the morning she gives him money to go to San Francisco. Dean and Sal meet again, Dean have a terrible fight with Camille and live the house. Dean and Sal decide to stick together; Sal proposes to go to New York and then to Italy because they belong to be moving on the road; however, once in new york Dean manage again to stick with another girl and she gets pregnant. Then after certain circumstances Sal manage to sell his book and embarks on a new journey but this time to Mexico. At the end Sal realizes the limits of his friendship with Dean but at the same time he accepts him because is just the way he is. Their positions changed because Sal becomes stronger and more confident and Dean incoherent and lost. What Dean represents for Sal is the magnificence and wildness of a landscape of a new place that hasn’t been explore for him yet, the courage to try new things, and the inspiration to always try to follow your dreams, even if that means staying on the road.
Sometimes the author provides important lines that makes it’s audience create expectations about what’s going to happen in the story. The author is able to gives a summary of its main point in just one line. “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up,” (On the Road, Jake Kerouac). In the book is clear how important and what represents Dean for Sal. It is incredible how the author whit this quote in specific reveals what’s going to happen and about whom our main character is going to focus. The author opens up the first chapter by announcing to its readers the importance of the character Dean, it also expressed that in someone way or the other Dean will impact Sal’s life. In this quotes the key words that make the reader have a deeply understanding and the meaning of this sentence in specific. One of the is the word “Met,” is the past of the word “Meet,” original from Old English metan “to find, find out; fall in with, encounter; obtain,” and other word from Proto-Germanic. It means to come upon; come into the presence of; encounter. “After,” comes from Old English æfter “after, next, throughout, following in time, later,” from Old English of “off.” It means later in time than; in succession to; at the close of. “Split,” Middle English, probably from a Low German source such as Middle Dutch splitten. It means to divide or separate from end to end or into layers.
The school of Post Modernism criticism stays that there exists no unified truth. This relays on if we take the book “On The Road” (Jack Kerouac) and we change the point of view of the text by changing the narrator and focusing in another character of the story then the scenario would be completely different. This book it remains mostly on the experiences of the narrator Sal Paradise and his adventures to find a purpose and balance in their lives with his dear friend Dean. If for example, we take the character Marylou one of the wives of Dean and one of the main feminine characters of the story and provides her the opportunity to express her experience during this process called life and that she part of, then people will have a different prospective of the story, like what it feels to have a relationship with someone who is considered crazy, stable and volatile on what he wants or what he feel for others what it feels to have someone with a strong deficit of responsible parents to take care of him or what she had learned or appreciate during her trips with Sal and Dean, what was her thinking at the moment she decided to embrace her different attitudes to others; or if we take Sal’s aunt who always provided him a home where to come back and money when he needed it, what will be her story that wasn’t told in the text what it feels to be a constant help for someone or to wait uncertain amount of time to receive letters or a call from Sal to know if was alive and alright; however, the author of the story left the story of Sal’s aunt out because he’s main focus was in the memories that Sal had with his friends and the lessons about life and how that helped him to grow inside and outside and how everything that he lived allow him shaped a new part of his personality that was compressed because of his life style of before. The author might omit her because maybe she is her relative and normally family always will be there to help each other and encourage their loves one to complete their goals in life. In this book is more important how the main character learns and feels about everything around him from love and to the view he has about himself.
“Trough deconstruction we can identify the in between and the marginalized to begin interstitial knowledge building.” So if this book is taken and analyzed it and per chapter the reader try to understand what the author is trying to portray then a person or in this case the reader is able to build knowledge base on the author experience expressed on his work. Truths are what people consider their absolute definition about something but what in reality is that truth is what people had been taught from others generations and believe and present their own point of view and apply this in their lives. Accepted truths are the absolute point of view of something that society has created and has planted on people’s thinking. In this book “On The Road” (Jack Kerouac) the author has contradict different general accepted truths. For example, it has been establish that in order to have a productive and happy life people must born, study, work and have a family is people follow this process they might have a perfect happy ending. However, the author expresses reality in his writing. That how out there, there’s different stuff that can turn upside down our reality. For example, the narrator Sal Paradise set his path going through a process to assimilate what he wanted from life and to try to fulfill his dreams and expectations, he decided to travel around the country ad experience the unusual things that he was used to and develop parts of his personality that he did not know. Although, he wishes to have what society has impose is the right thing to have Sal at least decided to follow a different path to obtain what he wanted and after discover the difference he share with another and his dear friend Dean.
“Post-structuralists assert that if we cannot trust language systems to convey the very bases of truth, then the truth is unreliable.” Truth can be change any time depending on the circumstances and the person tells it. In the book the author left out the deep story of many characters except of Dean, Sal and Marylou; if he had express the story of the others characters in deeper mention then the work might undermine it’s goal that was present the development of young man during that years by taking a different path of live different to was is dictated in society and how people around others can impact their lives and ways of thinking or perceive things as Sal did. Or how to have a really imbalance live without a goal and try to drag others in this confusion and discomfort might affect negatively their own self. The author focuses in few characters because he also might lose the attention of the reader on the main idea of the book. The ideology that the text does try to promote is the idea of self-concentration and interest. When someone decides to discover his limits and their own direction of life many things can change to perhaps more positive actions and situations.
In conclusion, the book “On The Road” falls under the criteria of the school of criticism Post-Modernism because this work characterizes for develop and express people’s own truth about certain things. It can also be interpreted really easy when it comes to outline and to get the main point of the message of the author. Highlighting important moments and key words that helped the reader to intertwine with the experiences of the narrator. In the book its clear how the author through his own experiences shows to the reader the type of life style of his era and the way of thinking of that time, its expressed as well what he had learned different and significant lessons by challenging his truth or reality and believes. Dean is a key part of the story because with him is when Sal get to attend the call of his sense of adventure and madness. Since the beginning the author awakens in the reader interest in Dean. In his own sense the narrator get obsessed to be and experiment like Dean that get lost on his way but then he grows and become stronger and more self- confident giving place to anew person. The road is where just they belong since the beginning because they were met for it.
On the Road: a Journey Through the Evolving US Landscapes
Having been amongst the first and most profound post-war, counterculture novels written, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, provides an interesting insight into the changing landscapes in the United States, and the extent to which America was undergoing a new paradigm. Kerouac’s novel outlines the anti-establishment lifestyle through the lense of the two primary characters, Dean and Sal, who are seen traveling around the country on their various escapades. However, the novel takes careful measure to display the extent to which America was becoming a capitalist and corporate nation, as reaping the benefits of such a massive war jump started the economy. The marginalization and racially-divided society that existed is a major theme throughout the novel, however, not in the traditional manner. In doing so, Kerouac tends to adopt a romantic appeal to the low-income and oppressed communities, without grasping the understanding of the privileged position he is in. In analyzing the extent to which Kerouac depicts a romanticized view of underprivileged and oppressed communities, it is apparent that he provides insight into the inherent issues of white privilege, subconscious suppression, and cultural appropriation that continues to plague American society in the modern day.
Perhaps the foremost notion of white privilege that may not be inordinately explicit is the fact that Kerouac’s characters are enabled to do what they want, when they want. Not to say that they are not confined by the same social structures that others in society are as well, but rather, to provide the notion that their ability to uptake other ventures or ideas is more open to them, than it is for the racial minorities they are constantly in contact with. One specific instance of this can be seen in the cotton-picking times that Sal went through, when he realized that his money was running low and needed to undertake work in order to survive, although only temporarily. Sal’s privilege reigns evident in the perception he holds towards cotton-picking, the people that worked around him, as well as his understanding of hard labor as a whole. This idea is summed up in Sal’s statement while working, in that, “there was an old negro couple in the field with us. They picked cotton with the same God-blessed patience their grandfathers had practiced in ante-bellum Alabama; they moved right along their rows, bent and blue, and their bags increased. My back began to ache. But it was beautiful kneeling and hiding in that earth.” (Kerouac, ) This romanticization of cotton-picking provides the racial prejudice and white privilege that was, and continues to be, overlooked. Given their ideals of living a subculture and anti-society lifestyle, Kerouac’s main characters see cotton-picking as beautiful and rich given the historical significance, and the fact that it is off-beat from mainstream society. However, this is only an indication into their apparent privileges as white individuals in America, in that they do not understand the inherent racial divide that has suppressed minorities into this position, and the reality that it is not such a dream that Sal and Dean seem to perceive. Rather, the circumstances of the black citizens in America at the time was not of their own accord, as Kerouac attempts to portray, but out of sheer necessity and survival. This is another aspect of the privilege that is shown in the novel, in that the white characters remain unaware of the fact that cotton-picking is a life or death situation for the minorities, whereas it is merely a game for Sal. The entire time Sal is working, he attempts to make comments of extremity, claiming that he will starve to death if he is not able to provide himself a means of subsistence. Despite the fact that this is an outright fabrication, Sal constructs a false narrative in his mind in order to romanticize the work he does, and pursues it only to the point where he is no longer having fun in his own imagination. This is apparent upon the scenes where Sal is actually working, as he is conducting it in a manner of amusement and identity exploration as opposed to realizing that those around him do not have the same luxury. His nonchalant mentality to the work, constantly taking breaks, and thinking of it as a means of expression is a clear example of his privileged position, and his perception of the black workers as enjoying their labor is misunderstood in that he is putting himself in their position. In reality, Sal is never in any real danger of starvation or impoverishment, in that his privilege affords him the luxury of making a few phone calls, and getting money from his family upon request. Thus, this ties in significantly to the overall idea of white privilege in society at the time, as well as in the modern day. In the same way that the laborers shown in Kerouac’s novel were essentially forced into these menial positions, those who struggle similarly in the modern day are victims of the continued oppression that existed previously. In doing so, while minorities suffer to find employment, pay their bills, be approved for housing, and other institutional necessities, white citizens are not often faced with the same hardships that minorities are. Given the same extent of effort, jobs, housing, social welfare, and other such social constructs are generally more likely to approve white applicants, thus providing this safety net subconsciously. Kerouac’s characters, constantly in search of the beat culture ideal that was fueled by this sense of anti-establishment, never truly grasp an understanding of the inherent difficulties and hardships brought on by racial oppression.
In further understanding this romanticized view of marginalization and privilege, it is crucial to examine the extent to which Sal and Dean disregard economic and social realities, as it is overshadowed by their misunderstanding of impoverished reality. Again, coupled with the fact that they are never truly struggling to survive, they are able to visit a variety of underprivileged areas in search of the counterculture identity they so desired. Yet, in doing so, they attempt to internalize the cultures and identities of marginalized individuals, romanticizing it as the exact type of living they are looking for. However, not being able to experience this in its depth provides insight into the recurring white privilege not only in Kerouac’s novel, but in American society. Kerouac’s misunderstanding of racial divide is so significant that he believes working amongst a minority group gives him the justification to take on their identity. In doing so, “the greatest extent of Kerouac’s racial confusion and inappropriate identification as a Mexican laborer was when he made the mistake of specifically referring to himself as Mexican. Kerouac specifically writes, “they thought I was a Mexican, of course; and I am’ (Kerouac, Scroll 198). He incorrectly assumes that by mimicking the lifestyle and customs of the Mexican community he has installed himself in, he can claim a Mexican identity.” (Collopy, BohemianLives) This false implementation into the Mexican culture is not only incorrect, but it portrays the extent of privilege that Kerouac and like-minded individuals held. Rather than relating with the culture on a deeper level, they were unable to see society in the lens of the minorities, but only through the eyes of their own privilege.
In analyzing this adoption of another culture or identity for means of personal growth is seen in the concept of cultural appropriation. Specifically, cultural appropriation refers to the, “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine…It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed and exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive.” (AboutNews) In recent decades, this concept has become a major issue in regards to marginalization of racial groups, as the stripping of cultural identity and accrediting it to white ideals not only gives false praise, but ensures that the group being exploited remains subjugated. Kerouac’s novel provides a proper example of the privilege which leads to appropriation, as the main characters are constantly seen internalizing and, essentially, demeaning minority hardships. Despite the fact that their privilege is seemingly subconscious to themselves, they desire this life of being casted out by the rest of society, and being able to live your life as a human. However, as Kerouac’s characters believe that this is what life truly is about, they also seem to credit their culture for the ideal living that it has given to minorities. Sal and Dean see Charlie Parker, the African-American jazz artist, as an iconic and near-prophetic epitome of the beat counterculture. This fascination with jazz musicians and ideals, although not depicted in a negative way, provides detrimental connotations and the inherent problem with cultural appropriation. It is true that they idolize the artists, but in a manner which states that, if not for the oppression faced by white majorities, minorities would never be in such a position. In doing so, “He attributes the talent of these bop musicians to the hardships that his position of dominance has forced on them, only to rob them of their culture and take it as his own.” (Collopy, BohemianLives) Rather than realizing the painful places where this music is derived from, and attributing it to the struggles of African-Americans, Kerouac replaces this mentality with that of the dominance of white people, and that such art has been derived by oppression set on by the white population. This cultural appropriation provides insight into many issues that remain today, in that the misunderstanding of oppression, and inability to truly internalize another racial group’s position can never rightfully be done.
Automotive: How Technology Impacts Lives on the Road
Automotive and Technology: How Technology Impacts Our Lives on the Road
Automobiles, they transport us from one place to another and are part of our everyday lives, or enjoy the open road. Back when the first car came out, the car only had seats, gear levers, brake and gas pedals, the speedometer, engine, and headlights; although the headlights were there, they were not as bright as one would think, since the brightness was quite low. Ford’s first affordable car: the Model T or commonly known as “Tin Lizzie” as it was the only affordable vehicle in Ford’s lineup in the early 1900s. The Model T is the best example because the car only had seats, gear levers, brake, gas, and headlights are what all cars had back in the early 1900s; there were no seatbelts during that time period. Seatbelts became standard in SABB in 1958. Unlike other automobile manufacturers who offered seatbelts as an optional accessory. Back then, automobiles were quite heavy; since they were made of steel just for safety, which explains why most cars run on 8 cylinders. Today, most of our cars are metal and plastic, instead of steel as they used to be. Because steel is quite heavy, the car needs a lot of horsepower to haul that much weight, and to do that, the engine should be powerful; an 8-cylinder or Dodge’s 8.0L V10 engine. But the questions are: Is steel really that safe? Or would it be more risky for drivers?
In a 2009 IIHS crash test, they have conducted a head on collision with a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu with modern safety equipment with the 1959 Chevrolet Bel-Air; without safety equipment. The Bel-Air proves that a head on collision with the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu, the driver in the Bel-Air would be killed instantly. While in the Malibu, the driver would only suffer a minor knee injury. This proves that even though cars back in the day were made out of steel, there was no safety equipment to protect the driver from a collision. That was in the late 1950s and there were no safety features, as well that seatbelts were not standard equipment in cars; until 1984, when New York passed a law where seatbelts are required to be equipped in all automobiles.
What is the definition of a safety feature? Well, safety feature is defined as “a feature that is designed to insure or increase the safety of the driver and occupants.” Safety Features such as: Air Bags, Blind Spot monitors, forward collision warning systems, front mitigation braking (also known as the automatic emergency braking system), cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and inflatable belts (for rear passengers); are safety features to keep the driver and the occupants safe from collisions. This research is an in-depth exploration into the safety features in cars today, and how the technology improves and impacts our life on the road. Safety features have been evolved, and it will be evolved from time to time.
The first safety feature that came to my attention recently was the rear inflatable seatbelts; even though it was introduced back in 2009 for the selected 2011 models, but was unaware of this feature at the time they first introduced. The salesman at Capitol Ford who gladly assisted and allowed me to test drive a 2015 Ford Explorer XLT; he explained the information that was needed. He said the seatbelts were developed and offers to the selected Ford models like as the Explorer and other models. In my perspective of inflatable belts, it sounds safe; but was it safe enough? Many parents and drivers would have this in case of an impact, their child or passengers would not be injured as much or should we say, they will feel a bit less pain during an impact? According to an online source from Tucson Citizen; before the invention of the inflatable belts, it seems if we should still worry about children in the rear seats during an impact; but rest assured, Donald Lewis, a former NASA research engineer and pyrotechnic specialist; invented this clever safety feature that will increase the safety for rear passengers while on the road, he developed “Inflatable Seatbelts”, somewhat to an airbag but for our chest and torso. Ford says that their inflatable seat belt could reduce crash injuries to rear passengers, according to a source from Wall Street Journal. It does sound safe doesn’t? But the question remains, is it safe for children? My answer is yes, but not for smaller children who use certain child seats that needs installing and securing to the seat of the car.
However, there is a drawback on the inflatable belts; because when installing the child seats, it is likely to cause not only risk to the child, but it may cause damage to the child seat during an impact and that the inflatable belt will play a dangerous role if not properly installed. Which, it was the reason why the inflatable was designed for children who are using a booster seat that will use safety belts, not designed for children who are using special child seats. Which is why some manufactures wouldn’t recommend parents to use the inflatable belts in certain child seats, which needs installing and securing the seat in the car, unless car seats has a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), the purpose for that feature is to tighten the child restraint, and that feature is just two sets of metal bars located where the cushions meet and one bar for the back; like three point belts, this anchors the child seat from the bottom and top; hence three locations to anchor the child seat. Introduced in 2002, many of the automobile manufacturers are required to have the LATCH as standard in all of their 2002 and later models; my 2006 Honda Pilot does have the LATCH, but it seems that they are hidden from view, and it was difficult to access as the metal bars is too deep to reach into.
According to William J. Mitchell and Lawrence D. Burns in their book: Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, the blind spot monitors are quite recent, because technology is becoming more available for us to use in our lives. In the early 2000s, there weren’t many safety features, the only safety feature that most cars had were anti-lock brake system (ABS), to prevent from locking the wheels when braking. Speaking of today’s safety, every car has a set of airbags; for the front passenger and driver only and side-curtain airbags for all occupants in the vehicle. However, this safety feature alone didn’t reduce the risk as much for the rear passengers. Technology then came into play by adding sensors around the vehicle. The safety for rear passengers however, are still in development and that they are continuing to develop a safety feature to reduce the amount of risk to the rear passengers. The technology in the safety feature such as Blind-Spot Monitor, are still improving to make driving safer. During my earlier test drive with the 2015 Acura MDX with this feature, it really was useful, but it seems odd, because the MDX is a luxury version of the Honda Pilot, yet it doesn’t have the safety features like the Ford Explorer does. Like the cross traffic alert or the front and rear 180° cameras or inflatable belts. Between the Explorer and the MDX, the Explorer is affordable, at the price range of $35k- $55K, with 180° front and rear cameras, and inflatable belts for rear passengers; while the MDX is a luxury SUV, but the price range is $43k-$55k, and this vehicle does not have much safety features, aside from the lane departure, standard safety features like the airbags and structure of the vehicle, and the forward collision, not many features is there to have and it isn’t even worth my money to buy it. Between these two SUVs that have been tested and experienced by me; the MDX is awarded the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus; while the Explorer, it did equip more safety features than the MDX, with only one drawback when the IIHS tested the 2015 model with the small overlap crash, it got a rating of marginal; that the driver will receive injuries due to the steering column pushed back 13cm according to a study from IIHS. However, between the MDX and the Explorer, many would definitely choose the Explorer because of its safety features along with the affordable price; if they improve the small overlap crash in this upcoming 2016 model, which by then, new technology will be introduced in this vehicle and their brand new Platinum trim will have the inflatable seatbelt as standard; this car is worth my time and money purchase it as it has everything needed to protect my passengers. Not many automobiles have this feature yet. This could be the reason why Ford is America’s best-selling brand, for their safety features and affordable prices.
Speaking of safety features, the latest Ford Explorer, the 2016 model; is a good example for safety features, because one, it is affordable, and two at the estimated price range of $39,000-$55,000; they have many of the features available; luxury cars may or may not have this available in any of their models. This seems to be the better deal in the Ford Explorer and that other vehicles don’t have much safety features as Ford. Most SUVs do not have a front and rear 180° cameras, and inflatable seatbelts. Honda, Toyota, or other automobile manufacturers may not have this feature, except Ford’s selected models. If drivers wanted these features; excluding inflatable belts, front, and rear 180° cameras, but safety features that the manufacturer offers, they do have to pay more if they want to add that equipment to the standard vehicle, rather than paying for the top trim model where every of those safety features are standard for that specific trim level, along with the other options that may not be needed. Ford’s line of cars, it seems that they pretty much have most of the safety features as options. Unlike many luxury cars like Mercedes-Benz, they are expensive with that technology for safety as a standard option. While Ford, is pushing that technology down so drivers and/or car shoppers don’t have to spend more than $60k on a luxury car that has those features as standard. In Ford’s Platinum trim, the price is estimated less than $55k. Rather than buying a luxury car or the top trim level that has all of the features and paying a lot more than $60k, the Ford Explorer has the Platinum level which has everything you need that is under $55K; back in 2015, many shoppers purchased the expensive package of the sport trim, that is the sign that customers were ready for the higher trim. Isn’t that marvelous? To have safety features and a car that is well equipped for under $60k, it’s better off than buying a luxury car that costs more than $50k, but isn’t well equipped as many of us thought. To the luxury cars, it is ridiculous and say that they are expensive, yet not well equipped like Ford; to my perspective, Ford is affordable, and they are well equipped like a luxury car.
Ford’s BLIS (Blind spot Information System) is offered as an option, but it will include inflatable belts in a package. Yes, it is quite helpful, but as mentioned earlier, not many parents would want to have inflatable belts to be installed for infants (unless the child restraint manufacturers says it is safe for children to use the inflatable belts for their products) otherwise, parents would have to use the LATCH system for the child restraints that need installing.
Like most blind spot monitors in other automobile manufacturers, they only let drivers know and remind to caution when changing lanes, however, it’s best to double check by checking the blind spot as well, because in my perspective, sometimes the system will encounter a glitch, it is best to double check. Before this feature, many drivers would be using a blind spot mirror; eventually, blind spot mirrors isn’t helpful as much in my perspective, because at night, the cars behind you may shine your blind spot mirror and will cause you to have poor sight of your blind spot. Mercedes’s technology of Lane Keeping Assist; it will automatically vibrate the steering wheel, and/or braking on any of the front wheels to keep you in the lane. Now, this technology is a” must have” in many vehicles, because there are some drivers encounter some trouble staying in our lanes, though Ford has a feature similar to this; but will post a message to the driver recommending to rest if the driver continues to drive unsafe, but we should know that the safety features are not a substitute of how most of us drive.
The Lane Departure Warning is useful when you are on long, highway trips. This system, however, is quite new. Before the Lane Departure Warning, we would have to pay a lot of attention to the road so we wouldn’t jump into any lanes or colliding with anyone. Today, many of us don’t put much faith in technology just yet until it does not encounter a glitch, but during my test drive on the MDX, the system does work and that did cause me to put some faith, but it is best to double check and make sure that there are no cars on my blind spot before changing lanes.
Many manufacturers are moving collisions warning systems will move into the mainstream, According to NY Daily News, they said that some forward collision systems are still new, not all of the forward collision systems will work, some will stop working when it is nighttime, or other problems, though this will not substitute for smart and safe driving, it’s just to remind or warn the driver before impact. This is a good thing for us as a reminder, but personally some of us would prefer to only use the system as a reminder. It is good for a reminder, but it is up to us to make that safe driving decision. The Forward Collision Warning in Ford is part of the BLIS package. John Neff from autoblog.com stated in 2009 that selected Ford and Lincoln 2009 models, this technology like the outboard inflatable belts, will be available in their models. How this function works is by radar; the sensors will detect what is in front and rear of the car. If the system senses contact with something that may happen, Neff stated that “It will sound an alarm and activate a warning light on the windshield, at the same time, it will “pre-charge” the brakes and activate a brake-assist function in case the driver needs to slam on the brakes; if the radar system senses that a collision will happen, it will get the brakes ready for a panic stop.”
Overall, the technologies for safety features in automobiles are currently advancing, to improve automotive safety to drivers and passengers. Blindspot monitor, Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Forward Collision Warning. These safety features are now part of the competitive between Ford and the rest of the automobile manufacturers, With Ford’s Inflatable Seat Belt, what else will be added to the safety features when we drive on the road? Is there more to come? In my feeling and my own perspective about this, yes, there are more to come, but will it be useful for us on the road? This question remains unanswered, and left to the future to decide.
Three Cities and the Construction of Sal’s Identity
Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road follows Sal Paradise on journeys through America. Sal spends most of his time traveling by foot or car; however, the novel focuses on his time spent in three American cities: New York City, Denver, and San Francisco. Kerouac elaborates his presentation of Sal in these cities in order to show how the character holds a separate identity and self-perception during each of his city stays. New York City acts as a home base for Sal and his writing, while Denver and San Francisco provide a more masculine interpretation of the character.
Sal begins and ends each of his continental journeys in New York City. This city acts a place of congregation for Sal and his friends as well as an occupational foundation for Sal’s writing. All of these aspects included in New York City establish a basic identity for Sal which the rest of the novel builds upon. Sal’s first journey west begins in winter, 1947. He lives as a writer and a social outsider. Dean Moriarty is drawn to Sal’s personality as a writer, which surfaces primarily during his time in New York City. Conversely, Sal admires how Dean departs from qualities found in Sal’s existing New York City crowd. Dean’s arrival inspires Sal to search for a new identity which opposes the general, New York City atmosphere he describes in this passage:
Besides, all my New York friends were in the negative, nightmarish position of putting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or psychoanalytical reasons, but Dean just raced in society…he didn’t care one way or the other. (7)
Sal’s description of these New York personalities signals his identity as a self-proclaimed outsider. He places distance between himself and the group when he uses the label “all my New York friends.” The absence of “we” when classifying his status in the group implies a separation from these characters. The word “friends,” however, indicates a close camaraderie of some sort even if Sal disagrees with their attitudes. Sal’s position as a social outsider is criticized by his colleague, Carlo Marx, on his return to New York City on New Years, 1948-1949:
The balloon won’t sustain you much longer. And not only that, but it’s an abstract balloon. You’ll all go flying to the West Coast and come staggering back in search of your stone. (121)
Carlo Marx comments on Sal’s desire to leave his home base of New York City. He doubts the journey’s necessity. His use of the word “abstract” to describe the search for a new personality categorizes Sal’s New York identity as being more concrete and natural those in other cities. Despite Sal’s efforts to distance himself from New York City attitudes, Carlo claims that Sal will return to his home base and occupation as a writer at the end. In addition, Carlo associates New York with a “stone.” This contrasts with the abstract nature of western American cities and places a redemptive, philosophical knowledge available in New York. Moreover, the balloon represents blank, airy thoughts. It acts as an aimlessobject whose fate ends in deflation. Carlo compares Sal with a clownish, childlike view of life that changes and becomes more philosophical when Sal returns to New York City.
In New York City, Sal is a self-proclaimed outsider. In Denver, however, he becomes a dominant male pioneer. His presence in Denver begins in July, 1947. Sal’s initial comments as he enters the city create a co-dependence on others and how they perceive him. He associates his travel experience with the legacy of Christ or Moses:
… and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!’. (32)
This passage shows how Sal’s attitude shifts from being an outside observer on the fringe of the social world to a perspective that places him in the center. Sal believes he is a leader instead of a bystander.
During his time in Denver, Sal obsesses with perceptions from other people. This contrasts with his critique and separation within the social world of New York City. Instead of opposing the existing social attitudes of Denver, he creates a patriarchal presentation of himself in order to participate in the society. Denver offers Sal a fresh environment and inspiration for an identity shift. He continues this distinct outlook when he returns to Denver in 1949: “I saw myself in Middle America, a patriarch” (169). The words “patriarch” and “Prophet” suggest a hierarchy in lineage. Sal views himself as the leader on a biblical journey. These two male-identifiable words imply that those who follow Sal’s example will derive their energy and inspiration from his travel experience. His patriarchal attitude relates to his own admiration of Dean Moriarty’s character that initially sent him West. Moreover, Sal’s transition from “prophet” to “patriarch” traces his maturation between trips. He escapes from his dependency on outside perceptions and gains confidence in himself. His first comments about the role he wants to take in Denver become an actualization on his return in 1949.
Sal continues to enhance his masculinity when he reaches San Francisco. Sal’s identity in San Francisco involves a confirmation of his masculinity and heterosexuality through the role of an enforcer. Until his time in San Francisco, Sal’s interaction with people occurs on a non-physical, intellectually-based level. In this city, however, communication is shown through force and violence. Sal describes this communication when he carries a gun:
Several times I went to San Fran with my gun and when a queer approached me in a bar john I took out the gun…I knew queers all over the country. It was just the loneliness of San Francisco and the fact that I had a gun. I had to show it to someone. (66)
This passage illuminates Sal’s need to be masculine and heterosexual. San Francisco’s “loneliness” creates this attitude in Sal. He does not clarify what makes San Francisco lonely, but he indicates a sexual loneliness because of his rejection of male advances. This is the only city where Sal carries a gun. The gun is a symbol of his masculinity. Sal uses this visual and the word “queer” to reaffirm his heterosexual dominance. His action of showing off the gun corresponds with his Denver vision as a patriarch. Each association refers to qualities of dominance or male hierarchy within a system.
San Francisco’s revolution around male-centeredness is reinforced in the relationship between Sal’s friends Remi and Lee Ann. In one scene, Remi and Lee Ann have an argument with gun involvement: “Remi pushed Lee Ann. She made a jump for the gun. Remi gave me the gun and told me to hide it; there was a clip of eight shells in it” (168). Remi asks Sal to hide the gun as Lee Ann tries to grab it. This action symbolizes the transfer of power between men and the focus on maintaining masculinity that colors Sal’s San Francisco experience.
San Francisco, Denver, and New York City each offer Sal a location to explore various aspects of his identity and worldview. One connection between each of the cities is the use of dream-related images in these environments. In a previously mentioned passage regarding New York City, Sal uses “nightmarish” to describe the city and its people. This word suggests that he feels confined in a frightening, yet prophetic, situation in that part of the country. Sal’s perception of himself in Denver continues this dream imagery: “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream” (38). This dreamlike impression of Denver carries a different weight than his thoughts on New York City. The word “dream” to describe Denver holds a surreal, calm meaning, whereas “nightmare” to describe New York City creates frightening, ghost-like images. Sal continues these nighttime references on his first trip to San Francisco: “I spun around till I was dizzy; I thought I’d fall down as in a dream, clear off the precipice” (72).
Sal imagines himself becoming a character of his dreams in San Francisco and Denver. Carlo Marx criticizes Sal’s transitions between cities with the example of an abstract balloon. He claims Sal’s identities are abstract and unnatural; however, Sal spends time in these cities learning more about himself. At the novel’s end, Sal returns to New York City. Despite the changing identities and self-perceptions, Sal’s participation on this journey instills a greater self-knowledge in his character. Each of these cities combines to color and create Sal’s worldview. The distinct identities become one as he returns home with a greater appreciation for traveling and new experiences.
Kerouac’s Style in “On the Road”
Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road is a hallmark story of the Beat Generation, a movement defined by its rejection of conformity in favor of a search for deeper meaning. It is this search that serves as a catalyst for the majority of the action of the narrative, as the protagonist Sal Paradise travels across the country with a host of companions, the chief among them being Dean Moriarty. The story revolves around a series of excursions including trips to Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Mexico. Sal and Dean both seem incapable of settling down, especially Dean, who oscillates among three different relationships and is married three times in the course of the plot. In the end however, Sal becomes disillusioned with Dean’s thoughtlessness when he is deliriously ill in Mexico and Dean leaves him. He moves back to New York and elects to live a more sedentary lifestyle with a stable girlfriend. Dean visits, but he is no longer able to enchant Sal with his impulsive behavior and philosophical musings. A rift forms between the two, as Sal remains stationary and content and Dean continues to drift in his travels with reckless abandon, searching for the intangible meaning that will give purpose to his life. Throughout the novel, Kerouac’s unique writing style helps to portray an era and the complex web of relationship that drive the story.
One of the primary elements of Kerouac’s narrative is his use of characterization. Kerouac’s cast forms a band of multifaceted individuals whom he describes in the context of their individuality and dynamic energy, the essence of his Beat Generation. Dean is immediately established as a scattered character who enjoys rambling and discussing metaphysical ideals. Kerouac depicts a conversation between Dean and his first wife Marylou, in which Dean is restlessly pacing in his apartment, disturbed by a lack of activity. He tells her “In other words, we’ve got to get on the ball darling, what I’m saying, otherwise it’ll be fluctuating and lack of true knowledge and crystallization of our plans” (3). He speaks in a way that makes the words seem to pour out of him in a stream of consciousness style. Dean is constantly eager to move and go, but it is never clear where he wants to end up. He simply does not want to remain in a single place too long, and often expresses this in extended and nonsensical sentences that portray his inner agitation and confusion. Kerouac also describes Dean’s inconsistency through other character’s opinions of him. Marylou laments that Dean will “leave you out cold anytime it’s in his interest” (159) and Galatea scolds him for “having no regard for anybody but yourself” (183). Dean himself acknowledges his own discrepancy and characterizes himself as a constantly restive individual, saying, “my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out” (239). The trunks serve as symbols of their traveling lives, and while Sal manages to figuratively and literally shut his away, Dean’s is omnipresent and constantly inciting him to move. All of these revelations foreshadow the novel’s conclusion, when Sal becomes painfully aware of Dean’s true nature after he is abandoned in Mexico during his time of need.
Kerouac also uses charged descriptions to portray the frantic and searching atmosphere of the novel. Sal explains that he pursues people who are interesting and “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars” (5). The use of repetition and figurative language convey a sense of how the people in Sal’s life whom he values are the ones who transfix him and possess multiple dazzling elements, managing to eclipse the other facets of his life. Sal and Dean are also endlessly seeking meaning in their journeys, and Kerouac compares the promise of the end of the road to an anticipated treasure. The ideal of San Francisco sparkles “like jewels in the night” (13). Before one of his and Dean’s trips, Sal declares that he “suddenly saw that the whole country was like an oyster for us to open; and the pearl was there, the pearl was there” (129). Again, repetition and simile highlight the promise of the journey and the destination, even though the pearl and the meaning that it represents remain elusive.
Kerouac also utilizes lyrical diction and syntax to express the action and mood of the novel. His words echo the short and flowing improvisational style of jazz music. His method employs a choppy synthesis of long and abrupt sentences, like when Kerouac describes a wild night in Denver, saying “everything swirled. There were scattered parties everywhere. There was even a party in a castle to which we all drove-except Dean who ran off elsewhere- and in this castle we sat at a great table in the hall and shouted” (152). The narration may be interrupted by brief explanations, but it maintains a steady rhythm that reads almost like poetry. Kerouac also adds characteristic slang, describing his friends 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” (5). Kerouac’s word “mad” becomes a motif that he uses to characterize his group for their probing and hectic nature. Kerouac also intersperses words like “kicks” (116) to label the action that he and Dean seek, and “Beat” (184) to label their movement. Kerouac’s diction and sentence structure make the novel unique and underscores the feverish excitement of the piece.
In On the Road Kerouac’s use of characterization, description, and syntax help to define the originality of the work. He uses these elements to explain the wanderings of Dean and Sal, who travel with an irregular but constant pace that mirrors the progression of the text. In doing so, Kerouac defines a personal journey for meaning in the midst of a confused and muddled period of life.
Sal Paradise: Beat Picaro
The character of Sal Paradise, in Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, is a complex fusion of the fictional and the real. Kerouac created Sal in his own image and used him as a tool to shine light on the state of America in the aftermath of World War II. Sal is a sort of modern picaro, but with a beat spin. Though he travels through the underbelly of America he sees no evil. The beat part of Sal Paradise shows him the light of God in everything he encounters. This unique combination of the picaresque and the romantic allows the reader to gain a new perspective on the America of Sal Paradise’s time. Sal Paradise shows us the dregs of the world through rose-colored glasses — digging it all the way. When we first meet Sal he has already developed many of the traits of the picaro. Though in his mid-twenties, Sal still lives with his Aunt, who supports him financially. He is an unpublished writer, which more or less means he is unemployed. He is divorced. His time is passed in bars and cold-water flats. This irresponsibility, skirting about the edges of society, and financial instability are all typical of the picaro. Sal steeps himself in the adventures of lowlifes like Dean Moriarty because, as Sal says, “The only people for me are 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.” This wish to follow in the footsteps of those Sal believes are truly living life will later prove itself to be the driving force behind his behavior and his constant need to be on the road. It is out of a desire for experience that Sal first sets out on the road, taking another step in his development towards the picaresque. This action serves both to divide the book into sections and to further illuminate Sal’s character. It is the prolonged journey on the road that shapes Sal’s life — and the novel as well. This clearly fits in with the picaresque tradition of the anti-hero character on a journey that carries him to the edges of society. That Sal embarks on these journeys does not constitute picaresque behavior in and of itself. The situations Sal finds himself in and the people he meets along the way, combined with Sal’s behavior in these situations and towards these people, are what blend together to form a novel in the picaresque tradition. A picaro is a roguish nomad, scavenging the world for the necessities of life and living only to please himself. Sal Paradise perfectly fits this bill. He hops from New York to Denver to San Francisco to New Orleans to Mexico and everywhere in between. He barely manages to scrape by on these trips, supplementing his veteran’s benefit checks with money from his Aunt and various other friends and ladies he encounters. He stays in the homes of acquaintances, straining relationships to their breaking point before disappearing, only to return again once old grievances are forgotten. He takes work only haphazardly, working security with Remi Boncoeur or publishing bits of writing. Stealing is only out of the question when he can support himself without doing so. As Remi Boncoeur puts it while Sal is living with him: “We must cut down on the cost of living.” Sal does all of this so that he may be free to pursue what really drives him — the art of gaining experience. Through the course of the novel Sal leads multiple lives, each one a uniquely singular “episode” of sorts. Sal dives into the lives of others and stays until he feels that he has come to understand the essence of their beings. Then he leaves, going off in search of other life experiences to leech. He cares little about the chaos he causes for the people he leaves behind or where he will end up next. The life experiences are what Sal really craves. His picaresque journey is not one based on the necessity to survive. Sal could just stay home with his Aunt and be perfectly cared for. The driving force behind Sal’s development as a picaro is his lust for knowledge of lives he has not known. He travels the country to consume this knowledge, and once he has folded these new experiences into himself he moves on. These attempts would seem to have been preceded by a similar lifestyle lead by Old Bull Lee. Sal looks up to Bull, as an older, wiser friend, and to Bull’s lifetime of learning: “What he considered to be and called the ‘facts of life’,” made a great impression on Sal. It is with reverence that Sal says, “He spent all his time talking and teaching others. Jane sat at his feet; so did I; so did dean; and so had Carlo Marx. We’d all learned from him.” What Sal learns from Old Bull Lee is that life is full of truths for those who go and look for them. Sal’s journeys on the road are his way of emulating this hero and teacher of the beat generation. The most glaring example of Sal’s utter heartlessness and constant yearning for new experiences comes when he abandons Remi and Lee Ann and encounters Terry at the bus station. His time with Terry is as close as Sal comes to settling down in one place during the novel; Sal’s life with Terry is about as close to a normal relationship as he gets. Everything about their relationship is compressed into a small time span, but we are given an important look into how Sal functions during this particular adventure. Two incidents that occur during Sal’s stay with Terry show us how Sal perceives himself and how he attempts to assimilate the people he meets into his perceptions. The first incident takes place when Sal is picking cotton in the field to earn money to feed his “family”. He sees an old Negro couple picking in the fields with him and begins to imagine their ancestors doing the same work decades before. He soon graduates to imagining himself in the way he sees the Negro couple. He comments that he has found his life’s work. Later, back in the tent with Terry and Johnny, he says: “Sighing like an old Negro cotton-picker, I reclined on the bed.” After one day’s work picking cotton Sal can already imagine himself as a world-weary field worker. Soon after this Sal becomes disillusioned with cotton picking and wires back home to his Aunt asking for more money. The other incident occurs after a group of Okies lynches a man near the camp where Sal is staying with Terry and Johnny. Sal says: “From then on I carried a big stick with me in the tent in case they got the idea we Mexicans were fouling up their trailer camp. They thought I was a Mexican of course; and in a way I am.” Here Sal again shows his need to assimilate himself into cultures that he only barely understands. He actually believes that a few weeks living with Terry has turned him into a veritable Hispanic, that all he will ever need to know about being Mexican has already been made available to him in this short time. A few days later Sal moves on again. He has already taken the one thing he was really looking for in his relationship with Terry: the belief that he fully understands the life she lives and the experiences that she has had. Terry becomes just another character in the sea of faces Sal meets across the country — nothing more. The quest for personality and experience is foreshadowed near the beginning of the novel, when Sal stops in Des Moines on his first trip west. He wakes up in a hotel room, and in a moment of confused truthfulness reveals to us that he does not know who he is. “I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost,” he says. This is how Sal feels when he is without the presence of another person whose experiences he can latch onto and relate to himself. When Sal is alone he does not know how to think or feel about himself or the world. His callous habit of inserting himself into the lives of others only to disappear soon after is born from a need (not merely a desire) to gather new experiences. To Sal staying at home with his Aunt would be unbearably stifling, as impossible to survive as living without food or water. His body would continue to function without these experiences, but his mind would close down and Sal would become just another dull lifeless citizen, never really knowing or doing anything. This, then, is why Sal follows Dean Moriarty. The unpredictable and the extraordinary seem to spring up around Dean. Sal and Dean are not really friends — at least not in the way “normal” people living “normal” lives might be friends. Dean uses Sal to guide him into his intellectual rebirth while Sal uses Dean to guide him into the underworld. Kerouac makes this knowledge available to us early on when Sal states: “He was conning me and I knew it… and he knew I knew (this has been the basis of our relationship).” When Sal has had enough adventures he heads home to his Aunt and leaves Dean behind. When Dean has no more use for Sal he disappears and leaves him to fend for himself. Dean does not care if Sal is practically starving in San Francisco or on a sickbed in Mexico. In the end Sal cannot be angry with Dean for this, because if Dean was any other way then Sal would have no use for him. Sal will later do the same thing to Dean, leaving him despondent in New York when Sal has finally outgrown his need for the whirlwind that is Dean Moriarty.They key difference between Sal Paradise and the traditional picaro lies in Sal’s outlook on life. The traditional picaro takes a journey through the world and sees only the results of a corrupt or dysfunctional society. The traditional picaresque novel was meant as a didactic satire designed to shine a light on the consequences of the society it explored. On the Road functions more as a celebration of the forgotten people of America than a warning against ending up like them. Sal sees a touch of God in everyone and everything he meets. “Don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?” he asks in the final paragraph of the novel. In this way Sal acts as a champion for the disenfranchised masses he meets on the road. Sal’s most unique characteristic is his ability to combine the downbeat and the beatific. On the Road is a testament to the human ability not only to survive but to find happiness in imperfect situations.Dean touches on this when he tells Sal, “Someday you and me’ll be coming down an alley together at sundown and looking in the cans to see.”“You mean we’ll end up old bums?” is Sal’s response.“Why not, man? Of course we will if we want to, and all that. There’s no harm ending that way.”
Human Motivations in On the Road
Author Jack Kerouac once said, “My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” Kerouac believed his fate consisted of much more than bad luck and poor decision making and attributed it to the naturally occurring, subconscious processes of his mind. In his novel On the Road, Kerouac writes about this phenomena of internal concepts that drive human beings to act the way they do, and in this specific case, live. Kerouac uses On the Road to tell tales of the journey from the earlier years of his life. Kerouac portrays himself as alter-ego Sal Paradise and influential friend Neal Cassady as Dean Moriarty. Although Kerouac cannot put what Sal and Dean are pursuing into a single word or phrase besides calling it IT, the essence of their story helps define what they are in search of. Sal and Dean each have their own distinct disposition and perspective, but are united by their internal desires. The characters in Kerouac’s novel On The Road portray the power of human motivations as they try to fulfill their personal needs according to Maslow’s Hierarchy. Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty were strongly guided by human motivations that provided incentive and prompted the initial action of their journey. Kerouac provides simple, yet vital details in the opening of the book writing, “My wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the Coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road” (9). Sal, living with his aunt and unsure what to do with his life, decides to meat Dean in his hometown of Denver. Sal is too experienced to be considered an adolescent, yet is not ready to be an adult. When Sal leaves New York City, he begins a seven year moratorium, an attempt to “transcend and transform himself” (Dunphy), that is best defined as his life on the road. To get a better understanding of what may have motivated Sal and Dean, it helps to have an understanding of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and how it applies to the psychology of human motivations. Maslow’s 1943 study A Theory of Motivation was vital to psychologists, for they helped explain motivations and innate human curiosity. Maslow stated that all human beings hold wants and desires that influence their behavior. He claims humans are driven by unsatisfied needs, and that only unsatisfied needs can influence behavior. He arranged these possible unsatisfied needs in the order they must be met, increasing in complexity. The list consists of physiological, safety and security, social, self esteem, and self actualization needs. As the person satisfies needs higher up in the list, the more human and psychologically healthy the person is. As the novel progresses, the reader is able to watch Sal and Dean strive to meet the needs that still remained unsatisfied to them, serving as their motivation throughout the story. In the beginning of the novel, Sal must overcome his physiological needs. Specifically, he needs to overcome the illness that plagued him after he was separated from his wife. The mysterious sickness inhibits him from maintaining a high quality of life. According to Maslow, if physiological conditions are not met, then there is no way to satisfy more complex needs since psychological needs are essential to life. While Sal’s basic needs may have involved numerous factors, Kerouac depicts Dean’s needs in a much simpler manner. Dean screams to Sal a during one of his visits to New York City, “so long’s we can eat, son, y’ear me? I’m hungry, I’m starving, let’s eat right now!” (8). Dean’s love of food may have been strong, but he also had another drive, his sex drive, that was much stronger than his appetite. Kerouac does not try to hide Dean’s drive, being blunt from the opening of the novel that Dean was in constant pursuit of women, with more of his emphasis on personal pleasure than intimacy. So strong was this drive that Kerouac wrote, “for to him sex was the one and only hold and important thing in life” (2). Dean’s simple struggles immediately help add to a romantic image. He is much more spontaneous and free-spirited than the analytical Sal, who yearns to be free. This image helps further depict a slight tension between Sal and Dean, where Sal is the man the reader sees in him or herself, but Dean is the character the reader wishes to be. Once physiological needs are met, matters of safety and security can be questioned. Maslow considered adults to be more concerned with their security during times of need, while young children display signs of insecurity and the need to be safe. This point is significant because Dean and Sal are no longer young children, but at the same time they are trying to keep away from full-time adulthood. With views on safety and security unlike those of children or mature adults, Sal and Dean follow neither perspective. Instead, they find their safety and security in unconventional ways and places. Most notably, they find safety and security on the road. Sal and Dean could not say they were most safe and secure in the comforts of their own homes, which would be a typical answer, because they did not have homes. Instead, they embraced life on the road, finding comfort in simple pleasures that the road provided. Most importantly, they tried to preserve the safety of their well-being, traveling constantly to repress any feelings or emotions from their respective hometowns that may have been haunting each of them. Perhaps the best explanation for their comfort felt on the road is provided by researcher Michael Hess, “For me, there is nothing better than a road trip, especially after I settle into the drive and leave past stress of the packing and leaving behind and the future stress of getting to the place you are going is still far away.” It is likely Sal and Dean felt comfort in this concept. Once they stepped foot on the road, worries about what happened in past and what was approaching in the future faded away, and instead they were able to appreciate each moment as it happened, and focus on the present. Because of the road’s power to consume all thoughts, needs like job security, family security, and property security were fulfilled because they were no longer a priority in their everyday lives. With no priorities, Sal was able to follow Dean’s lead, and search for the answers to questions that continually piqued his curiosity. At the onset of his pursuit, Sal naively thought his search would yield direct results, what ever they may be. Quickly he realized, “it was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes” (11). Sal was neither shocked or discouraged by his findings because he had begun to feel the safety of the road. Dean also had an unconventional view on safety and security, and it was evidenced by his approach to driving and the way he dangerously experimented with drugs and alcohol. Dean is described as, “the circus that every boy dreams of joining. Dean’s road is pure carnal excitement, all speed and jazz and sex” (Leland). Kerouac makes it very apparent that Dean is not phased by circumstanced that traditionally would be considered dangerous. Numerous times, Dean is scolded for his reckless driving, but then is glamorized as a hero by cutting the duration of a trip in half. When Dean wrecks a car with other passengers on board, the passengers immediately tell Sal, “He’s a devil with a car, isn’t he?– and according to his story he must be with the women” (231). This documented reckless abandon is an example of the lack of fear that Dean holds. Once on the road, Sal and Dean never feel as if they are in harm’s way, and due to this they are motivated to advance on to higher needs. Social needs follow those of safety and security. Maslow considered social needs to be those that motivate a person to find friends, belong, and give and receive love. They are often referred to simply as belonging needs. Sal feels the urge to belong as the story begins, since his divorce from his wife creates the need to leave New York City and start life on the road. Typically, the need to belong it most immediate in terms of family members and loved ones whom a person spends most of their time with. Since Sal was leaving what remained of his family behind, he was able to bypass the need to belong to a family and instead search for which ever group he believed he was a part of. The search for friendship is one of the key motivations to belong, and On the Road chronicles Sal and Dean’s unique friendship. At the beginning of the novel, Sal and Dean are just acquaintances who have the same goals; to avoid loneliness and alienation. So desperate to belong was Sal, that he ignored the warning from his aunt before he left. Kerouac wrote about the warning, “Although my aunt warned me that he would get me in trouble, I could hear a new call and see a new horizon… I was a young writer and I wanted to take off” (8). Sal was willing to leave the safety and comforts of his hometown, a need in which he had previously satisfied, in order to find the place where he believed he belonged. When Sal arrived in San Francisco, he realized that Sal lived recklessly, and although he had wives, ex-wives, and children, yet much like himself, had no real family. Traveling back to Denver, one of the four cross country trips taken in the novel, Sal again witnesses Dean’s struggles to belong. Denver is Dean’s hometown, and he and his father are well known for being car thieves and drunks. Sal realizes that as much as Dean talks about being loved, his relationships are all superficial. Their friendship grows as the pair continues to hit the road. They meet up with other transients, and question whether the road is ultimately where they belong. Earlier in the novel, Sal is in near awe of Dean, and just along for the ride, while Dean calls the shots. This dynamic of their friendship changes in San Francisco when Sal sees that Dean has been thrown out of the house by his second wife, Camille. Sal no longer feels like he is the one who must listen to Dean, but instead decides to take some stake in the direction, or IT, that they are pursuing in their friendship. “By taking custody of Dean and IT, Sal changes from being little more than an admirer caught up in Dean’s wake to becoming Dean’s father-defender” (Dardess). Their needs changed as the novel progressed, and because of this their friendship evolved. When Sal saw Dean struggle with his wife, he knew he was finding where he belonged. He thought, “now his eyes were blank and looking through me. It was probably the pivotal point of our friendship when he realized that I had actually spent some hours thinking about him and his troubles, and he was trying to place that in his tremendously and tormented mental categories” (188-189). Sal knew that their friendship was special, and he was finally able to see a more human side of Dean as he broke down in San Francisco. Dean realizes that as strong as his power is to manipulate Sal, he equally belongs to Sal for helping keep him alive. This friendship fulfills the need to belong, and is another essential part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs depicted in On the Road. When belonging needs are fulfilled, the needs for esteem are the next motivations for Sal and Dean. Maslow considered these esteem needs to be those from the self and the esteem that is received from others. If these needs are satisfied, a person feels valuable and confident. If these needs are not met, a person is left feeling weak, worthless, and frustrated. Dean relies on his esteem throughout the novel, cherishing the temporary highs from the daily thrills he seeks, while within himself he knows that his future is not as bright as his facetious looks on the outside. Dean was usually the driver during their travels, and he always believed that he would find something great at the end of each of their journeys. Sal, much wiser, yet still skeptical, kept quiet, as he did not want to crush Dean’s false hopes that he doubted were in reach. Dean, motivated to keep his esteem high, enjoyed every moment of their journey, almost as if he was oblivious to the realities of their situations. Near the end of their journey, the pair traveled through Mexico. Dean was convinced this was where IT lied, and continued to convince himself saying, “I certainly damn well did, oh me, oh my, I don’t know what to do I’m so excited and sweetened in this morning world. We’ve finally got to heaven. It couldn’t be any cooler, it couldn’t be any grander, it couldn’t be anything” (282). Dean is only correct in one part of his statement, the part where he says it couldn’t be anything. Kerouac emphasizes this to show that Dean is trying to justify the choices he has made, choices that have brought himself and Sal miles from their home. Dean tries to build his esteem, and shrink his cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is best explained as the phenomena that describes the uncomfortable feeling when a person begins to understand that something the person believes to be true is, in fact, not true (Myers). The cognitive dissonance theory explains why Dean was driven to make such bold statements. He was trying to justify his actions and alleviate the amount of tension that was building up because of the decisions that he has had to make. Dean’s false high self esteem was likely to keep spirits up, but Sal understood that the reality was that they had traveled many miles, yet gotten no where. Finally, when all other needs are met, a human being is motivated to fulfill the needs of self-actualization. These needs are described by Maslow as those in which a person was “born to do.” He said, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.” Sal and Dean struggle with the idea of self actualization because they spend much of their time trying to satisfy the four lower level needs. One can not try to understand the concept of self, if he or she is still searching for his or her identity. Dean, as discussed previously, is too immature and unrealistic to experience true thoughts of self-actualization, but Sal, much more coherent, is able to. Due to these differing abilities, Sal settles down at the end of the story, while Dean continues to live life on the road. As the novel began, Sal knew that he was in search of himself. While he did not know what his calling was at the time, but he knew that his journey on the road would help point him in the right direction. These early signs of self-actualization were indicated at the onset of his journey, as Kerouac wrote, “I didn’t really know who I was for fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then” (15).This maturity provides insight to the mental capabilities that Sal possesses, and helps show what Dean may have been lacking. Maslow also stated that self-actualization is what causes a person to be restless, yet that it is not always clear when there is a need for self actualization. Dean was certainly restless, but his inability to self-actualize hinders him from assuming a normal life. This contrast in cognition is chronicled by writer John Leland who explains,“[Sal] follows Dean out onto the road but then ultimately outgrows him, finishing the book off the road. Sal comes to recognize Dean’s road as destructive and limiting–as long as Dean keeps going through the same motions, leaving a new baby and a new ex-wife in every town, he isn’t really on the road, he’s stuck in a rut. Sal, by contrast, is learning to be a man and a writer, searching for meaning and a home.” Sal returns home, and settles down with wife Laura– Kerouac married Joan Haverty– and began to chronicle his tale. Happily married and safely home, Sal is able to appreciate where he has been, and remains curious about where Dean is. Since he can self-actualize, he knows that he has finally found his place, or his calling in life. Kerouac perhaps dropped a hint with the last name Paradise, showing that Sal finally found his, while Dean’s never existed. Sal is finally able to appreciate Dean for breathing new life into him as they traveled across country. Years later a much older and wiser Kerouac summed up his journey with, “the best teacher is through experience and not through someone else’s distorted point of view.” Sal’s ability to self-actualize shows that over the course of the novel he has fulfilled Maslow’s hierarchy of motivations. Overall, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty do an excellent job in Kerouac’s On the Road showing how humans are motivated according to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Their unique journey chronicles the struggle to satisfy physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs. Sal and Dean each travel the same path, but because of their differing reasons and levels of motivation, end up in separate places. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is satisfied by the actions of Sal and Dean, as the needs become more complex as the novel intensifies. These motivations are present in the drives of all individuals, further supporting the idea that Kerouac used the road as a microcosm for all life. In reflection, Sal said it best, saying, “the road is life” (215).
Jewels in the Night: Sal’s Identity in New York City, Denver, and San Francisco
Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road follows Sal Paradise on journeys through America. Sal spends most of his time traveling by foot or car; however, the novel focuses on his time spent in three American cities: New York City, Denver, and San Francisco. Kerouac elaborates his presentation of Sal in these cities in order to show how the character holds a separate identity and self-perception during each of his city stays. New York City acts as a home base for Sal and his writing, while Denver and San Francisco provide a more masculine interpretation of the character.Sal begins and ends each of his continental journeys in New York City. This city acts a place of congregation for Sal and his friends as well as an occupational foundation for Sal’s writing. All of these aspects included in New York City establish a basic identity for Sal which the rest of the novel builds upon. Sal’s first journey west begins in winter, 1947. He lives as a writer and a social outsider. Dean Moriarty is drawn to Sal’s personality as a writer, which surfaces primarily during his time in New York City. Conversely, Sal admires how Dean departs from qualities found in Sal’s existing New York City crowd. Dean’s arrival inspires Sal to search for a new identity which opposes the general, New York City atmosphere he describes in this passage:Besides, all my New York friends were in the negative, nightmarish position of putting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or psychoanalytical reasons, but Dean just raced in society…he didn’t care one way or the other. (7)Sal’s description of these New York personalities signals his identity as a self-proclaimed outsider. He places distance between himself and the group when he uses the label “all my New York friends.” The absence of “we” when classifying his status in the group implies a separation from these characters. The word “friends,” however, indicates a close camaraderie of some sort even if Sal disagrees with their attitudes. Sal’s position as a social outsider is criticized by his colleague, Carlo Marx, on his return to New York City on New Years, 1948-1949:The balloon won’t sustain you much longer. And not only that, but it’s an abstract balloon. You’ll all go flying to the West Coast and come staggering back in search of your stone. (121)Carlo Marx comments on Sal’s desire to leave his home base of New York City. He doubts the journey’s necessity. His use of the word “abstract” to describe the search for a new personality categorizes Sal’s New York identity as being more concrete and natural those in other cities. Despite Sal’s efforts to distance himself from New York City attitudes, Carlo claims that Sal will return to his home base and occupation as a writer at the end. In addition, Carlo associates New York with a “stone.” This contrasts with the abstract nature of western American cities and places a redemptive, philosophical knowledge available in New York. Moreover, the balloon represents blank, airy thoughts. It acts as an aimlessobject whose fate ends in deflation. Carlo compares Sal with a clownish, childlike view of life that changes and becomes more philosophical when Sal returns to New York City.In New York City, Sal is a self-proclaimed outsider. In Denver, however, he becomes a dominant male pioneer. His presence in Denver begins in July, 1947. Sal’s initial comments as he enters the city create a co-dependence on others and how they perceive him. He associates his travel experience with the legacy of Christ or Moses:… and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!’. (32)This passage shows how Sal’s attitude shifts from being an outside observer on the fringe of the social world to a perspective that places him in the center. Sal believes he is a leader instead of a bystander. During his time in Denver, Sal obsesses with perceptions from other people. This contrasts with his critique and separation within the social world of New York City. Instead of opposing the existing social attitudes of Denver, he creates a patriarchal presentation of himself in order to participate in the society. Denver offers Sal a fresh environment and inspiration for an identity shift. He continues this distinct outlook when he returns to Denver in 1949: “I saw myself in Middle America, a patriarch” (169). The words “patriarch” and “Prophet” suggest a hierarchy in lineage. Sal views himself as the leader on a biblical journey. These two male-identifiable words imply that those who follow Sal’s example will derive their energy and inspiration from his travel experience. His patriarchal attitude relates to his own admiration of Dean Moriarty’s character that initially sent him West. Moreover, Sal’s transition from “prophet” to “patriarch” traces his maturation between trips. He escapes from his dependency on outside perceptions and gains confidence in himself. His first comments about the role he wants to take in Denver become an actualization on his return in 1949. Sal continues to enhance his masculinity when he reaches San Francisco. Sal’s identity in San Francisco involves a confirmation of his masculinity and heterosexuality through the role of an enforcer. Until his time in San Francisco, Sal’s interaction with people occurs on a non-physical, intellectually-based level. In this city, however, communication is shown through force and violence. Sal describes this communication when he carries a gun:Several times I went to San Fran with my gun and when a queer approached me in a bar john I took out the gun…I knew queers all over the country. It was just the loneliness of San Francisco and the fact that I had a gun. I had to show it to someone. (66)This passage illuminates Sal’s need to be masculine and heterosexual. San Francisco’s “loneliness” creates this attitude in Sal. He does not clarify what makes San Francisco lonely, but he indicates a sexual loneliness because of his rejection of male advances. This is the only city where Sal carries a gun. The gun is a symbol of his masculinity. Sal uses this visual and the word “queer” to reaffirm his heterosexual dominance. His action of showing off the gun corresponds with his Denver vision as a patriarch. Each association refers to qualities of dominance or male hierarchy within a system.San Francisco’s revolution around male-centeredness is reinforced in the relationship between Sal’s friends Remi and Lee Ann. In one scene, Remi and Lee Ann have an argument with gun involvement: “Remi pushed Lee Ann. She made a jump for the gun. Remi gave me the gun and told me to hide it; there was a clip of eight shells in it” (168). Remi asks Sal to hide the gun as Lee Ann tries to grab it. This action symbolizes the transfer of power between men and the focus on maintaining masculinity that colors Sal’s San Francisco experience.San Francisco, Denver, and New York City each offer Sal a location to explore various aspects of his identity and worldview. One connection between each of the cities is the use of dream-related images in these environments. In a previously mentioned passage regarding New York City, Sal uses “nightmarish” to describe the city and its people. This word suggests that he feels confined in a frightening, yet prophetic, situation in that part of the country. Sal’s perception of himself in Denver continues this dream imagery: “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream” (38). This dreamlike impression of Denver carries a different weight than his thoughts on New York City. The word “dream” to describe Denver holds a surreal, calm meaning, whereas “nightmare” to describe New York City creates frightening, ghost-like images. Sal continues these nighttime references on his first trip to San Francisco: “I spun around till I was dizzy; I thought I’d fall down as in a dream, clear off the precipice” (72). Sal imagines himself becoming a character of his dreams in San Francisco and Denver. Carlo Marx criticizes Sal’s transitions between cities with the example of an abstract balloon. He claims Sal’s identities are abstract and unnatural; however, Sal spends time in these cities learning more about himself. At the novel’s end, Sal returns to New York City. Despite the changing identities and self-perceptions, Sal’s participation on this journey instills a greater self-knowledge in his character. Each of these cities combines to color and create Sal’s worldview. The distinct identities become one as he returns home with a greater appreciation for traveling and new experiences.
Idealism and the Road in the late 1940s vs. the 1960s in On the Road and Easy Rider
In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream.-Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”And I said, “That last thing is what you can’t get, Carlo. Nobody can get to that last thing. We keep on living in hopes of catching it once and for all.”-Jack Kerouac, On the RoadOne of the first American ideals was that of the rugged individualist: the explorer-hero, in the tradition of Lewis and Clark and Davy Crockett, as well as the cowboy. America, especially the western part, was a new, exciting frontier yearning to be explored. However, once most of the continent had been explored and industrialization created large urban and suburban areas where people could spend their entire lives, much of the urge to explore was lost. Travel was not necessary to see the rest of the world; magazines and the radio made that possible. America was prosperous and complacent. However, after the Great Depression and especially after World War II, a new generation felt the urge to see America, to search for truth. They were disillusioned; an overwhelming anxiety swept the nation, evidenced, for example, in the film noir style of the late 1940s. Jack Kerouac, for many, symbolized breaking free from this anxiety, breaking free from the “feeling that everything was dead.” (1) He created an ideal that future generations of young people would follow in astonishing numbers.Between 1946 and 1952, Kerouac criss-crossed the United States with his friend Neal Cassady; the journey is documented (fictionalized only slightly) in his book On the Road, which was published in 1957. Kerouac (Sal Paradise in the book) was actually following Cassady (Dean Moriarty), a fact that is often overlooked. Much of the reason that Sal followed Dean was that Sal was a writer looking for new experiences. Dean, for Sal, was the embodiment of the American dream:As we rode in the bus in the weird phosphorescent void of the Lincoln Tunnel we leaned on each other with fingers waving and yelled and talked excitedly, and I was beginning to get thebug like Dean. He was simply a youth tremendously excitedwith life…(4)Sal also links Dean directly to a distinctly old-western ideal by describing him as “a young Gene Autrya sideburned hero of the snowy West.” (2) Dean is the antithesis of the pretentious intellectual culture in New York in which Sal feels out of place. He is perhaps a shady character given his past, but this matters little to Sal. Dean leaves for Denver, and Sal leaves several months later to join him in the West. Sal has some trouble getting there, but it is on the road, exploring, that he will discover his own inner confidence and joy. By the end of his first journey alone he is ecstatic: meeting exciting characters, seeing the changes in scenery; almost all of the words he uses seem to be superlatives. However, there are hints throughout On the Road that this new brand of idealism is not perfect; the West is not an unfettered paradise. In his poem, “Denver Doldrums,” Sal’s friend Carlo Marx describes the Rockies as “papier-mache,” (47) meaning that it could all collapse at any time. “The whole universe was crazy and cock-eyed and extremely strange,” Marx says. Sal soon returns to the East, which he describes as “brown and holy,” in comparison to his new idea of the West as “white like washlines and emptyheaded.”(79) He has to keep moving; there is no end. At the novel’s conclusion, Sal has found love, as well as confidence, but he is still moving, not yet completely satisfied. Sal has also come to realize that he cannot simply follow Dean, as Dean is more lost now than Sal was at the start of the novel.As Kerouac “shambled after” Neal Cassady when he was disillusioned with the world surrounding him, a generation later, young people began to “shamble after” Kerouac. On the Road was published in 1957, when America’s consciousness was again beginning to shift, and the book spurred this movement even further. William Burroughs recalls: The Beat literary movement came at exactly the right time andsaid something that millions of peoplewere waiting to hear. Youcan’t tell anybody anything he doesn’t know already. Thealienation, the restlessness, the dissatisfaction were alreadythere waiting when Kerouac pointed out the road. The Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, for example, took to the road; they were young people on the fringes of society who had just returned from the war. But while Kerouac was seeking spiritual fulfillment on his journeyhe called the Beat Generation “basically a religious generation”the Hell’s Angels were simply attracted to the hedonistic lifestyle that the road entailed. They were completely reckless and extremely violent. This corruption of Kerouac’s purpose colored much of the youthful rebellion of the 1960s, with an excellent example being the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.Easy Rider, directed by Dennis Hopper and produced by Peter Fonda, who both starred in the film, was released in 1969. The heroes of Easy Rider, Wyatt (also called Captain America) and Billy, take to the road on motorcycles, much like the Hell’s Angels, but their spiritual quest is more similar to Kerouac’s. The promotional posters for the film read, “A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.” Like the Beats, Billy and Wyatt were not saints; the movie starts with a cocaine deal and is followed by numerous scenes of LSD and marijuana use. However, the two, Wyatt especially, are introspective, intelligent, and nonviolent. Like Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp (for whom they are named), Billy and Wyatt are men of the free-spirited West. Mardi Gras is their apparent destination, but to them, the road is much more fascinating.While the Beats did not rebel against America so much as embrace all of its facets, Billy and Wyatt see themselves as being pitted against all those who are not like them. This is quite representative of the culture of the 1960s, when the line between young and old, radical and conservative, became increasingly distinct. Rage builds up in the rednecks whom they encounter in Texas. As George Hanson, the ACLU lawyer they meet in Texas says, “They’re not scared of you. They’re scared of what you represent to emWhat you represent to them is freedom.” These rednecks who envy their lifestyle so much are the ones who eventually cause the deaths of Wyatt and Billy, in addition to George Hanson himself. Unlike the Hell’s Angels, Wyatt and Billy die because they are not out for revenge; like Kerouac, they (Wyatt in particular) harbor little initial fear or distrust of strangers.While Kerouac does make a move toward happiness and finality on the road, Wyatt and Billy are unable to do so. They encounter and subsequently reject various places where they have the opportunity to settlea ranch, a commune. The ranch is just not right for them, and the commune just does not live up to the ideals it has set forth for itself. By the end of the journey, they still have yet to find anything worthwhile on the road, as Wyatt says to Billy, “You know, Billy. We blew it.”Easy Rider does not just differ from On the Road in the fact that the soundtrack is rock and roll instead of jazz. It differs because the 1960s was a violent era that was heavily polarized, despite the fact that, like Wyatt and Billy’s journeys, it started out with an invigorating idealism. While On the Road provides hope for the future, Easy Rider clearly shows none.