ReaderOfBooks, April 1, 2011 (view all comments by ReaderOfBooks)
I think this book is very good. There's nothing better than a book about traveling the country. It's like the American Dream! I really like the beginning of the book, when Sal Paradise/Jack Kerouac is going to Colorado to meet his friends. It's my favorite part. It seems fun to ride in the back of a pickup with a whole bunch of people, like he did. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of traveling, or anyone who likes the Beat Generation; because this book is pretty much as Beat as you can get. Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady adds a lot to the book, and so does Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg. Great book!
psotirin, May 3, 2010 (view all comments by psotirin)
The novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac brings to life a frantic and vivid set of characters. Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise exemplify the younger generations need to break free of social pressures and discover their own identities through exploration. In a rambling series of journeys the two men explore America’s heart. Together with seemingly countless friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers, they experience the cultural changes brought on at the dawn of the “Beat Generation”. Traveling across the country, they free themselves of responsibility and break down the classic “American Dream”. In a realistic, almost conversational way, On the Road shows the need to cast off constricting social norms and to live in the moment, emphasizing the importance of freedom and personal relationships.
The novel takes place in the late 1940’s early 50’s during the start of the “Beat Generation”, when young post-war men and women began searching for new meaning in their lives. This new generation promoted spontaneity, open emotions, and innovative ideas. The narrator of the story, Sal Paradise, is a young man of about twenty. He undertakes to document his experiences as he travels by road across the country to California, expecting to become a sailor with his friend Remi Boncoeur. Along the way Sal encounters and is drawn into many exciting new experiences, friends and lifestyles, “…and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because 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…” (5-6). In particular, one “mad” person Sal falls in with is Dean Moriarty, another 20-something man with a passion for everything. They take another epic cross country road excursion in 1949, and finally a trip down to Mexico in 1950. These seemingly epic journeys provided an opportunity for both Sal and his manic friend Dean to discover and savor new experiences and lifestyles.
One of the main themes illustrated by this book is the importance of freedom. As America’s younger generation at this time was breaking down social walls, the value placed on freedom and the new ideas of what it means to be free are central themes. One symbol of freedom in the novel is the automobile. Every time Sal and Dean get into a car they leave everything behind, free to experience new adventures “on the road”. These characters had shifted their life goal from obtaining the typical “American Dream” (house, job, family) to one more focused on expressing of ones self and truly experiencing life. As Sal puts it, “Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me” (8). Dean Moriarty in particular was a man who wanted to get the most out of life, “He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him” (4). Moriarty never let the social norms of the day determine how he was going to live his life. Instead he chose to revel in his freedom to experience all of what America had to offer.
Jack Kerouac tells a realistic, rambling tale that demonstrates how the pressures felt by the youth result in their needing to break free. He focuses on the importance of their freedom, their friendships and their burning need to fully experience life. Through the eyes of Sal Paradise, Kerouac expresses an intense belief in the need for people to explore of different aspects of life and not get stuck in a dull existence. The characters ability to form strong personal relationships and the value they place on their relationships is also a key part of the story.
Although I have not read many books dealing with this kind of subject matter, I think it would have been beneficial to read how the choices these young men made affected their families. It would have put the situation into a different light to see how Sal’s uncertain and risky lifestyle concerned his aunt and family members. The way that Sal and Dean careen around the country, getting by day to day with so little money and meager prospects seems outlandish, as do some of the party descriptions. It also seems improbable that Sal could have that many friends who were similarly so free of obligations.
The language Kerouac uses affects this novel because the words are “hip”, representing the current slang being developed by the Beat Generation. This makes the dialog and descriptions in the book surprising and more realistic, “They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had” (5). Kerouac’s use of plot impacts the reader because you never know what to expect. With these guys spontaneity is everything and there is no telling what adventures lie around the corner, or down the road. This style of plot keeps the reader interested and excited to continue the story.
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is a novel about the emerging Beat Generation in the early 1950’s, and America’s youth attempting to express themselves and find meaning. Exploration and relationships are important themes brought up in the novel, constantly demonstrated in the wild, spontaneous behavior of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. Kerouac explores the adventures and discoveries of these men in an entertaining and realistic way. Through his words we “dig” the happiness and heartbreak of two young “cats” searching for their life’s next great experience.
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alisontecca, November 10, 2009 (view all comments by alisontecca)
One of the foremost pieces of literature dating to the beat generation of the 1950s, On the Road is a vivid and captivating novel. The book is focused on the adventures of two men: Sal Paradise and his troubled role model, Dean Moriarty. As they travel and hitchhike across North America, readers will feel as if they are being transported across America with them, from jazz clubs in New Orleans to small hamlets in Mexico. As a precursor to the anti-authority movement of the 1960s, On the Road is perhaps Kerouac’s best work and should be considered a staple for bookshelves everywhere.
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