MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

On the Road
This topic is about On the Road
Choice > On the Road Part 1

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
On the Road Part 1

Mary | 8 comments I have to say, I had some high hopes for On the Road, not that it is not a good book - I'm only up to part two - but it's not what I expected. I feel as if Sal is telling the reader, "I have a lot of interesting friends, I'm the boring one, but let me spend 14 chapters telling you about myself." Honestly, I feel like there was little character development with Sal, perhaps I'm interpreting the text wrong but I learned little about him. I did, however, enjoy Kerouac's description of Sal's journey and the places he visited. It wasn't particularly descriptive, but he seemed to personify the land - "There is something brown and holy about the East....California is white like washlines and emptyheaded..."(79) . To me, it's poetic. The language really reveals the wonder Sal has about the land and how he feels the need to see it because of its beauty, Kerouac really personifies it. I also noticed that there seems to be the reoccurring theme of cycles - the way Sal leaves in the spring and returns to New York in the fall, how his life goes from the stable life with his wife to living with his aunt to being on the road to going back to his aunt, the ups and downs he has with friends like Remi and Roland Major, his feelings on his travels (this is great, this is frustrating, I'm hungry, etc.), even in seemingly trivial matters like his financial situations - one day he has $10, the next day he's spent it all at the bar. Perhaps this is simply me overanalyzing the text, or something that will come into play on a larger scale as the story continues one. As of right now, it seems as if it's the idea of stability/ being content with one's life vs. change and fascination/curiosity about the unknown in life.
Elaborating on my original thought, how I find the first section reveals little about Sal, I feel as if it simply gives us the very basic idea about Sal - he's wishy washy. One moment he's traveling on a truck with boys from all over trying to get to Denver, the next he's fathering a Mexican woman's son out in California - itching to return to New York. I feel like his inconsistency is due to a lack of understanding of himself, what he wants in life and who he wants to be - and this is why there is little direct development of Sal. His inconsistency hinders the reader's understanding of him as a person, however, I feel like this is Kerouac's intention because it allows for great changes in Sal's character and allows the reader to become more involved with the story. I personally find myself actively thinking about what Sal will do next because, other than going in a cycle of up's and down's, his actions are unpredictable, especially when he's on the road. At this point, I'm wondering whether or not he will become restless again. I'm also curious as to how Dean Moriarty is going to fit in, Kerouac ends the first part by noting that Sal finds himself missing Dean - perhaps Dean will contribute to Sal's ups and downs, or maybe he'll simply help him to pick a set path. After all, Kerouac even uses Dean as a part of his theme of cycles, stating, in the first few chapters, how great Sal thinks he is, but how they grow apart - yet the story telling goes back to explain this all. (I apologize for the wording of that, I do not know how to better put it). In other words, I feel as if the format of the book is a cycle within itself.

James Malzone | 8 comments With its reputation as a literary classic that purportedly “defined” a whole generation, I went into On the Road with very high expectations (or as high of expectations as a summer reading book can give me). So I must say that I wasn’t necessarily let down by the first chapter of the book, but rather surprised by everything about it, and it took the entire first part to comprehend what I was reading. I knew going into the book quite a lot about the actual mythology of the book, like how Kerouac wrote the first and only draft of the book on one long scroll while on his own cross country trip, but very little about the actual content of the book itself. At first, I was taken aback by the nonchalant tone Kerouac takes on regarding the main character Sal’s journey across the country and back. I found myself thinking I was reading a nonfiction book at many points throughout part 1. Looking back in hindsight at part 1, I realize that what integral part of any good piece of fiction that was missing was a sense of conflict and uncertainty. While I could not and would not predict where Sal would end up at any point during the first part, never did I think “Sal’s in danger,” even when hitchhiking penniless in a strange land. Maybe Kerouac’s purpose was to present the idea to the reader that hitchhiking across the country isn’t as dangerous a pastime as made out to be.
With that said, I did enjoy what I’ve read so far. One aspect I find really interesting and noticed in particular early on is Kerouac’s prose; he condenses into a single paragraph details of events, settings, characters, conversations, where many other authors would easily use multiple paragraphs and pages for the same things. When I thought that this was a nonfiction book of some sort (I had the idea that Sal was a name Kerouac gave himself while on the road) I figured that he did this not out of any particular artistic choice but rather because it made it easier to write while on the road. But I can imagine how that still applies to Sal, writing from the road, or writing as the memories spill out as if he was on the road. Another aspect I liked was how little depth there was to Sal’s decisions; it seems as if he decides on a whim to take a cross country trip just to see his friends, or to spend a month working in a cotton field with a woman he had known just a little longer. I found this believable, that a young man from Newark would be so open to new and unexpected experiences. Perhaps he did it because everyone he associated himself with – Dean, Carlo Marx – does so, but perhaps it could also be a result of post-war restlessness. Or maybe even simply the restlessness of youth – after all, Sal is right out of college. I don’t think it’s as if he’s indecisive as to what he wants to do or where he wants to be, as Mary said, but rather he just drifts along to wherever he finds himself. He was prompted to San Francisco after getting a job offer on a boat, but when that fell through he found himself going to Hollywood to retrieve his movie script. It’s in this manner how Sal and Dean become reacquainted with one another by the end of part 1, and with a steady mode of transportation, could set up the rest of the book.

message 4: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Gaviola | 5 comments This book is an interesting but not very developed read so far. I can see where Kerouac is going with the way he’s writing the novel. He’s left the audience not much to base off for the main character (Sal) in the first part of the novel. All that the readers can tell about Sal from the little information that was handed to the audience was that he’s a hopeless romantic that can’t keep a job and tends to move from place to place trying to survive.
This type of character is the type that I would find immature. He goes from area to area working to make money and drink with his fellow homeless man. After getting to his goal or destination, he stays to speak and drink, then leaves to find a new goal. It seems that Sal doesn’t know how to truly appreciate a steady and happy life when it comes in his direction. In addition to that, Sal tends to go do out of control things with the type of people that won’t benefit him in the future. Though it may be unfair for me to make that statement about them not benefiting him, I feel that Sal could at least have said no to certain individuals that he knew couldn’t be trusted.
As a traveling/homeless man, Sal only has so much that he carries around and little to no money when it comes to traveling as well. One of the mistakes he makes while traveling is being naïve and putting too much trust in individuals that truly don’t deserve it. Take Eddie for example; he was a young man who he put his trust into simply because “he reminded [Sal] of his cousin-in-law from the Bronx.” It’s obvious that the life of a traveler is lonely, but to be so comfortable around someone that he doesn’t know isn’t wise; especially since he has very little and can’t afford to lose it. What I’m referring to is the wool jacket that Eddie up and left with when a man offered a job for one person.
Another aspect of Sal that contributes to his immature persona is the decision making with the little money that he has left. In the scene where Eddie leaves with his shirt, Sal finds another ride to hitch hike to Cheyenne. His growing close with Slim was a bad decision, but his worst decision was deciding to spend all of his money on something useless; alcohol. To be moneyless in a world where nothing is free is a terrible decision for Sal.
He even goes to the point of finding himself in a relationship with a woman that already has a child. Having a child is difficult enough as it is, but for Sal to take on this type of responsibility (knowing he’s financially unstable) is a terrible idea. It couldn’t be that he’s just outright dumb because of the fact that he went to college and actually graduated. I’m a little worried but interested to see how this story plays out for him as it continues.

back to top