MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

On the Road
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Choice > On the Road Part 2

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Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
On the Road Part 2

Mary | 8 comments By part two, I'm definitely taking more of an interest in Sal. I find him less boring, and more complex and mysterious (for lack of a better word). The fact that Kerouac uses very little dialogue, especially in regards to Sal, makes it harder to gain a full understanding of the character. We're essentially learning about Sal through himself, so it's a more one-sided point of view - we're learning about him as he reflects on his self and experiences. I'm appreciating that point of view as the story unfolds.
However, I'm taking a bit of a dislike towards Dean. Clearly, life on the road with Dean is much different to Sal than simply meeting up with him. Dean, as explained by Sal, is presented as childish and self-centered. He claims to be a lover, but simply plays with the hearts of those around him, such as with Camille and Marylou. He is charismatic, but it seems as if it's only a front he uses (or if anything, a trait he has learned to use as an advantage) to get what he needs. When he needs a place to stay, he goes to Camille, when he wants non-stop sex, he goes to Marylou, when he wants money or a place to stay, he goes to various friends - Sal in New York or Bull in New Orleans.
As I noted in my last post, I see a circular theme unfolding, and I feel it in this as well, confirming my thoughts that it is a major theme to the book. At the beginning of Part 2, Sal is itching to get back to a life on the road with his pal Dean, but by the last page, he claims he "didn't care" whether or not he'd ever see Dean or Marylou again. This doesn't mean he harbors any negative feelings towards them, but he clearly no longer feels that Dean is as good a friend as he originally believed him to be. But the reader is left to wonder - will Sal see Dean again? Will their encounter be a positive one? Or will he once again part ways feeling indifferent towards Dean? I feel like Dean's personality will continue to draw the attention of Sal, who's unsure of (in my opinion) essentially everything in his life.
As for the style, after Jimmy mentioned it in his discussion post on part one, I did start to notice the short, choppy sentences Kerouac writes in. I think it's very fitting - especially with Dean. Not only does the shortness of the sentences set the mood as fast paced and quick, as living on the road must seem, but it also helps to form a better picture of Dean, who was a major component to Part 2. The sentences create the idea of choppy phrases, quick change of tone and the fact that Dean's mind bolts from one subject to the other, how he is in constant motion. He is life on the road; fast, always changing, unpredictable and cold. It seems to be that the lifestyle he has chosen fits perfectly with his character. I don't feel that way with Sal, though. He seems detached from the whole experience, with the exception of his genuine wonder of the landscape around him. He doesn't quite fit in with Dean and his friends, which leads me to believe his eventual split from Dean will result from a realization of how he really wants to live his life.

James Malzone | 8 comments At this point in the story, I can begin to see how Kerouac is setting his pieces for the rest of the “story” to proceed; I use quotation marks around story because I researched the book a little and found out that it actually IS autobiographical and Kerouac simply changed the names of all of the characters, substituting “Sal Paradise” in for his own name. With Part 2 beginning by reuniting Sal with Dean and Marylou for the start of a big road trip, and ending by once again showing Sal and Dean off to their separate ways, some of the book’s recurring themes and intentions are becoming more and more visible. I think I can predict that each Part of the book (with the exception maybe of Part 5, being so short) will serve as a vignette detailing a cross-country trip by Sal, with Dean and company. The start of each Part will have Sal restless and itching to leave his petty mundane life to travel the country and engage in whatever shenanigans he “digs”. By the end of the Part, feeling overwhelmed by a constant shifting and a lack of direction, Sal longs to return to a domesticated life. Fairly obvious, a major theme of the book is the battle between domesticity and drifting that Sal faces. It’s a plight that everyone faces in their life at one point or another, but in the wake of the beat 40’s, perhaps it cast an even bigger shadow over the confused lives of young people.

I feel the complete opposite of Mary towards Dean, I think he’s great. He’s a tremendously fun character of a person who seems to simultaneously revel in being an ass while not knowing he is one. One thing I always think about whenever his dialogue appears is as if Dean was talking to me, but as an old man at a family gathering or whatnot. His speech mannerisms just bring to mind an old man talking, and I don’t think at all that that was Kerouac’s intent; rather the opposite: Dean is supposed to represent unabashed youth.

Sal, as a character in the story (as opposed to a caricature of Kerouac), also seems a lot more relatable. It could possibly be attributed to knowing more about him, or just having spent more time with him in the story. Reading his travels and encounters with various personalities like Old Bull Lee and Ed Dunkel, I can tell that Sal both reveres them and is skeptical towards them and their antics. He laughs at their lifestyles and wishes he could live that lifestyle. Again, it goes back to the theme of conflict between domesticity and drifting.

Finally, knowing that the story is autobiographical with the names changed, how much of it actually happened and how much did Kerouac fabricate? Did he write the story down on the fabled scroll of a first-draft knowing it would be fictional, or at least partially so? I personally think that the events described all happened, but maybe not in the fashion Kerouac describes them. Going off of the way the narrative is structured for Parts 1 and 2 (and I’m going to assume for now Parts 3 and 4 and 5), I’m guessing Kerouac mashed together several unrelated events that may have occurred separately from one another to form one singular story. In the little research that I did, I discovered that, while the book was published in 1957, Kerouac finished it in 1951, and the various road trips he took with “Dean” occurred from 1947 to 1950, so it’s entirely likely that the splicing together of different trips could be true. However, maybe after I finish the book and try to trace back the timeline and relate it to Kerouac’s in real life, it could all be revealed to be true.

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Joshua Gaviola | 5 comments Sal’s character development in this section of the book was really interesting, though I would still call him immature for all the decisions he made to put himself in the place he’s in now. Dean being the immature conartist he is, is welcomed back into Sal’s life with open arms. Along with MaryLou, Dean convinced Sal to start traveling with him again even if Sal was already living a pretty pampered life with his southern relatives who live in Virginia.
Sal’s decision to start going on the road instead of living comfortably is another decision I wouldn’t agree with, but knowing and believing that Dean was a good friend to him probably solidified the decision. In this case, I don’t think Dean is a very good companion for Sal because of the amount of things he’s taken away from him. Through the conversion of Sal going on the road again, Dean made Sal lose a home with a steady food supply and ultimately a woman that Sal felt happy to be around; so happy that he planned on asking for her hand in marriage. The decision to accompany Dean on another journey was immature of Sal, but I also think it was selfish of Dean to ask and convince his friend to come along with him for the ride.
At this point I’m starting to lose the feeling of contempt for Sal and beginning to sympathize with him. He’s gone through quite a bit and had to handle living alone with an immature mindset. The addition of another immature mind just led to more trouble for Sal. I don’t think Dean is a good match for Sal in general and agree with Mary’s statement about Dean being a bad influence on Sal. I’m glad that towards the end of this section, Sal made up his mind and decided he didn’t like Dean or Marylou anymore.
Seeing Jimmy’s comment struck a match within my head though. Seeing Sal’s obvious contentedness while being in a domestic home with a steady supply of food made me realize that he’s always at self conflict whether he wants to be on the road or simply live life comfortably under a roof. I believe that though his decision making skills are wrong, Sal has chosen the path of traveling on the road because he has the power to make decisions for himself. Being on the road could easily be a path that Sal takes because of the power of being independent, but the comfort of a domestic home could be what he needs to stabilize his life and be truly happy where he stands.

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