MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

On the Road
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Choice > On the Road Part 3

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Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
On the Road Part 3

James Malzone | 8 comments “The thumb became the symbol of Dean’s final developments. He no longer cared about anything (as before) but now he also cared about everything in principle; that is to say, it was all the same to him and he belonged to the world and there was nothing he could do about it.”

I found Part 3 of On the Road to be remarkable for many reasons, one of which, perhaps the most remarkable of them all, was how Kerouac placed the spotlight on Dean considerably more than in Parts 1 or 2. Sal actually spent very little of Part 1 with Dean; instead he spent the majority following his trail around America. In Part 2 Sal is traveling with Dean, but they’re accompanied by Dean’s girlfriend Marylou; in Part 2 the narrative also focuses on the interactions the three of them have with various characters across the country. In Part 3, it’s simply Dean and Sal traveling coast to coast by themselves. Sometimes they’d be traveling with accomplices, but what makes Par t 3 unique to the other two parts is how Sal’s narration stays fixed on the relationship between him and Dean. Throughout they promise to stick together and stay best friends for life, which honestly, I would never have predicted while reading Part 1. Also, whereas in Part 2 many aspects of their relationship seemed merely glossed over, such as the all night conversations they have, part 3 actually has abundant dialogues between Dean and Sal, which really displays to the reader how Dean and Sal could get along so well.

Many of us probably have had at least one friend in our life where we spend so much time with that friend we start to learn things about them that can be unsettling, or just not in line with the image of that friend we have in our head, and the same goes for Sal with Dean in Part 3. The story is told through Sal’s perspective, and because this trip in particular involves Dean extensively, we the readers see Dean a lot more extensively as well. One notable moment is the quarrel between Dean and Sal about Sal being offended when Dean makes fun of him for his age, which Dean later cries over. From what we’ve seen of Dean before, his sudden burst of melancholy emotion is highly unusual, and not only adds depth to the character of Dean but to his relationship with Sal as well. Which is important, considering their relationship is the center of the whole book essentially.

The more I read of the book the more I begin to really like it; I’m also beginning to see how it could possibly be considered “one of the most powerful and important novels of our time” and “the book that turned on a generation.” Kerouac’s prose can range from simple and direct to wildly spiritual (not necessarily in a religious sense) and off-the-cusp. Dean and Sal spend quite a lot of time in jazz bars throughout Part 3 and the way Kerouac describes the sounds and the sights and the feelings in a overwhelming stream-of-consciousness manner almost makes me feel like I AM Dean or Sal (or Kerouac) in the bar and everything being described is occurring in my head in real time. In the age that On the Road was published, the fact that Kerouac could capture that immense feeling in words probably captivated many of those who constantly lived those experiences. In the words of Dean, Kerouac simply got “it”.

Mary | 8 comments I agree that part 3 is very well written, and that the relationship between Sal and Dean is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book. I also found it a bit more interesting due to the fact that I read this book, quite actually On the Road during a three hour trip by car. I felt the same feeling of excitement that Sal described going through lands that were new to me and watching it all go past me as I went, so I was able to adopt a better point of view while reading. I feel that Sal also really came into himself as a character - he no longer seemed as dull as earlier, but as if he had began to recognize a sort of importance within himself based on his focus on the relationship. It's as if he were saying "This is MY life, MY friend and MY fascination with the road." instead of showing how much he admired the lives of others. He also shows a more assertive side when he takes on the role of defending Dean and explaining to others how great he is despite obvious flaws. This part also focuses beyond the beauty of the road, but the importance of it. The independence one has on it, and the memories that come with it - especially Dean's memories, which include his car stealing days and the times he spent causing trouble in places like Denver. This largely stresses the idea of individual importance and connections over one conformed image or group. Both men are focusing on a one on one relationship as well as focusing on their individual needs to travel and see the world, Sal leaving behind his aunt and the comfort of home, Dean leaving behind wives and children. The fast paced descriptions that make you feel, as jimmy said, as if you were Sal or Dean, help to stress the importance of living in the moment. They're all over the place, especially the descriptions of the clubs, to picture it was almost a sensory overload.
Aside from the idea of individualism over group needs, I found little more in this chapter to discuss - I felt as if it is mostly detail to put the reader into the actual story. This so far is definitely what I believe to be the peak chapter of the book and to me it really could either go two ways from here - Dean and Sal split on unfavorable terms that present themselves in part 4 and 5, or the two really continue their committed friendship. I think that they are going to split on bad terms simply because of the tone Sal adapts towards Dean during the first parts of the book. As well as their split up at the end of Part Two that left Sal to wonder if he would ever end up seeing Dean again. In my opinion, he's changing his feelings of Dean too hastily and perhaps it will take a longer period of travel for him to realize this.

message 4: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Gaviola | 5 comments The third section of On the Road had me a little baffled at the decision that Sal makes. The end of the 2nd part had him a bit indecisive about Sal and Marylou and he decided he didn’t like them, yet here he is in the beginning of the 3rd section looking to meet up with Sal again and make friends with the same person he’s lost his fond of. I think that Sal should be focusing on making life easier for himself before he goes off and tries to make friends with Dean again; especially after all the trouble that Dean caused him the last time they were traveling together.
When they meet and decide to be friends forever; I find another immature view. I see Sal as making another mistake and digging a hole for himself that he ultimately won’t be able to climb out of. Sal shows some hope in himself though when he figures out that Sal actually cared for him since the beginning (as a friend). Seeing that Dean gets more comfortable around Sal and shares stories of his-somewhat-unmentionable past (stealing cars and having to deal with an alcoholic bum of a father) is good. I feel that as Dean let himself go in front of Sal and showed some vulnerability, Sal found himself a friend who could possibly be worth keeping.
I’m still undecided on exactly what I think about the topic though. During their travels together, they still make immature decisions with their money; like drinking, attempting to pick up girls, and even watching movies on their free time. Though it may seem like a good and fun idea for the time being, I don’t think it’s good to waste time and money on such unnecessary things; especially when Dean has kids coming soon.
Dean’s choices also become a bother to the story because he plays a large role in Sal’s life now. For Dean to find a new woman and impregnate her as his current wife is having a kid is extremely immature of him to do. Having both of these kids, no money, and the label “cheater” on an individual is no feat to be proud of. At this point in the story, I question how they will ever find it in themselves to settle down and get their lives together.
I believe Sal could easily have the motivation and work to do so if he made some better decisions than wasting his time with people who tend to just get drunk. Life on the road for Sal seems like it’s outlived its fun; so much so that as he came to NY, instead of continuously moving to somewhere else, he tried to stay with his aunt. This point of view is what I think will lead to his ultimate decision of staying and settling in one place and establishing a family/home.

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