MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

On the Road
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Choice > On the Road Parts 4 & 5

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Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
On the Road Parts 4 & 5

Mary | 8 comments I was surprised by the ending. For some reason I had expected a bit of a downturn in Sal and Dean's relationship by parts 4 and 5. I had thought that perhaps on their trip to Mexico, Dean would bail out or do something that would leave Sal and Stan stranded and while he leaves Sal sick in Mexico, there is no hard feelings between the two. Overall, I really loved the style of Kerouac's writing, his descriptions of the land and characters (like Victor) were wonderful, especially for someone as visual as myself. I could see the faces of the Mexican citizens, and I squirmed when I read how Sal had been laying with bugs on top of the car in the jungle. Everything was so vivid. It helped to add to the beauty of the idea of a lifestyle on the move. I also felt that the ending kept up with the theme of cycles that I felt was present - in a cycle, nothing is permanent, but events occur more than once. Dean came into and out of Sal's life, some trips funner than others, but he was always coming in and out. I found the ending to be touching as Sal and his new lover Laura feel sorry as Dean goes back to San Francisco alone and cold and Dean goes back to an old friend who had cycled out of his life earlier - Remi. I also feel like it furthers the idea of predictable v. unpredictable, is one really happy when he settles down and puts life on the move behind him? Or is it more fulfilling to live a life moving from place to place? Towards the end, everyone seems to adapt the idea of growing old in one spot, including Dean who indulged in that fantasy with Camille, who noted this in her letter to him stating that she wanted him "and his friend to come live on the same street." It seems that permanency is what the ultimate goal is, but getting their is a hard task due to the urge to take off and indulge in life. This book did define a generation after all, a generation hoping to stray away from the normalities of life and to indulge in things society would generally find as unacceptable (you can see this in the language Kerouac uses, such as when Dean or Sal would add to a description of a girl that she was wearing jeans). The book seems to encourage these alternative lifestyles by showing how, while this wild lifestyle on the road may be irrational and crazy at times (in the form of Dean), it is possible to do so while remaining cool and accepted (in the form of Sal, who has a wide range of friends both favoring and disliking wild Dean).
I also have another point of discussion about the idea of fatherhood - does this seem like a prevalent idea to you? I feel as if it has some significance, with not only a large chunk of Dean's memory revolving around his father, or lack of, as well as the fact that Dean fathers 3 children despite his inability to settle down. If anything, I feel as if it's a "babies having babies" kind of idea, but I feel like that's over thinking it. I feel as if it's encouragement to enjoy what you can before you have to grow up, especially in a time where culture was based on conformity and normalcy and everyone was expected to behave in such a way that almost took away from the fun of adolescence, not necessarily childhood but the time of being a young adult. As I said perhaps I'm thinking too much into it, but I felt as if the idea was deeper than it seemed.
All in all, it was a well written book, I enjoyed it, and while I thought it would be a bit more memorable or powerful to me, I think it was a good summer read.

James Malzone | 8 comments The ending of On the Road struck me for many reasons. It ends almost abruptly, with very little in the way of a climax, or even a resolution (although the novel barely even has an exposition or rising action.) Instead of following the story arch each of the other Parts followed (Dean and Sal make their way across the country with a few acquaintances in tow, only to end their trip when Dean or Sal find the road life no longer appealing), this Part followed the characters as they make their way down to the heart of Mexico…and then stop. I thought that maybe it was the abrupt manner of the ending that really resonated with me, or how different it was compared to the other Parts. It almost signifies that, by just up and leaving Sal in Mexico City, their relationship can never be the same as it was again. Which is a shame because I was starting to really enjoy their chemistry.

How Sal seems to just shrug off this abandonment also shows how he may be done with Dean, but that isn’t fully articulated until Part 5, when Dean visits Sal, who is living a happy domestic life in New York with his girlfriend. Dean offers to haul all of their belongings in a move to San Francisco, but Sal declines and leaves Dean out on his lonesome to head back to his ex-wife Camille. Throughout reading the book I struggled to find any overlying character arcs for Sal and Dean; I didn’t really find any for Dean, but I suppose his lack of change is the point. The ending, however, really brought to light Sal’s character arc throughout the whole book, and how he develops in his search for freedom and happiness. There’s a push-pull dynamic with Sal and the road, where he’ll go towards the road when he’s feeling particularly anxious about domestic life, and leave it when he longs for the domestic life. He latches onto Dean, half-knowing that he’s a selfish character who only lives for “kicks”, to find freedom and happiness that evades him in a settled-down life. The difference between Dean and Sal, however, is that Sal eventually becomes more and more independent in his search for freedom, not needing to rely on Dean to bask in life’s great pleasures. I hadn’t really noticed how Sal became more aware of Dean and his motives – or lack thereof – through each Part. Dean’s influence over Sal is felt when Sal abandons Dean in New York just as Dean abandoned Sal – for no real good reason, just because it was in his best interest to do so.

A particular element of Part 4 that resonated with me early on was the religious imagery Kerouac uses to describe Dean. At the beginning of Part 4, Sal “comes into” money from the book he published, and leaves Dean, who is forced to cope with mundane pleasures of domestic life like listening to baseball games on the radio, as he goes to Denver. While in Denver, however, Sal learns that Dean left his girlfriend and bought a car to drive down just to meet him. Sal describes his vision of Dean speeding to Denver as a “burning shuddering frightful Angel” riding through the sky in a burning chariot. Sal was just getting used to domesticated Dean, too! But the beat lifestyle that Dean lives doesn’t permit domesticity, and Sal came to realize that Dean would rather burn all his bridges to get his kicks than settle down.

At the beginning I found it difficult how a book with such a peculiar prose and very few discernible characters could be considered “one of the most powerful and important novels of our time.” But towards the end of the novel I actually found myself relating strongly to Dean and Sal. The struggle to find meaning in a world and society that very frequently seems to exist only to alienate those who exist in it occurs in all of us, and in a post-WWII world, that generation’s lack of direction defined it. Kerouac simply put the struggle, a struggle he himself lived, onto paper. The post-war context has subsided but the novel continues to impact those who read it simply because that struggle will never end. It certainly impacted me because of that.

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Joshua Gaviola | 5 comments I am a little bit disappointed with this ending to be totally honest. There’s so much that could have happened within the little that was given. It almost seems as if the ending was a bit rushed because of the lack of explanation of what happens to Dean.
Dean plays a large role by this point and having Sal just leave him in New York isn’t the type of ending I expected. It almost feels as if Kerouac wanted to show the audience that karma existed in Sal’s case. I am thoroughly happy with what happens to Sal in the end though; seeing that after all this time, he’s finally grown up and started acting like the adult he was supposed to act as since he graduated from college. It’s even gotten to the point that he finds himself in a relationship that he’s capable of sustaining and being around friends that could be a positive influence on him (Remi).
I think that his decision of finally leaving Dean out of his life was a smart one and I’m proud that he was able to find himself in a situation where his life could possibly start going in a different and more proper direction. Ultimately Sal made poor decisions throughout the novel, but I think the splitting up with Dean was a good one that could possibly lead to many other good decisions made in the future.
They even came up with the plan to go all the way to Mexico for Dean to get divorced with his wife and get married to another girl he just briefly met during his stay in New York. I feel that Dean played a role in the book to simply show how Sal’s character developed and unraveled through his reactions to Dean’s terrible ideas.
All in all, I enjoyed the book and liked watching as Sal’s character blossomed and matured from the college student that just wanted to be around friends to a character that found himself with better company and a relationship. Kerouac did well in writing a plot that was easy to follow but still able to capture the readers attention and feelings towards a naïve main character.

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