Jack Kerouac, a great American poet, author and painter was born on March 12, 1922. He is regarded as the pioneer of ‘Beat Generation’, a group of writers who discarded the American values and often practiced the use drugs and alternate varieties of sexuality. His famous works include ‘The Dharma Bums’, ‘Big Sur’, ‘Visions of Cody’ and ‘On the Road’. The present novel under discussion, ‘On the Road’, is mostly autobiographical, and is based on the impulsive road voyages of Kerouac and his friends through America. This novel has been treated by Time Magazine as one of hundred best English language novel from 1923-2005. (Jack Kerouac (1922- 1969) – Original Name Jean- Luis Libris de Kerouac).
The major theme of the novel ‘On the Road’ is the nature of friendship between two American young men with an intense wander-lust which finds them going in search of adventure and exhilaration. The story of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise is comparable to Jack Kerouac’s own life when he amalgamated with a young man named Neal Cassaday, who is represented by Moriarty in the novel. Dean Moriarty, a man who was born on the road is both the protagonist and the antagonist in the novel. Salvatore Paradise often represented as Sal throughout the story, a man who wishes to hunt the world for great adventure through his journey.
Salvatore, who has been leading a life with his aunt in New Jersey finds his way to Chicago, due to his being inspired by adventure. There he meets up with Chard King, a man who studies about American Indians. Through the letters which Dean addressed to Chard King, Sal comes to know of the admirable personality of Dean. Thus the two, Sal and Dean who have the same adventurous spirit, become great friends.
Then onwards they travel together in search of adventure and excitement. From Chicago they move towards Denver but soon gets fed up with the lifestyle of the country. Then they make their way to San Francisco to find out Sal’s school friend Lee Ann. With the help of Lee, Sal finds the job as a police man at the barracks. However, because of his thirst for adventure he cannot tolerate the rigid lifestyle and he shifts to Los Angels and then to New York. After two years of adventurous life he returns to Denver and there he continues his life as a labourer.
Along with the adventurous journey they also desire for alternative forms of sex. At first Sal leads a marital life with Laura but it ends in divorce. However the separation never shadows his mind and he prefers another companion in his life. He meets Terry, a charming lady during his journey and soon falls in love. Though he spend some months with her, he leaves her in her hometown with a child and resumes his journey.
This altering mentality shows the unsteadiness in his personal as well as professional life. Dean too has the same alternation, as he chooses a childish girl Marylou in his life and later deserts her without any consideration which causes the destruction of her life. Soon he chooses Camille for his life partner without any regret and later deserts her also with two children for Inez. It may be because of these reasons that some regard the two gentlemen as unworthy.
In the novel, the title ‘road’ is a metaphor and it is mainly mistreated in American literature too. Here, the road symbolises the road of life, survival and of development. The two characters, Sal and Dean have no clear cut idea about its existence and they have nothing more to do. After reading the novel, one finds a similarity between the main characters and the present younger generation of America who has been wandering aimlessly in a carefree mood.
They disregard their present status and are not at all worried about the future. It is also possible for one to compare their approach of life to epicurean philosophy as they find much time for the pleasures of the world. To conclude, one can infer that though there are many criticisms against this novel, the novelist succeeds in his attempt in winning the mind of his readers.
Jack Kerouac (1922- 1969) – Original Name Jean- Luis Lebris de Kerouac. Booka and Writers. Web.