Study Guide

On the Road

by Jack Kerouac

On the Road Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Denver. Colorado’s capital and largest city. In Denver, Sal ventures to the apartment of Carlo Marx, which is in a brick boardinghouse near a church. To get to Carlo’s door, he must walk down an alley, descend stairs, open an old door, and pass through a cellar. Within the apartment, the walls are damp, and the scant furnishings include a candle, a bed, and a homemade icon. A meeting between Carlo and Dean Moriarity sets off the events in Colorado, and Sal soon finds himself embarked on a trip to Central City, where a performance of an opera is staged in a renovated opera house. The day starts well when an empty miner’s shack becomes available, and Sal and his friends dress formally for the performance. Later, back at the shack, they throw a party. When troublesome young visitors ruin the party, Sal and his friends go to the local bars, where they get drunk and begin shouting. Unfortunately, drunkenness leads to fights in the bars, but Sal and his friends escape before the violence escalates. At the shack, the friends cannot sleep well on the dusty bed. Breakfast is stale beer. In the car, the descent to Denver is depressing.

*Southern California

*Southern California. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, Sal declares that Los Angeles is the loneliest city in America. Traveling with Terry, his Mexican lover, Sal walks down a main street, where there is a carnival atmosphere. Short of funds and finding no employment, Sal and Terry journey to Bakersfield to earn money by picking grapes. Finally, near Sabinal, they find work as cotton pickers. They rent a tent for a dollar, and though Sal’s wages provide only for day-to-day subsistence, Sal is wonderfully in love and feels happy that he is living off the earth, as he always dreamed he would be. Nevertheless, the chill of October arrives, and Sal has the...

(The entire section is 764 words.)

On the Road Historical Context

Post-World War II America
The last part of World War II was the birth of the atomic age. The United States dropped atomic bombs...

(The entire section is 849 words.)

On the Road Quizzes

Part One, Chapters 1-2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who is the narrator of the story?

2. Where was Dean Moriarty born?

3. Where do Dean and Marylou live when they first arrive in New York?

4. What is Sal’s first impression of Dean?

5. Who is Carlo Marx?

6. What does Dean wear for his trip back to Denver?

7. How does Sal describe Dean’s “criminality?”

8. Where does Remi Boncoeur live in San Francisco?

9. Where does Sal live in New Jersey?

10. What kind of shoes does Sal wear when he leaves on his trip?

1. Sal Paradise is the narrator, although he has not identified himself yet.

2. Dean was born...

(The entire section is 205 words.)

Part One, Chapters 3-5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What does Sal call the music he listens to in Chicago?

2. What does Sal suspect about Eddie?

3. How does the Cowboy feel about Nebraska?

4. What kind of work does the carnival owner offer Sal and Eddie?

5. What kind of vehicle does Eddie go off in when he leaves Sal?

6. What does Sal buy in North Platte?

7. How do the “range lands” look to Sal?

8. Where is Mississippi Gene going?

9. What does Montana Slim send to his father?

10. After Sal spends the last of his money in Cheyenne, how does he feel?

1. Bop is the name of the music Sal hears in Chicago.


(The entire section is 193 words.)

Part One, Chapters 6-8: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What was Dean’s youthful “specialty”?

2. Where is Carlo living in Denver?

3. What did Chad King’s father do as a boy in North Dakota?

4. What does Chad’s father regret?

5. Does Roland Major think Sal is an “arty” type?

6. Who is Ray Rawlins?

7. How does Camille feel about Carlo Marx?

8. What is Dean wearing when Sal meets him at the rooming house?

9. What does Carlo Marx’s basement apartment look like?

10. What is the name of the poem Carlo reads to Sal?

1. Dean’s specialty was stealing cars and then “gunning for” girls and taking them to...

(The entire section is 202 words.)

Part One, Chapters 9-10: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who drives to Central City with Sal?

2. What famous star performed at the Central City Opera House?

3. What opera do Sal and Babe see in Central City?

4. Whom does Ray Rawlins punch in the bar?

5. Where do Sal and his friends wash up after cleaning the cabin?

6. What does Ray Rawlins do to the tenor D’Annunzio at the bar?

7. Where were Carlo and Dean while Sal was in Central City?

8. What does Rita Bettencourt want out of life?

9. What do Sal and Tim Gray call each other?

10. What does Sal retrieve from Eddie’s girlfriend’s house?

1. Ray Rawlins, Babe...

(The entire section is 193 words.)

Part One, Chapters 11-12: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What does Remi tell Sal to do in the note he leaves on the door of the shack?

2. What does Remi want Sal to write?

3. What did Sledge and the old cop do to the drunk in Barrack G?

4. What is Remi’s favorite expression?

5. What does Sal do with most of the money he makes working as a special policeman?

6. What does Remi want to take from the rusty, old freighter?

7. Where does Remi take his stepfather to eat?

8. What’s wrong with the blond boy who gives Sal a ride?

9. Where is the trailer salesman from?

10. Why does Terry become suspicious of Sal in the hotel room?


(The entire section is 207 words.)

Part One, Chapters 13-14: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Where do Sal and Terry try to work in Hollywood?

2. How do Sal and Terry finally get to Bakersfield?

3. In Sabinal, Sal quotes a line from what movie?

4. What kind of work does Ponzo do?

5. How does Terry feel about Ponzo?

6. Who lives in the cotton field tent next to Sal and Terry?

7. What kind of a house does Terry’s family live in?

8. What book does Sal steal in Hollywood?

9. Sal and The Ghost walk along what river in Pennsylvania?

10. How does Sal feel when he returns to New York?

1. They try to work at a drugstore on Sunset and Vine.

2. They...

(The entire section is 179 words.)

Part Two, Chapters 1-3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. When Sal finally meets up with Dean again, what kind of car is Dean driving?

2. Who was Dean living with in San Francisco?

3. Why did Ed Dunkel marry Galatea?

4. What record does Dean listen to at Sal’s relatives’ house?

5. How does Sal describe Dean’s laugh?

6. What does Dean call Washington politicians?

7. Who do Sal, Dean, and the others look for in Times Square?

8. Where did the children in Dakar take Carlo?

9. How long does it take for Sal and Dean to drive to Virginia?

10. Does Dean ever pay Sal’s aunt back for the fifteen dollar speeding ticket?


(The entire section is 210 words.)

Part Two, Chapters 4-6: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What apartment do Dean, Ed, and Marylou move into in New York?

2. Why does Marylou make advances towards Sal at the party?

3. What happens to Sal’s friend Damion at the party?

4. What kind of music does George Shearing play when Sal and Dean see him perform?

5. What does Dean mail to his wife, Camille, in California?

6. What kind of voice does Carlo use when he questions Sal and Dean?

7. As they leave New Jersey, what do Dean, Sal, and Marylou decide to do?

8. What displays are lined up along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington?

9. Why does Sal think the cops are suspicious of Dean?

10. How...

(The entire section is 249 words.)

Part Two, Chapters 7-9: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What happened to Old Bull Lee’s aunt in the Casbah?

2. Why is Bull feuding with his neighbors?

3. What are “orgones”?

4. What horse does Old Bull Lee bet on?

5. What are Ed and Galatea Dunkel planning to do in New Orleans?

6. What do Sal and Dean hope to find in the Louisiana swamps?

7. What does Sal steal in Sonora?

8. Why is Alfred hitchhiking back to Oregon?

9. How does the policeman treat Dean in Benson, Arizona?

10. What does Marylou call Dean after he drives away and leaves them on the street in San Francisco?

1. An Arab cut off her finger and stole...

(The entire section is 245 words.)

Part Three: Chapters 6 – 8 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What do Sal and Marylou eat the first night they’re in San Francisco?

2. What dream does Sal describe to Marylou?

3. How long does Sal live with Marylou in the hotel?

4. Who does the woman in the fish and chips joint remind Sal of?

5. Why is the fish and chips woman afraid of Sal?

6. Where does Camille live?

7. What is Slim Gaillard’s favorite expression?

8. Who did Dean sell encyclopedias with in Oakland?

9. What singer does Sal listen to on Fillmore and Geary?

10. How many sandwiches does Sal take with him on his trip back east?

1. A can of pork and beans...

(The entire section is 235 words.)

Part Three: Chapters 1 – 3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How does Sal say he feels as he walks the streets of Denver at dusk?

2. Who owns the travel-bureau car Sal rides in to San Francisco?

3. What does Camille yell at Sal during their argument?

4. What did Dean realize after his bad drug experience?

5. What job did Dean have at Firestone?

6. Why does Roy Johnson drive Sal and Dean to Mill City?

7. How much money does Sal think he can get from his publishers?

8. What does Dean dislike about Roy’s wife Dorothy?

9. Where did Ed Dunkel and Tommy Snark go when they left San Francisco?

10. How does Galatea respond when Sal tells her to take it easy on...

(The entire section is 235 words.)

Part Three, Chapters 4-5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What song does the tenorman sing?

2. What does the tenorman wear while he’s performing?

3. What does Dean do while he’s talking to Roy Johnson on the phone at the bar?

4. How does Ed Fournier describe Dean?

5. Where does Ernest Burke live?

6. What does Dean call the gay man’s car?

7. What was Dean’s father trying to sell in Nebraska?

8. What song was Dean’s father always singing?

9. In the hotel room, when the gay man discusses his love life, what does Dean say to him?

10. How does Sal prove his point to Dean about the invisible thing that binds everyone together in the world?


(The entire section is 256 words.)

Part Three, Chapters 6-8: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Sal get mad at Dean in restaurant?

2. How many children does Frankie have?

3. Why does Dean get so angry at Frankie for not buying the used car?

4. What did Sam Brady do for a living when Sal knew him as a child?

5. What does Dean steal from the Denver sports goods store?

6. What does Janett do with Dean’s Dizzy Gillespie record?

7. What school do the college boys go to?

8. How much does the farmer charge Dean for pulling the limo out of the ditch?

9. Where is Ed Wall’s ranch?

10. What story does Dean make up about Sal and the limousine?

1. Dean...

(The entire section is 232 words.)

Part Three, Chapters 9-11: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Where did Dean work in Los Angeles in 1944?

2. Why did Dean travel from L.A. to South Bend, Indiana in 1944?

3. Where did Dean break his nose?

4. Who is driving the “Mad Buick” that races Dean through the Midwest?

5. In Chicago, what does Dean say when Sal asks him where they are going?

6. Who makes a guest appearance at Anita O’Day’s club in Chicago?

7. What does Dean do after he backs the Cadillac over a fire hydrant.

8. Who does Dean finally return the Cadillac to?

9. What does the country girl Sal meets on the bus do on Sunday afternoons?

10. How many children has Dean fathered?...

(The entire section is 236 words.)

Part Four, Chapters 1-3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How does Sal get money to finance his trip west?

2. Where does Dean plan to eventually live with Inez?

3. Who is standing in the San Francisco photograph with Camille?

4. Why was Henry Glass sent to prison?

5. What happened to Henry when he was thirteen years old?

6. Where does Sal stay while he’s in Denver?

7. What does Charity do in Babe’s house?

8. Why does Dean go to the pawn shop on Larimer Street?

9. What does Ed Dunkel plan to do now that he’s back in Denver?

10. What does Tim Gray do after Sal, Dean, and Stan drop him off before they leave for Mexico?


(The entire section is 246 words.)

Part Four, Chapters 4-6: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Where does Stan go to the hospital to have his bug bite treated?

2. Who does the crippled Mexican pool player remind Dean of?

3. What do the waitresses look like in Laredo?

4. How do the border guards treat Sal, Dean, and Stan when they cross into Mexico?

5. When they arrive in Mexico, how many pesos can they get for a dollar?

6. What is the Mexican name for beer?

7. What do the girls ask Sal and Dean in Sabinas Hidalgo?

8. Monterrey reminds Sal of what city in the United States?

9. What are Victor’s brothers doing when Victor introduces them to Sal, Stan, and Dean?

10. What kind of music do...

(The entire section is 209 words.)

Part Four/Five, Chapter Six & Conclusion: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. After Sal, Dean, and Stan leave Gregoria, what region of the world are they in?

2. Why does Sal sleep on the roof of the car?

3. How big are the dragonflies outside Ciudad Mante?

4. What do the shepherds wear?

5. How many miles have Sal, Dean, and Stan traveled to get to Mexico City?

6. What does Dean think about the crazy traffic in Mexico City?

7. Where do some of the beggars sleep in the city?

8. How does Dean finally get back to New York?

9. How does Sal meet Laura?

10. Why is Remi so wary of Sal’s weird friends?

1. They are in the Tropic of Cancer.


(The entire section is 228 words.)