Sal is a character who is depicted as loving Dean and showing kindness towards him even though he recognises very quickly that Dean is a character who is ultimately very selfish and self-serving. He abandons Sal in Mexico City, but even after this, Sal still thinks about moving with his girlfriend to be closer to Dean. Sal is enraptured with the way that Dean teaches him how to "get kicks" out of life and his constant open attitude towards learning. At one point the text describes Sal and Dean's childlike curiosity and enthusiasm by comparing America to "an oyster for us to open, and the pearl was there, the pearl was there." Sal is a character who commits himself to enjoyment and exploration through drugs and alcohol in the footsteps of his quasi-teacher, Dean, and changes as a result. It is clear that even at the end of the novel, after Sal has had ample proof of Dean's fickleness and inconstancy, he is willing to overlook that because of the way he idolises Dean. Note how he describes him as he says goodbye to him for the final time:
Old Dean's gone, I thought, and out loud I said, "He'll be all right." And off we went to the sad and disinclined concert for which I had no stomach whatever and all teh time I was thinking of Dean and how he got back on the train and rode over three thousand miles over that awful land and never knew why he had come anyway, except to see me.
Sal therefore moves from a character who starts life as a romantic idealist, and moves through his series of adventures on the road to experience something of how to enjoy life and seize opportunities, but at the same time he suffers significant disappointment through his friendship with Dean and the way that he is manipulated by him for Dean's own purposes and egotistical needs. In spite of the experience he gains, however, he still remains enthralled by Dean and his charisma.