On the Road Part One, Chapters 1–2: Summary and Analysis
by Jack Kerouac

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Part One, Chapters 1–2: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Sal Paradise: the narrator of the story

Dean Moriarty: a young man who travels to New York from New Mexico and later becomes Sal’s great friend

Chad King: Sal’s friend in New York

Carlo Marx: another New York friend of Sal’s

Marylou: Dean Moriarty’s girlfriend

Elmer Hassel: a friend of Sal’s and a drug dealer

Sal’s Aunt: owner of the house where Sal lives in New Jersey

Remi Boncoeur: Sal’s friend, a merchant seaman in San Francisco

Roy Johnson: a friend of Sal’s from Denver who lives in San Francisco

In 1947, Sal Paradise, a recently divorced student and writer living in New Jersey with his aunt, goes to college in New York City. He is weary, alone, feeling that “everything is dead.” He tells us about the first time he met Dean Moriarty and the effect it had on him.

Sal had heard exciting tales about Dean through their mutual friend, Chad King. While in a reformatory in New Mexico, Dean had written several letters to Chad saying that he planned to come to New York. Now Sal is excited at the idea of meeting Dean.

Dean arrives in New York City with his girlfriend, Marylou. He tells Sal and his friends that he wants to learn how to write and he hopes they will help him. Sal immediately likes Dean, although he describes him as a “holy con man.”

Dean gets a job as a parking lot attendant and spends his free time with Sal and friends. Sal introduces him to Carlo Marx and Dean and Carlo become inseparable. Sal realizes that both men have great minds and are learning from each other. Carlo tells Dean about all of their friends including Old Bull Lee, Elmer Hassel, Jane, Big Ed Dunkel, and Roy Johnson.

In the spring, Dean quits his job, breaks up with Marylou, and moves back west to Denver. Sal decides to follow him and rendezvous with Dean and other friends in the Mile High City. Sal’s aunt warns him that Dean will probably get him into trouble, but Sal is so eager to head west that he ignores his aunt’s advice. He tells us, “I was a young writer and I wanted to take off.” He knows that “somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.”

With fifty dollars in his pocket, Sal leaves for the West Coast in July. An old friend from prep school, Remi Boncoeur, had written him a letter from San Francisco, urging Sal to come and ship out with him on an “around-the-world liner.”

With his aunt’s approval, Sal decides to hitchhike west. He decides that Route 6 would be the best road to take, because it’s a beautiful cross country red line on his map. He takes a bus out of Manhattan to Bear Mountain where he hopes to find Route 6. But soon it starts raining and Sal is wet and miserable. No one offers him a ride and he can’t find Route 6. He finally gets a ride, and the driver tells him that he’d be better off...

(The entire section is 795 words.)