On the Road Part Four/Five, Chapter 6 & Conclusion: Summary and Analysis
by Jack Kerouac

Start Your Free Trial

Download On the Road Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Part Four/Five, Chapter 6 & Conclusion: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Young Indian Girl: a shy girl Sal, Dean, and Stan encounter along a jungle road

Laura: a woman Sal falls in love with in New York

Old Man: a man with flowing white hair Sal sees on a road

Outside Gregoria, Dean’s headlights don’t work, and they are forced to drive in the dark on a jungle road. Outside the car, they can hear millions of screaming insects. Their headlights come back on as they pull into Limon, a small town in the jungle. They pull over on the outskirts of town; they’re so exhausted they all have to sleep, but it’s too hot and there are too many insects.

Dean curls up on the dirt road; Stan sleeps in the car; and Sal stretches out on the roof of the car, hoping the metal will cool his skin. Sal realizes that his body is covered with bugs. He tells us “the jungle takes you over and you become it.” A policeman, making his rounds, stops by the car. He sees the three men trying to sleep and doesn’t bother them. Sal wonders why American policemen aren’t as nice. He tries to sleep again, but he can taste the heavy air, describing it as “the living emanation of trees and swamp.” A white horse trots down the road and passes Dean, who is sleeping in the dirt.

They move on at dawn, desperate to escape the muggy heat. When they stop for gas, a swarm of huge bugs flies all around them. Sal is horrified and hides in the car, but Stan and Dean aren’t bothered at all, even though their clothes are caked with bugs and blood. They even enjoy the earthy smell of their clothing.

They take off again and climb 5,000 feet into the mountains, reaching the River Moctezuma. They stop to look out at the great mountain peaks surrounding them. Then they meet a shy, young, Indian girl who is standing by the road. Dean is in awe of her, and of how different her life is from theirs. He tries to imagine what her concept of the world must be like, having always lived in this mountainous jungle.

Down the same road, a cluster of Indian girls surround the car, hoping to sell them crystals. Sal and Dean are amazed by their primitive innocence and sense of wonder. Dean trades them an old wristwatch in exchange for a tiny, perfect crystal. The girls are thrilled and grateful and they chase after the car, waving goodbye. Sal and Dean are both moved by the experience.

They drive through dense jungle and pass more Indians begging on the road. Sal says that the Indians must think civilization has something to offer them, but they don’t realize the “sadness and poor broken delusion” of the society he comes from. The Indians know nothing of the nuclear weapons that exist today, weapons that could destroy everything and everyone on the planet.

They drive out of the jungle and reach a final plateau where they see a golden meadow with shepherds tending flocks of sheep, a scene that reminds Sal and Dean of some ancient, Biblical land. They drive down out of the mountains and arrive in Mexico City, where they are instantly engulfed in a mad rush of crowds and traffic. Cars speed in all directions in a chaotic free-for-all.

Driving through downtown Mexico City, they see hipsters in floppy straw hats, beggars, prostitutes, open sewers, burlesque shows, and peddlers of all kinds lining the busy streets. Sal notes that “all Mexico was one vast Bohemian camp.” They park Dean’s car and wander the streets till dawn, amazed at every sight and sound.

Sal gets dysentery shortly after they arrive. He becomes delirious and half-conscious for days. When he wakes up, still in a daze, Dean tells him that he’s leaving. He’s gotten his divorce from Camille, so he’s going back to Inez in New York. Stan will stay and take care of Sal. Sal is crushed, but there’s nothing he can do. Later, Sal realizes that Dean is a “rat” for leaving him, but he accepts Dean and his crazy, complex life.

Sal tells us that Dean returned to New York, driving back through the jungle alone. When he arrived in Manhattan, he immediately married Inez,...

(The entire section is 1,570 words.)