Part One, Chapters 13-14: Summary and Analysis
Ricky: Terry’s brother
Ponzo: Ricky’s friend
The Ghost: a mad hobo Sal meets in Pennsylvania
Skinny Salesman: he gives Sal a ride to Times Square
After a few days, Sal and Terry have had enough of L.A. They can’t find jobs and they are overwhelmed by the wild, crowded city streets, teeming with tourists and eccentric characters. Sal calls the city “a jungle.” Sal and Terry decide to go to New York together. Terry visits her sister while Sal waits outside. He can hear the two women arguing, and Terry quickly leaves the house. They move out of their hotel room and are back on the road again.
To save money, Sal decides they should hitchhike to New York, but nobody picks them up. They make it to Bakersfield and try, without success, to find jobs picking grapes. They hitch to Sabinal, Terry’s hometown, and meet her brother Ricky. Ricky and his friend, Ponzo, drive them around all day, and eventually everyone gets drunk. Terry goes home and picks up her young son, Johnny, and they all drive to Fresno. Sal is amused by his new friends’ relaxed philosophy; they tell him that whatever needs to be done will be taken care of “manana.”
Sal gets a job picking cotton in a field near Sabinal and he and Terry move into a tent. The work is difficult, but Sal enjoys it. “I thought I had found my life’s work,” he explains. But he can only pick enough cotton to earn $1.50 a day, barely enough for a day’s groceries. Sal soon realizes that this is no life for a young mother and her baby. He leaves Terry and Johnny at Terry’s parents’ house and sets off alone, hitching back to Los Angeles where he buys a bus ticket to Pittsburgh, which is as far as his remaining cash will take him. He spends the night out on the street, making salami sandwiches to eat on his trip back east.
On the bus to Pittsburgh, Sal meets a young woman. They spend most of the trip huddled together in a seat, necking. After he leaves the bus in Pittsburgh, Sal plans to hitchhike to New York. He makes it to Harrisburg, but there his luck runs out and no one will give him a ride.
On the highway outside Harrisburg, Sal meets The Ghost, a tiny, mad hobo who spends his time roaming up and down the road, claiming he is headed for Canada. Sal tags along with him for a while. Then he finally gets a ride back to Harrisburg and sleeps on a bench at the railroad station.
The next morning, Sal is starving. He has no money left for food, but he manages to get a ride with a man who sells plumbing fixtures. He tells the salesman how hungry he is, but the man is a proponent of “controlled starvation,” believing that fasting is good for the health. He tells Sal he hasn’t eaten for three days himself. Sal can’t believe his rotten luck. However, after several hours, the salesman relents and gives Sal some bread and butter sandwiches.
The salesman drives Sal all the way to New York and lets him off in Times Square. Sal begs a quarter for bus fare and arrives back home in Paterson, New Jersey. His aunt feeds him and Sal eats as much as he can. Then Sal learns that he just missed Dean who had been staying at his aunt’s house. Dean left just two days earlier to go back to San Francisco. Sal realizes, regretfully, that they probably passed each other on the road.
Sal’s affair with Terry, although brief, satisfies his need for a loving relationship. Sal also likes Terry’s brother, Ricky, and his wild friend, Ponzo. Sal is once again at home in the company of honest people who enjoy a good time—people who would rather live each moment instead of worrying and planning for the future. But, in Sabinal, Sal is immediately saddled with serious responsibilities. It’s fine to ride...
(The entire section is 1,052 words.)