On the Road Part Three: Chapters 4-5: Summary and Analysis
by Jack Kerouac

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Part Three: Chapters 4-5: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Tenorman: a jazz musician Sal and Dean meet at a club

Ed Fournier: another jazz musician

Walter: a man Sal and Dean meet at a bar

Walter’s wife: a sweet-tempered woman, married to Walter

“The Fag”: a gay man who drives Sal and Dean to Denver

To start off their two days of “kicks,” Sal, Dean, Galatea, and Marie go to a jazz club where they listen to a passionate performance by a “tenorman” who plays to a wild, screaming audience. After his set, Sal and Dean talk to the tenorman. Dean tells him he just wants to have a ball; the tenorman says that “life’s too sad to be ballin all the time.”

They all speed across town to Jameson’s Nook, another jazz joint, in the tenorman’s big Cadillac. At the club they see a horn player who reminds them of a black Carlo Marx. Sal has a conversation with Ed Fournier, a San Francisco alto man, while Dean calls Roy Johnson to arrange for a ride. Roy drives them to another bar where Sal and Dean meet a man named Walter, who invites them home for a beer. They arrive at Walter’s house to find his wife in bed, already asleep, but Walter must climb over the bed to unscrew a light bulb to use in the kitchen. Sal and Dean are impressed when the wife just smiles at them all and doesn’t complain. Dean later tells Sal that all women should be so easy.

They leave Walter’s house in the early morning to sleep and prepare for their trip east. Dean remembers his friend, Ernest Burke, a former co-worker of his on the railroad. They go to his place, hoping he’ll let them sleep there, but he isn’t home. Ernest’s father, however, lets them in and allows them to sleep on the floor.

In the morning, while Dean arranges for another travel-bureau car, Sal visits Galatea to say goodbye; she is still waiting for Ed to return from somewhere. Sal and Dean set off in a car driven by a quiet, gay man they call “the fag.“ Two other passengers, a man and a woman, ride with them. The gay man drives cautiously towards Sacramento. Dean and Sal are impatient with the way he drives, but they soon fall into an intense conversation in the back seat. Dean tells Sal that the alto man they hung out with in San Francisco had “IT” and Sal wants to know what “IT” means, but Dean can’t explain himself.

Sal describes a dream he had where he’s driving in a car and holding a huge scythe out the window, lopping off the tops of everything he passes. Dean tells Sal about a disastrous sales trip to Nebraska he went on with his father They talk about other dreams they’ve had and get so excited discussing them that the other passengers in the car get very nervous and upset.

They make it as far as Sacramento, and everyone but Dean and Sal wants to stop for the night. The gay man invites Sal and Dean up to his hotel room. Dean asks the man for money; the man refuses and he becomes very nervous. The next day, Dean takes over the driving, speeding the car towards Denver. He drives like a maniac and terrifies everyone but Sal. After hours on the road, Dean abruptly pulls over and falls asleep. The other passengers are frightened of him, but Sal assures them that Dean is a great driver. They make it to Denver and the gay man drops them off, greatly relieved to see them go. Sal and Dean still have to get to New York, but Sal doesn’t...

(The entire section is 928 words.)