On the Road Part Three, Chapters 9-11: Summary and Analysis
by Jack Kerouac

Start Your Free Trial

Download On the Road Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Part Three, Chapters 9-11: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Hoboes: two men Dean picks up in the Cadillac

Country girl: a young woman Sal meets on a bus

Inez: a woman Dean meets at a party

Summary
Sal, Dean and the college boys leave Ed Wall’s ranch and speed across Nebraska at night. Dean has never been to Chicago, and he’s excited to get there. Sal, thinking about Dean’s crazy antics, tells us that “it was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then suddenly continue with his soul—which I think is wrapped up in a fast car, a coast to reach, and woman at the end of the road.”

As they drive through the night, Dean recalls some adventures he had going through Nebraska and Indiana to see an auto race and a ball game. He talks about the time he escaped from an Arizona jail, moved to L.A., and changed his name. He remembers the first time he met Marylou, when she was only fifteen, in Denver.

Driving through Iowa, Dean speeds past a fast-looking car. The driver challenges them, racing ahead of the limo. Dean catches up and they pass each other, back and forth, until the other driver finally pulls off at a gas station and waves goodbye. Dean keeps speeding down the highway, and Sal gets so nervous he can’t watch anymore. He’s certain they’ll get in an accident. Sal curls up on the floor in the back of the limousine. He closes his eyes, imagining the road flying by, only inches away from his head.

Outside Des Moines they have a minor accident, bumping into another car in traffic. No one is hurt, so they drive on to Illinois. Dean never sleeps; he just keeps on driving. They have a close call when they race past a truck on a narrow bridge, and everyone but Dean is terrified. Dean stops to pick up two hoboes who are amazed to be riding in the speeding limousine. They remark that they never imagined they’d be getting to Chicago so fast. When the Cadillac enters Chicago’s city limits, Sal calculates that they have made the 1180 miles from Denver in seventeen hours flat.

In Chicago they stash the Cadillac in an alley while they go to the college boy’s YMCA room and clean up in their bathroom. They have dinner in the cafeteria and head out for a night on the town. They go first to a jazz club where they listen to a group of young, passionate musicians. Sal recalls some of the great jazz pioneers like Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie. When the musicians leave the club, Sal and Dean follow them to another bar, where they stay until nine in the morning. George Shearing makes a guest appearance while they are there and Sal and Dean are thrilled to hear him. Dean says, “God has arrived.”

In between sets at the club, Sal and Dean drive the limousine around Chicago looking for women. In the process they damage the car and wreck the engine. Finally, in the morning, they return the car to its owner and take a bus back downtown.

They travel to Detroit by bus. Dean falls asleep while Sal has a conversation with a dull but pretty country girl. Sal wants to know what the young woman wants out of life, but she can’t think of anything to tell him. She just recounts the routine activities that make up her average day.

In Detroit, Sal and Dean sleep in an all-night movie theater on Skid Row. They try to doze while the same two films play over and over again, giving them bizarre movie dreams. Theater ushers come down the aisles, sweeping up garbage as Sal tries to sleep. Sal remembers a time in Boston when he was drunk and fell asleep in a toilet stall. It was a degrading experience, but Sal realizes that in the end it makes no difference. “What’s heaven? What’s earth?” he asks. “All in the mind.”

They manage to get a ride to New York with a middle-aged family man, who charges them four dollars each. He seems to take a liking to them and doesn’t mind their weird behavior. They arrive in Times Square and automatically look around for Elmer Hassel, the drug-dealing friend...

(The entire section is 1,093 words.)