Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Denver. Colorado’s capital and largest city. In Denver, Sal ventures to the apartment of Carlo Marx, which is in a brick boardinghouse near a church. To get to Carlo’s door, he must walk down an alley, descend stairs, open an old door, and pass through a cellar. Within the apartment, the walls are damp, and the scant furnishings include a candle, a bed, and a homemade icon. A meeting between Carlo and Dean Moriarity sets off the events in Colorado, and Sal soon finds himself embarked on a trip to Central City, where a performance of an opera is staged in a renovated opera house. The day starts well when an empty miner’s shack becomes available, and Sal and his friends dress formally for the performance. Later, back at the shack, they throw a party. When troublesome young visitors ruin the party, Sal and his friends go to the local bars, where they get drunk and begin shouting. Unfortunately, drunkenness leads to fights in the bars, but Sal and his friends escape before the violence escalates. At the shack, the friends cannot sleep well on the dusty bed. Breakfast is stale beer. In the car, the descent to Denver is depressing.

*Southern California

*Southern California. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, Sal declares that Los Angeles is the loneliest city in America. Traveling with Terry, his Mexican lover, Sal walks down a main street, where there is a carnival atmosphere. Short of funds and finding no employment, Sal and Terry journey to Bakersfield to earn money by picking grapes. Finally, near Sabinal, they find work as cotton pickers. They rent a tent for a dollar, and though Sal’s wages provide only for day-to-day subsistence, Sal is wonderfully in love and feels happy that he is living off the earth, as he always dreamed he would be. Nevertheless, the chill of October arrives, and Sal has the...

(The entire section is 764 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Post-World War II America
The last part of World War II was the birth of the atomic age. The United States dropped atomic bombs...

(The entire section is 849 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

The characters in On the Road travel through countless cities across the United States and Mexico. Major portions...

(The entire section is 1020 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Kerouac advocated a method of writing he called "Spontaneous Prose," an eclectic blend of influences based in part on a technique known as...

(The entire section is 98 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Historically, this work is important to a subculture or counterculture that does not accept American middle-class mores. Essentially...

(The entire section is 275 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1946: The Nuremberg trials end in the conviction of fourteen Nazi war criminals.

1995: Several Serbian leaders are...

(The entire section is 318 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Kerouac sought to write as some of the great jazz musicians played. Listen to some of the great jazz musicians, such as Charlie Parker or...

(The entire section is 220 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In its episodic treatment of incidents and in the portrayal of the rogue-saint Dean Moriarty, On the Road may be described as a...

(The entire section is 236 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Kerouac's novels may be divided into two groups, one dealing with life in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts and one depicting his life on...

(The entire section is 653 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

There are two audiobook versions of On the Road. The first is an abridged version read by actor David Carradine available on Penguin...

(The entire section is 37 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Kerouac's The Dharma Bums (1958) is the chronicle of two men searching for the Zen meaning of Truth as they travel the West Coast. Kerouac...

(The entire section is 397 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Freeman Champney, "Beat-Up or Beatific?," The Antioch Review, Vol. XIX, No. 1, Spring, 1959, pp. 114-21.


(The entire section is 510 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cassady, Carolyn. Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg. New York: William Morrow, 1990. Background and chronology of On the Road from a woman’s point of view. See also her 1978 memoir Heartbeat: My Life with Jack and Neal.

Charters, Ann. Kerouac: A Biography. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books, 1973. First book by Charters, a tireless Kerouac scholar. Discusses On the Road’s biographical underpinnings and connections.

French, Warren. Jack Kerouac. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Two chapters analyzing On the Road from biographical and critical...

(The entire section is 147 words.)