On the Road Additional Summary

Jack Kerouac

Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Jack Kerouac spontaneously wrote the unedited bulk of On the Road on a 120-foot roll of teletype paper in 1951. There is some disagreement about how much editing was required of him before it was finally accepted for publication, by which time he considered the novel somewhat passé. His Visions of Cody (1972) treats approximately the same period as is covered in On the Road from a variant and more positive perspective while delving into the narrator’s chronic identity split. On the Road became the bible of the Beat generation and Kerouac’s most famous work, a vital contribution to his life story as told in his Legend of Duluoz novels.

On the Road’s cross-continental...

(The entire section is 482 words.)

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Sal Paradise is living at his aunt’s house in New Jersey while working on his first novel. His “life on the road” begins when he reads letters written from reform school by Dean Moriarity. When Dean arrives in New York with his new wife, Marylou, Sal is impressed with the younger man’s enthusiasm and flattered by Dean’s desire to learn to write. He recognizes that Dean is a con man who is probably conning him as well, but he enjoys his company. Sal is sorry when Dean meets Carlo Marx, a poet with a “dark mind,” for he cannot keep up with Dean and Carlo’s wild energy.

Sal leaves New York in the spring of 1947, planning to hitchhike to Denver and continue to San Francisco, where his friend, Remi Boncoeur,...

(The entire section is 1142 words.)

Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Because On the Road was published near the end of the 1950’s, when the conformism of the Eisenhower era was at its most numbing, the book has generally been regarded as a forecast of the counterculture explosion of the next decade. While it certainly contributed to the developing sensibility of the generation that came of age in the 1960’s, the book actually belongs to an earlier era in American life. Critics have pointed out how much Kerouac’s sense of America is derived from the Transcendentalists of the previous century—writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who shaped and shared the literary heritage of New England, Kerouac’s home ground—and how Kerouac...

(The entire section is 1249 words.)