On the Road Suggested Essay Topics
by Jack Kerouac

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Suggested Essay Topics

Part One, Chapters 1-2
1. Considering Dean Moriarty’s bizarre behavior and “criminality,” why are Sal and his friends so attracted to him?

2. Why do you think Dean wants Sal and his friends to teach him how to write?

3. Why is Sal so determined to hitchhike out of New York when taking a bus would be so much easier?

Part One, Chapters 3-5
1. Since he has so little money left, why does Sal turn down the job offer from the carnival owner?

2. Discuss the reasons Sal feels such a close connection to Mississippi Gene.

3. Describe Sal’s impressions of the Midwest. How does this new environment make him feel?

Part One, Chapters 6-8
1. Why do you think Roland Major shows such contempt for Dean?

2. Discuss reasons why Camille is so antagonistic towards Carlo.

3. Do you think Sal feels sorry for Dean because Dean had such a hard time when he was a child?

Part One, Chapters 9-10
1. Sal had an opportunity to work at the markets in Denver. Do you think it’s fair for him to ask his aunt to send him money?

2. Why do you think Sal wants to leave Colorado after the big party in Central City?

3. How does Sal feel when he’s sleeping on the grass with the hoboes?

Part One, Chapters 11-12
1. Why do you think Sledge and Sal handle the men in the barracks so differently?

2. Discuss Remi and Lee Ann’s relationship. Why are they living together if they’re always fighting?

3. Why does Remi get so upset when Roland Major makes a scene at Alfred’s?

Part One, Chapters 13-14
1. When Sal leaves Terry, he says, “I could feel the pull of my own life calling me back.” Explain what he means by this.

2. Why do you think Sal follows The Ghost around for seven miles?

3. Why does Sal expect the skinny salesman, a complete stranger, to not only give him a ride, but to also give him food? Explain your answer.

Part Two, Chapters 1-3
1. Why do you think Dean spends so much time speeding from one destination to another?

2. Discuss Dean’s opinion of politicians and other authority figures like the police.

3. Why is Carlo so insistent when he asks Sal and Dean to explain their aimless wanderings?

4. Sal and Dean spend hours discussing God and religious issues. Do you think their lifestyles reflect this interest?

Part Two, Chapters 4-6
1. Discuss reasons Sal might have for rejecting Lucille in favor of Dean? Why do people find Dean so compelling?

2. After the concert, Dean calls George Shearing “God.” What does he mean by this?

3. Sal, Dean and the others seem to regard Old Bull Lee as a teacher. What do you think they learn from him?

Part Two, Chapters 7-9
1. Discuss Old Bull Lee’s obsession with building solid objects.

2. Hungry and without money, Sal steals bread and cheese from a grocery store. Do you think he’s justified in doing this? What are his alternatives?

3. Why do you think Dean leaves Sal and Marylou alone, stranded in San Francisco?

Part Three: Chapters 6 – 8
1. Discuss the significance of Sal’s dream about the snake in the earth.

.2 Discuss the author’s unconventional style when he writes about the jazz musicians and their music. What kind of feeling is Kerouac trying to create?

3. Why do you think Sal decides to leave San Francisco again? Explain your answer.

Part Three, Chapters 1-3
1. Why do you think Dean is so wary of Sal’s offer of money and support?

2. Is it fair when Camille and the other women turn on Dean, blaming him for all their problems?

3. Discuss the term “HOLY GOOF.” What does Sal mean by this?

Part Three, Chapters 4-5
1. Explain what the tenor man means when he tells Dean that “life’s too sad to be ballin all the time.”

2. What do you think the “IT” is that Dean is talking about?


(The entire section is 972 words.)