On the Road

Finding "Beat" in On the Road

In Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the introduction of Dean Moriarty and the paradoxical themes of the Eastern and Western “road” to the character Sal Paradise incur dissension in Sal’s evolution. Sal ultimately chooses to return to the East and its standard of living, establishing Sal, not Dean, as the true hero of the novel. The character’s cross- country misadventures allow Sal to develop his sociological proclivity and gain a new and worldlier outlook on spirituality. American, frontier-style bohemianism Buddhist ideology that takes the form of “IT” provides an irresistible catalyst to the characters. These liberties, however, come at a heavy price when he recognizes the potential destruction that the road’s enticements create. Dean uses and abandons the people around him, and his quest for “IT” is wrought with fallacy. The implications of his abandonment of responsibilities finally estrange him from Sal and many others besides. Nevertheless, the security of Sal’s Eastern lifestyle time and again finds itself at odds with the seductiveness of the West, the “road” itself most notably symbolized in the character of Dean Moriarty whose fate placed him in a situation to exploit this freedom.

Sal, born out East and living with his...

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