On the Road

Jewels in the Night: Sal's Identity in New York City, Denver, and San Francisco

Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road follows Sal Paradise on journeys through America. Sal spends most of his time traveling by foot or car; however, the novel focuses on his time spent in three American cities: New York City, Denver, and San Francisco. Kerouac elaborates his presentation of Sal in these cities in order to show how the character holds a separate identity and self-perception during each of his city stays. New York City acts as a home base for Sal and his writing, while Denver and San Francisco provide a more masculine interpretation of the character.

Sal begins and ends each of his continental journeys in New York City. This city acts a place of congregation for Sal and his friends as well as an occupational foundation for Sal's writing. All of these aspects included in New York City establish a basic identity for Sal which the rest of the novel builds upon. Sal's first journey west begins in winter, 1947. He lives as a writer and a social outsider. Dean Moriarty is drawn to Sal's personality as a writer, which surfaces primarily during his time in New York City. Conversely, Sal admires how Dean departs from qualities found in Sal's existing New York City crowd. Dean's arrival inspires Sal to...

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