On the Road

Sal Paradise: Beat Picaro

The character of Sal Paradise, in Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, is a complex fusion of the fictional and the real. Kerouac created Sal in his own image and used him as a tool to shine light on the state of America in the aftermath of World War II. Sal is a sort of modern picaro, but with a beat spin. Though he travels through the underbelly of America he sees no evil. The beat part of Sal Paradise shows him the light of God in everything he encounters. This unique combination of the picaresque and the romantic allows the reader to gain a new perspective on the America of Sal Paradise’s time. Sal Paradise shows us the dregs of the world through rose-colored glasses -- digging it all the way.

When we first meet Sal he has already developed many of the traits of the picaro. Though in his mid-twenties, Sal still lives with his Aunt, who supports him financially. He is an unpublished writer, which more or less means he is unemployed. He is divorced. His time is passed in bars and cold-water flats. This irresponsibility, skirting about the edges of society, and financial instability are all typical of the picaro. Sal steeps himself in the adventures of lowlifes like Dean Moriarty because, as Sal says, “The only people for me are...

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