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On the Road

On the Road


by Jack Kerouac


Character Role Analysis

Let's say Dean just for kicks.

(Of course you could just as legitimately argue for Dean as a hero, a second protagonist.) Dean starts off as Sal’s hero. Sal even calls him a hero by name, so there’s no confusion. But then Dean starts acting like a jerk. He abandons Sal, he screws over his women, he abandons Sal again – some hero. The thing is, despite all this, Sal still makes Dean out to be a completely likeable guy. So much so that we didn’t even think about calling him a villain – until a very interesting passage at the end of Part III suggested we do so. Sal, having previously labeled The Shrouded Traveler as death, suddenly thinks The Shrouded Traveler is Dean. It is Dean, he says, chasing him across the country, pursuing him with all the flames of Hell spurting out of his eyes and ears and cars and other body parts. He’s maniacal, he’s a devil – sound like a hero to you? What’s cool is that this villain-vision moment lasts about a paragraph, and it’s the only overt view we have of Dean is this sort of terror. But it’s enough. Enough for us to label Dean as a villain and make about half of you Shmoopsters really, really angry.