On the Road
Contrasting Regions Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
A western kinsman of the sun, Dean. (I.1.17)
Sal repeatedly describes Dean in terms of his Western origins, suggesting that he is unable to ever separate in his mind his notions of the West and his conception of Dean.
I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon. (I.3.6)
Sal used geography to describe Dean, and now he does the same to describe himself. His vision of the East as past and the West as future illustrates the simplicity of his view of time when the novel begins. Matters are soon complicated as Sal travels west, back east, west again, east, and eventually south.
We arrived at Council Bluffs at dawn; I looked out. All winter I’d been reading of the great wagon parties that held council there before hitting the Oregon and Santa Fe trails; and of course now it was only cute suburban cottages of one damn kind and another, all laid out in the dismal gray dawn. Then Omaha, and, by God, the first cowboy I saw, walking along the bleak walls of the wholesale meat warehouses in a ten-gallon hat and Texas boots, looked like any beat character of the brickwall dawns of the East except for the getup. (I.3.9)
Sal’s vision of the West is rooted in the past – illustrating his initial confusion and misunderstanding of time. He has difficulty reconciling this historical vision with the reality of the present.