In On the Road, the West becomes a symbol for childhood dreams and ideals, a haven of cowboys and heroes. Sal is disappointed by the West, however, and at one point characterizes it as empty and the East as holy. American geography is also used to represent personal goals, as in traveling west Sal may really be seeking to become a Western hero himself.
Just as the West has become an idealized, childhood dream for Sal, Dean is also Sal’s idealized, childhood hero. As the novel progresses, both fail to live up to his expectations in similar ways.