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On the Road

On the Road

by Jack Kerouac

Criminality Theme

Much of On the Road contains anti-police sentiments. Since we as readers are sympathetic to the criminals, we take a side against the law enforcement, and the police are explicitly insulted for being power-hungry and abusive. As for criminality, it is tied both to poverty and to madness. Sal uses Dean’s time in jail to explain his sexual depravity.

Questions About Criminality

  1. Criminality is a big part of Dean’s past. How does it shape his character? Does it excuse certain actions that he might otherwise be held responsible for?
  2. At one point, Sal comments that everyone in America loves to steal. He does so himself. So why does he get all huffy when Dean steals a few cars? Is there any point to drawing a line in the illegality sandbox?
  3. What is it about cops that Dean and Sal dislike so much?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Sal’s stint as a night watchman illustrates the finer points of his relationship with Dean. While Dean is a criminal through and through, Sal tries and fails to be on the other side of the law. He is unable to be an effective watchman, but his attempt nevertheless, can be traced through much of his later interactions with Dean.

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