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On the Road

On the Road

by Jack Kerouac

Madness Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #28

"Yass, yass," said Dean, watching the ranchers loping up and down Sonora main street, "every one of them is a bloody millionaire, thousand head of cattle, workhands, buildings, money in the bank. If I lived around here I’d go be an idjit in the sagebrush, I’d be jackrabbit, I’d lick up the branches, I’d look for pretty cowgirls - hee-hee-hee-hee! Damn! Bam!" He socked himself. "Yes! Right! Oh me!" We didn’t know what he was talking about any more. He took the wheel and flew the rest of the way across the state of Texas, about five hundred miles, clear to El Paso, arriving at dusk and not stopping except once when he took all his clothes off, near Ozona, and ran yipping and leaping naked in the sage. (II.8.18)

Dean’s madness, while engaging at first, quickly becomes alienating and impossible to interpret.

Quote #29

And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seething roar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die, and walked four miles and picked up ten long butts and took them back to Marylou’s hotel room and poured their tobacco in my old pipe and lit up. I was too young to know what had happened. (II.10.5)

While Dean’s madness is an inherent part of his personality, Sal experiences the same madness only at the extremes of hunger or fever.

Quote #30

But one night we suddenly went mad together again; we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub. Slim Gaillard is a tall, thin Negro with big sad eyes who’s always saying, "Right-orooni" and "How about a little bourbon-orooni." In Frisco great eager crowds of young semi-intellectuals sat at his feet and listened to him on the piano, guitar, and bongo drums. (II.11.8)

Many of the musicians in On the Road are portrayed as mad, relating the rhythm and volume of music to the madness that possesses Dean.

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