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On the Road

On the Road

by Jack Kerouac

Poverty Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #25

Eyes bent on Frisco and the Coast, we came into El Paso as it got dark, broke. We absolutely had to get some money for gas or we’d never make it. (II.8.20)

For Sal and Dean, gas is far more important than food. By feeding their car, they are in a way feeding their own desire to travel and to keep moving.

Quote #26

Then we started down. Dean cut off the gas, threw in the clutch, and negotiated every hairpin turn and passed cars and did everything in the books without the benefit of accelerator. I held on tight. Sometimes the road went up again briefly; he merely passed cars without a sound, on pure momentum. He knew every rhythm and every kick of a first-class pass. When it was time to U-turn left around a low stone wall that overlooked the bottom of the world, he just leaned far over to his left, hands on the wheel, stiff-armed, and carried it that way; and when the turn snaked to the right again, this time with a cliff on our left, he leaned far to the right, making Marylou and me lean with him. In this way we floated and flapped down to the San Joaquin Valley. It lay spread a mile below, virtually the floor of California, green and wondrous from our aerial shelf. We made thirty miles without using gas. (II.9.2)

Having come from poverty, Dean is adept at the experience, and Sal watches in awe.

Quote #27

Nevertheless Marylou had been around these people - not far from the Tenderloin - and a gray-faced hotel clerk let us have a room on credit. That was the first step. Then we had to eat, and didn’t do so till midnight, when we found a nightclub singer in her hotel room who turned an iron upside down on a coathanger in the wastebasket and warmed up a can of pork and beans. I looked out the window at the winking neons and said to myself, Where is Dean and why isn’t he concerned about our welfare? I lost faith in him that year. I stayed in San Francisco a week and had the beatest time of my life. Marylou and I walked around for miles, looking for food-money. We even visited some drunken seamen in a flophouse on Mission Street that she knew; they offered us whisky. (II.10.1)

Sal repeatedly confesses that he is unable to pay for food or to obtain food, yet alcohol is always obtainable.

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