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Themes

While these are often separate themes, the characters in On the Road fail to distinguish between love and sex, sex and marriage, lust and love. Dean marries or wants to marry every girl he lusts after, while Sal only wants sex if there is a loving and soulful element to it. On the Road portrays a sex-without-strings attitude. There is also a holiness, or a spiritual element to sex. Lastly, the character of Dean lusts after very young girls, perhaps suggesting that women are being used as a substitute or representation of abstract desires (youth, for example).

Questions About Sex

  1. We said Dean’s interest in young girls might be about his desire for youth. Sal said Dean’s sexual depravity was because he was in jail. Are we just making excuses for a pedophile?
  2. What’s the difference between what Sal wants in a woman and what Dean wants in a woman?
  3. Does Sal actually find what he’s been looking for in Laura? What is the effect of her only being around for a few pages?
  4. Dean has three wives. Are there any big differences between them, or are they all just women that fall in love with Dean and get treated pretty badly for it?

Chew on This

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

Because he wants a soul connection rather than sex, what Sal is actually looking for in a woman is a female version of Dean.

While Dean cannot satisfy his sexual lust, Sal cannot find a woman to placate his feelings of solitude. These different examples of Beat Generation dissatisfaction reflect the core differences between Sal and Dean.

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