On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
On the Road Theme of Spirituality
Holiness is one of the sources of Sal’s idolatry for Dean. It becomes Dean’s distinguishing characteristic, making him unique from common criminals. Holiness is part of the Beat Generation – where Beat comes to mean "beatific" among other things. Sal searches for the holiness of a soul connection with women, while Dean thinks that sex itself is the "one holy thing" in life. Dean sees a spirituality in music, declaring many musicians to be God because they "know time." Lastly, the fervor of Dean’s madness is often portrayed as a spiritual ecstasy.
Questions About Spirituality
- Is Dean actually getting "holy" and "pure" as the story progresses, or is it all in Sal’s head?
- Sal’s name has some heavy religious meaning (check out his "Character Analysis"). Yet Dean is always the spiritual one. So where is Sal’s holiness?
- Sal’s vision of the snake might have some Biblical meaning. Then again it might not. What do you think?
Chew on This
Although much about Dean appeals to him, what Sal wants to learn most from his hero is spiritual wisdom.
Dean’s spiritual fervor escalates with his madness, suggesting a necessary tie between holiness and madness.