On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
On the Road Versions of Reality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)
I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon. (I.3.6)
Sal’s vision about self-identity is overlaid onto a vision of geography, the country being split in East and West factions. This is interesting, suggesting that Sal’s visions of America may actually be about himself.
"In Farmington, Utah, once, where I went to work with Ed Wall - you know Ed Wall, the rancher’s son in Denver - I was in my bed and all of a sudden I saw my dead mother standing in the corner with light all around her. I said, ’Mother!’ She disappeared. I have visions all the time," said Ed Dunkel, nodding his head. (II.4.1)
Ed has a vision of his mother that is quite different from Sal’s hunger-driven hallucination of his historical "mother."
Just about that time a strange thing began to haunt me. It was this: I had forgotten something. There was a decision that I was about to make before Dean showed up, and now it was driven clear out of my mind but still hung on the tip of my mind’s tongue. I kept snapping my fingers, trying to remember it. I even mentioned it. And I couldn’t even tell if it was a real decision or just a thought I had forgotten. It haunted and flabbergasted me, made me sad. It had to do somewhat with the Shrouded Traveler. Carlo Marx and I once sat down together, knee to knee, in two chairs, facing, and I told him a dream I had about a strange Arabian figure that was pursuing me across the desert; that I tried to avoid; that finally overtook me just before I reached the Protective City. "Who is this?" said Carlo. We pondered it. I proposed it was myself, wearing a shroud. That wasn’t it. Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die? In the rush of events I kept thinking about this in the back of my mind. I told it to Dean and he instantly recognized it as the mere simple longing for pure death; and because we’re all of us never in life again, he, rightly, would have nothing to do with it, and I agreed with him then. (II.4.7)
It is interesting that Sal first believes the Shrouded Traveler to be death, and later identifies it as Dean.