Study Guide

On the Road Tone

By Jack Kerouac


Retrospective, Thoughtful, Sad

It’s pretty amazing how a book that’s so much fun to read ends up making you want to sit in a beach and stare into the water and contemplate the subtleties of your life. Which is what it sounds like Kerouac is doing in this book. Sal, the narrator, is straightforward about what happens, but he’s also incredibly reflective about it afterwards. He realizes that his hero, Dean, is a rat, or he stops to think about Rickey’s foolish mantra, or he wonders at the transience of the friendships he forms on the road. All of these reflective bits are a little sad. It’s easy to forget this when you get caught up in the sex and the stories and the intoxication of the language – but it’s there.