Study Guide

On the Road Quotes

By Jack Kerouac

  • Dissatisfaction

    Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles. (I.1.1)

    While Sal strives for motion, it is already a part of Dean’s character.

    Although my aunt warned me that he would get me in trouble, I could hear a new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young age; and a little bit of trouble or even Dean’s eventual rejection of me as a buddy, putting me down, as he would later, on starving sidewalks and sickbeds – what did it matter? I was a young writer and I wanted to take off. (I.1.17)

    Sal attributes his restlessness to the recklessness of youth.

    I cursed, I cried for Chicago. "Even now they’re all having a big time, they’re doing this, I’m not there, when will I get there!" - and so on. (I.2.3)

    Sal originally travels to get somewhere and to be with certain people.

    In Newburgh it had stopped raining. I walked down to the river, and I had to ride back to New York in a bus with a delegation of schoolteachers coming back from a weekend in the mountains - chatter-chatter blah-blah, and me swearing for all the time and the money I’d wasted, and telling myself, I wanted to go west and here I’ve been all day and into the night going up and down, north and south, like something that can’t get started. And I swore I’d be in Chicago tomorrow, and made sure of that, taking a bus to Chicago, spending most of my money, and didn’t give a damn, just as long as I’d be in Chicago tomorrow. (I.2.4)

    At first, Sal’s travels are goal-oriented – he doesn’t care about the means of travel.

    Now I could see Denver looming ahead of me like the Promised Land, way out there beneath the stars, across the prairie of Iowa and the plains of Nebraska, and I could see the greater vision of San Francisco beyond, like jewels in the night. (I.3.5)

    As his travels progress, Sal begins to look only to the next place, not to his current location.

    ...but I had no time now for thoughts like that and promised myself a ball in Denver. Carlo Marx was already in Denver; Dean was there; Chad King and Tim Gray were there, it was heir hometown; Marylou was there; and there was mention of a mighty gang including Ray Rawlins and his beautiful blond sister Babe Rawlins; two waitresses Dean knew, the Bettencourt sisters; and even Roland Major, my old college writing buddy, was there. I looked forward to all of them with joy and anticipation. (I.3.7)

    Sal travels to be with people; his journey is one away from loneliness and towards companionship.

    A tall, lanky fellow in a gallon hat stopped his car on the wrong side of the road and came over to us; he looked like a sheriff. We prepared our stories secretly. He took his time coming over. "You boys going to get somewhere, or just going?" We didn’t understand his question, and it was a damned good question. (I.3.18)

    Sal astutely recognizes the nature of his travels: they are now more concerned with motion than with getting anywhere.

    We felt silly and didn’t know what to say, and I for one didn’t want to get hung-up with a carnival. I was in such a bloody hurry to get to the gang in Denver.

    I said, "I don’t know, I’m going as fast as I can and I don’t think I have the time." Eddie said the same thing, and the old man waved his hand and casually sauntered back to his car and drove off. And that was that. (I.3.22, I.3.23)

    Sal’s need to travel acts as the motivation for many of his actions.

    I waited in our personal godawful Shelton for a long, long time, several hours, and I kept thinking it was getting night; actually it was only early afternoon, but dark. Denver, Denver, how would I ever get to Denver? (I.3.24)

    At any given moment, Sal is concerned only with where he will arrive next.

    "We’re going to LA!" they yelled.

    "What are you going to do there?"

    "Hell, we don’t know. Who cares?" (I.4.3-I.4.5)

    Other characters, too, are more concerned with motion than with destination.

    And soon I realized I was actually at last over Colorado, though not officially in it, but looking southwest toward Denver itself a few hundred miles away. I yelled for joy. We passed the bottle. The great blazing stars came out, the far-receding sand hills got dim. I felt like an arrow that could shoot out all the way. (I.4.28)

    Sal obtains a near high from traveling.

    "He got into some kind of trouble back in Mississippi, so I offered to help him out. Boy’s never been out on his own. I take care of him best as I can, he’s only a child." Although Gene was white there was something of the wise and tired old N**** in him, and something very much like Elmer Hassel, the New York dope addict, in him, but a railroad Hassel, a traveling epic Hassel, crossing and recrossing the country every year, south in the winter and north in the summer, and only because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars, generally the Western stars. (I.4.33)

    Sal recognizes the need to travel in those around him.

    I woke up with a big headache. Slim was gone - to Montana, I guess. I went outside. And there in the blue air I saw for the first time, far off, the great snowy tops of the Rocky Mountains. I took a deep breath. I had to get to Denver at once. (I.5.13)

    Sal’s concern is only with what lies ahead of him.

    I said to myself, Wow! What’ll Denver be like! I got on that hot road, and off I went in a brand-new car driven by a Denver businessman of about thirty-five. He went seventy. I tingled all over; I counted minutes and subtracted miles. Just ahead, over the rolling wheatfields all golden beneath the distant snows of Estes, I’d be seeing old Denver at last. I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was "Wow!" The man and I had a long, warm conversation about our respective schemes in life, and before I knew it we were going over the wholesale fruitmarkets outside Denver; there were smokestacks, smoke, railyards, red-brick buildings, and the distant downtown gray-stone buildings, and here I was in Denver. (I.5.15)

    Sal compares his travels to that of a religious figure, imbuing them with importance and allowing the reader to sense his own feelings of urgency.

    And all I could say was, "Well, what the hell are we doing in Denver?" (I.7.26)

    No sooner does Sal arrive at a given location before he wants to leave again.

    Suddenly we came down from the mountain and overlooked the great sea-plain of Denver; heat rose as from an oven. We began to sing songs. I was itching to get on to San Francisco. (I.9.22)

    As soon as Sal arrives at his destination, he wants to leave again.

    My moments in Denver were coming to an end, I could feel it when I walked her home, on the way back I stretched out on the grass of an old church with a bunch of hobos, and their talk made me want to get back on that road. Every now and then one would get up and hit a passer-by for a dime. They talked of harvests moving north. (I.10.11)

    Sal moves west with the same seasonal dependence of the men moving north with the harvest.

    I saw the little midget newspaper-selling woman with the short legs, on the corner of Curtis and 15th. I walked around the sad honkytonks of Curtis Street; young kids in jeans and red shirts; peanut shells, movie marquees, shooting parlors. Beyond the glittering street was darkness, and beyond the darkness the West. I had to go. (I.10.13)

    There is an element of the unknown in the West that appeals to Sal.

    The bus rolled out of the storied, eager Denver streets. "By God, I gotta come back and see what else will happen!" I promised. (I.10.15)

    Sal is so consumed with travel that he plans return trips before he has even left Denver.

    I didn’t know what to say; he was right; but all I wanted to do was sneak out into the night and disappear somewhere, and go and find out what everybody was doing all over the country. (I.11.41)

    Sal reasons that part of his need for travel rises from his desire to connect with people – to see what everybody is doing.

    I walked by a jewelry store and had the sudden impulse to shoot up the window, take out the finest rings and bracelets, and run to give them to Lee Ann. Then we could flee to Nevada together. The time was coming for me to leave Frisco or I’d go crazy. (I.11.77)

    Sal seeks not only the motion of travel, but the companionship of someone to travel with. This begins to explain his affinity for Dean.

    How disastrous all this was compared to what I’d written him from Paterson, planning my red line Route 6 across America. Here I was at the end of America - no more land - and now there was nowhere to go but back. I determined at least to make my trip a circular one: I decided then and there to go to Hollywood and back through Texas to see my bayou gang; then the rest be damned. (I.11.96)

    Sal is disappointed to find that he has gone as far west as possible and not found what he is looking for – whatever that may be.

    Rickey had a bottle. "Today we drink, tomorrow we work. Dah you go, man - take a shot!"

    Terry sat in back with her baby; I looked back at her and saw the flush of homecoming joy on her face. The beautiful green countryside of October in California reeled by madly. I was guts and juice again and ready to go. "Where do we go now, man?" (I.13.16)

    Alcohol seems to increase Sal’s need for constant motion.

    I was through with my chores in the cottonfield. I could feel the pull of my own life calling me back. I shot my aunt a penny postcard across the land and asked for another fifty. (I.13.44)

    When at home, Sal feels the pull of the road, but when on the road, Sal feels the need to return home.

    "See you in New York, Terry," I said. She was supposed to drive to New York in a month with her brother. But we both knew she wouldn’t make it. At a hundred feet I turned to look at her. She just walked on back to the shack, carrying my breakfast plate in one hand. I bowed my head and watched her. Well, lackadaddy, I was on the road again. (I.13.62).

    Although Sal claims he is never really home, he returns to the road as though it were his home.

    The bus roared on. I was going home in October. Everybody goes home in October. (I.14.1)

    Sal recognizes his own patterns of travel and return in those around him.

    Can you picture me walking those last miles through the Lincoln Tunnel or over the Washington Bridge and into New Jersey? It was dusk. Where was Hassel? I dug the square for Hassel; he wasn’t there, he was in Riker’s Island, behind bars. Where Dean? W34here everybody? Where life? (I.14.9)

    Sal suggests that his need for companionship in his travels may have to do with his own inability to accurately describe life. He needs other people there, like Dean, to tell him about it.

    It was a completely meaningless set of circumstances that made Dean come, and similarly I went off with him for no reason. In New York I had been attending school and romancing around with a girl called Lucille, a beautiful Italian honey-haired darling that I actually wanted to marry. All these years I was looking for the woman I wanted to marry. I couldn’t meet a girl without saying to myself, What kind of wife would she make? I told Dean and Marylou about Lucille. Marylou wanted to know all about Lucille, she wanted to meet her. We zoomed through Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, and up to Philadelphia on a winding country road and talked. "I want to marry a girl," I told them, "so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old. This can’t go on all the time - all this franticness and jumping around. We’ve got to go someplace, find something." (II.2.2)

    Sal feels a need for motion in his travels, but unlike Dean, he desires an end to all the chaos.

    We sat and didn’t know what to say; there was nothing to talk about any more. The only thing to do was go. Dean leaped up and said we were ready to go back to Virginia. He took a shower, I cooked up a big platter of rice with all that was left in the house, Marylou sewed his socks, and we were ready to go. Dean and Carlo and I zoomed into New York. We promised to see Carlo in thirty hours, in time for New Year’s Eve. It was night. We left him at Times Square and went back through the expensive tunnel and into New Jersey and on the road. Taking turns at the wheel, Dean and I made Virginia in ten hours. (II.3.9)

    When he travels with Dean, Sal’s journeys are imbued with an intense sense of urgency.

    It was drizzling and mysterious at the beginning of our journey. I could see that it was all going to be one big saga of the mist. "Whooee!" yelled Dean. "Here we go!" And he hunched over the wheel and gunned her; he was back in his element, everybody could see that. We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move. (II.6.1)

    Sal is aware that his goal has become the motion itself, rather than the destination.

    "Just passed the tip of Florida, man - Flomaton, it’s called." Florida! We were rolling down to the coastal plain and Mobile; up ahead were great soaring clouds of the Gulf of Mexico. It was only thirty-two hours since we’d said good-by to everybody in the dirty snows of the North. (II.6.15)

    Sal repeatedly wonders at the speed at which Dean moves. On his own, Sal can travel. But Dean, it seems, can really move.

    Then I raced him down the road. I can do the hundred in 10:5. He passed me like the wind. As we ran I had a mad vision of Dean running through all of life just like that - his bony face outthrust to life, his arms pumping, his brow sweating, his legs twinkling like Groucho Marx, yelling, "Yes! Yes, man, you sure can go!" But nobody could go as fast as he could, and that’s the truth. (II.7.16)

    Sal begins to define Dean by his movements.

    What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. (II.8.1)

    Sal recognizes the transience of people and places in his travel, but deems the sacrifice and loss worth the adventure of what may come next.

    "What a crazy cat that was, whoo! Did I dig him! I used to know thousands of guys like that, they’re all the same, their minds work in uniform clockwork, oh, the infinite ramifications, no time, no time . . ." And he shot up the car, hunched over the wheel, and roared out of El Paso. (II.8.31)

    The speed at which Dean drives comes to represent his madness, franticness, and interestingly, his prowess; despite his seemingly reckless driving, Dean is a very skilled motorist.

    It was sad to see his tall figure receding in the dark as we drove away, just like the other figures in New York and New Orleans: they stand uncertainly underneath immense skies, and everything about them is drowned. Where go? what do? what for? - sleep. But this foolish gang was bending onward. (II.8.41)

    In their motion, Sal compares his group to the rest of the world: the world sleeps while his group moves. Motion becomes as basic and as necessary as sleep.

    One morning he stood naked, looking at all San Francisco out the window as the sun came up. He looked like someday he’d be the pagan mayor of San Francisco. But his energies ran out. One rainy afternoon the salesman came around to find out what Dean was doing. Dean was sprawled on the couch. "Have you been trying to sell these?"

    "No," said Dean, "I have another job coming up."

    "Well, what are you going to do about all these samples?"

    "I don’t know." In a dead silence the salesman gathered up his sad pots and left. I was sick and tired of everything and so was Dean. II.11.4-II.11.7)

    If Dean’s frantic motion were made akin to a fast sports car, then Dean just ran out of gas.

    Two fellows were driving this car; they said they were pimps. Two other fellows were passengers with me. We sat tight and bent our minds to the goal. We went over Berthoud Pass, down to the great plateau, Tabernash, Troublesome, Kremmling; down Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs, and out; fifty miles of dusty detour; then Craig and the Great American Desert. As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, "Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven." Ah well, alackaday, I was more interested in some old rotted covered wagons and pool tables sitting in the Nevada desert near a Coca-Cola stand and where there were huts with theweatherbeaten signs still napping in the haunted shrouded desert wind, saying, "Rattlesnake Bill lived here" or "Broken-mouth Annie holed up here for years." Yes, zoom! In Salt! Lake City the pimps checked on their girls and we drove on. (III.1.7)

    Sal is interested not only in his own travels, but the travels of all who came before him.

    "Not so good, not so good. But we’ve got a million things to talk about. Sal, the time has fi-nally come for us to talk and get with it." We agreed it was about time and went in. My arrival was somewhat like the coming of the strange most evil angel in the home of the snow-white fleece, as Dean and I began talking excitedly in the kitchen downstairs, which brought forth sobs from upstairs. Everything I said to Dean was answered with a wild, whispering, shuddering "Yes!" Camille knew what was going to happen. Apparently Dean had been quiet for a few months; now the angel had arrived and he was going mad again. "What’s the matter with her?" I whispered. (III.2.3)

    Dean’s various women recognize his inherent need for motion, and try to prevent it.

    I hated to leave; my stay had lasted sixty-odd hours. With frantic Dean I was rushing through the world without a chance to see it. In the afternoon we were buzzing toward Sacramento and eastward again. (III.3.52)

    Sal begins to see the negative effects of such ceaseless motion.

    It was with a great deal of silly relief that these people let us off the car at the corner of 27th and Federal. Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. (III.5.12)

    Just as Dean’s madness progresses, Sal’s vision of the importance of the road grows and blossoms. Eventually, he defines all of life by his travels on the road.

    Horrible nauseas possessed us in the morning. First thing Dean did was go out across the cornfield to see if the car would carry us East. I told him no, but he went anyway. He came back pale. "Man, that’s a detective’s car and every precinct in town knows my fingerprints from the year that I stole five hundred cars. You see what I do with them, I just wanta ride, man! I gotta go! Listen, we’re going to wind up in jail if we don’t get out of here this very instant." (III.8.1)

    While Sal’s travels across the country are rooted in his personal goals, Dean’s travels become an escape from the law.

    The faster we left Denver the better I felt, and we were doing it fast. It grew dark when we turned off the highway at Junction and hit a dirt road that took us across dismal East Colorado plains to Ed Wall’s ranch in the middle of Coyote Nowhere. But it was still raining and the mud was slippery and Dean slowed to seventy, but I told him to slow even more or we’d slide, and he said, "Don’t worry, man, you know me."

    "Not this time," I said. "You’re really going much too fast." And he was flying along there on that slippery mud and just as I said that we hit a complete left turn in the highway and Dean socked the wheel over to make it but the big car skidded in the grease and wobbled hugely. (III.8.11, III.8.12)

    The wavering of the car suggests that something is off-balance in Dean. As the new flower of his madness continues to grow, Sal’s subconscious concern for Dean's wellbeing increases.

    In no time at all we were back on the main highway and that night I saw the entire state of Nebraska unroll before my eyes. A hundred and ten miles an hour straight through, an arrow road, sleeping towns, no traffic, and the Union Pacific streamliner falling behind us in the moonlight. I wasn’t frightened at all that night; it was perfectly legitimate to go 110 and talk and have all the Nebraska towns - Ogallala, Gothenburg, Kearney, Grand Island, Columbus - unreel with dreamlike rapidity as we roared ahead and talked. It was a magnificent car; it could hold the road like a boat holds on water. Gradual curves were its singing ease. "Ah, man, what a dreamboat," sighed Dean. "Think if you and I had a car like this what we could do. Do you know there’s a road that goes down Mexico and all the way to Panama? - and maybe all the way to the bottom of South America where the Indians are seven feet tall and eat cocaine on the mountainside? Yes! You and I, Sal, we’d dig the whole world with a car like this because, man, the road must eventually lead to the whole world. Ain’t nowhere else it can go - right? Oh, and are we going to cut around old Chi with this thing! Think of it, Sal, I’ve never been to Chicago in all my life, never stopped." (III.9.1)

    Dean travels with a greater intensity than Sal, wanting not just the motion, but to see the world, absorb it, and learn form it.

    And what a night it was. "Oh, man," said Dean to me as we stood in front of a bar, "dig the street of life, the Chinamen that cut by in Chicago. What a weird town - wow, and that woman in that window up there, just looking down with her big breasts hanging from her nightgown, big wide eyes. Whee. Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there."

    "Where we going, man?"

    "I don’t know but we gotta go." (III.10.1-III.10.3)

    Sal finally asks the question similar to that asked by the supposed policeman earlier. Just as he had no answer, Dean doesn’t have an answer now.

    It was time for us to move on. We took a bus to Detroit. Our money was now running quite low. (III.11.1)

    Sal and Dean feel the need to move all the time, with or without resources.

    Whenever spring comes to New York I can’t stand the suggestions of the land that come blowing over the river from New Jersey and I’ve got to go. So I went. For the first time in our lives I said good-by to Dean in New York and left him there. (IV.1.1)

    Sal’s bouts of travel have become habitual.

    "Why not, man? Of course we will if we want to, and all that. There’s no harm ending that way. You spend a whole life of non-interference with the wishes of others, including politicians and the rich, and nobody bothers you and you cut along and make it your own way." I agreed with him. He was reaching his Tao decisions in the simplest direct way. "What’s your road, man? - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?" We nodded in the rain. "Sheeit, and you’ve got to look out for your boy. He ain’t a man ‘less he’s a jumpin man - do what the doctor say. I’ll tell you. Sal, straight, no matter where I live, my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out. I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands. You’ve seen me try and break my ass to make it and you know that it doesn’t matter and we know time - how to slow it up and walk and dig and just old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know." (IV.1.6)

    Dean comes to accept the need for travel in a habitual way. To him, the particular road does not matter, as long as it’s a road.

    The following midnight, singing this little song,

    Home in Missoula,
    Home in Truckee,
    Home in Opelousas,
    Ain’t no home for me.
    Home in old Medora,
    Home in Wounded Knee,
    Home in Ogallala,
    Home I’ll never be
    (IV.2.1)

    Sal, just like Dean, has come to an understanding with his need for motion.

    Stan Shephard had been waiting to meet me for years and now for the first time we were suspended together in front of a venture. "Sal, ever since I came back from France I ain’t had any idea what to do with myself. Is it true you’re going to Mexico? Hot damn, I could go with you? I can get a hundred bucks and once I get there sign up for GI Bill in Mexico City College."

    [...] "I can’t even come home late - my grandfather starts fighting with me, then he turns on my mother. I tell you, Sal, I got to get out of Denver quick or I’ll go crazy." (IV.2.13, IV.2.14)

    Stan uses travel as an escape, whereas Dean and Sal’s need for motion is more pure in its motivation.

    "Yass, yass. Well, Sal old man, what’s the story, when do we take off for Mexico? Tomorrow afternoon? Fine, fine. Ahem! And now, Sal, I have exactly sixteen minutes to make it to Ed Dunkel’s house, where I am about to recover my old railroad watch which I can pawn on Larimer Street before closing time, meanwhile buzzing very quickly and as thoroughly as time allows to see if my old man by chance may be in Jiggs’ Buffet or some of the other bars and then I have an appointment with the barber Doll always told me to patronize and I have not myself changed over the years and continue with that policy - kaff! kaff! At six o’clock sharp.’ - sharp, hear me? - I want you to be right here where I’ll come buzzing by to get you for one quick run to Roy Johnson’s house, play Gillespie and assorted bop records, an hour of relaxation prior to any kind of further evening you and Tim and Stan and Babe may have planned for tonight irrespective of my arrival which incidentally was exactly forty-five minutes ago in my old thirty-seven Ford which you see parked out there, I made it together with a long pause in Kansas City seeing my cousin, not Sam Brady but the younger one . . ." And saying all these things, he was busily changing from his suitcoat to T-shirt in the living-room alcove just out of sight of everyone and transferring his watch to another pair of pants that he got out of the same old battered trunk. (IV.3.3)

    Dean’s need for motion is two-fold: the first for traveling great distances across countries, and the second for the constant motion of his own body, in gestures and movement.

    Dean took the car to the nearest station and had everything shipshape. It was a ‘37 Ford sedan with the right-side door unhinged and tied on the frame. The right-side front seat was also broken, and you sat there leaning back with your face to the tattered roof. "Just like Min’ Bill," said Dean. "We’ll go coughing and bouncing down to Mexico; it’ll take us days and days." I looked over the map: a total of over a thousand miles, mostly Texas, to the border at Laredo, and then another 767 miles through all Mexico to the great city near the cracked Isthmus and Oaxacan heights. I couldn’t imagine this trip. It was the most fabulous of all. It was no longer east-west, but magic south. We saw a vision of the entire Western Hemisphere rockribbing clear down to Tierra del Fuego and us flying down the curve of the world into other tropics and other worlds. "Man, this will finally take us to IT!" said Dean with definite faith. He tapped my arm. "Just wait and see. Hoo! Wheel" (IV.3.19)

    The South comes to mean to Sal just what the West once did: a magic, new, and unknown land.

    We gazed and gazed at our wonderful Mexican money that went so far, and played with it and looked around and smiled at everyone. Behind us lay the whole of America and everything Dean and I had previously known: about life, and life on the road. We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic. "Think of these cats staying up all hours of the night," whispered Dean. "And think of this big continent ahead of us with those enormous Sierra Madre mountains we saw in the movies, and the jungles all the way down and a whole desert plateau as big as ours and reaching clear down to Guatemala and God knows where, whoo! What’ll we do? What’ll we do? Let’s move!" We got out and went back to the car. One last glimpse of America across the hot lights of the Rio Grande bridge, and we turned our back and fender to it and roared off. (IV.5.3)

    Although his conversations and drug use differ in Mexico, Dean’s need for motion remains the same.

    "It’s the world," said Dean. "My God!" he cried, slapping the wheel. "It’s the world! We can go right on to South America if the road goes. Think of it! Son-of-z-b****! Gawd-damm!" We rushed on. (IV.5.7)

    Dean never feels far enough south, just as Sal never felt far enough west.

    But night was coming and we had to get on to the end; and Dean saw that, and began frowning and thinking and trying to straighten himself out, and finally I broached the idea of leaving once and for all. "So much ahead of us, man, it won’t make any difference." (IV.5.51)

    Sal and Dean share some of the same feelings of restlessness, the same need for motion.

    The end of our journey impended. Great fields stretched on both sides of us; a noble wind blew across the occasional immense tree groves and over old missions turning salmon pink in the late sun. The clouds were close and huge and rose. "Mexico City by dusk!" We’d made it, a total of nineteen hundred miles from the afternoon yards of Denver to these vast and Biblical areas of the world, and now we were about to reach the end of the road. (IV.6.21)

    Despite his restlessness, Sal does indeed identify an end to the road. The question is whether or not it lives up to being an "end."

    "Look out!" He staggered the car through the traffic and played with everybody. He drove like an Indian. He got on a circular glorietta drive on Reforma Boulevard and rolled around it with its eight spokes shooting cars at us from all directions, left, right, izquierda, dead ahead, and yelled and jumped with joy. "This is traffic I’ve always dreamed of’ Everybody goes.’" An ambulance came balling through. American ambulances dart and weave through traffic with siren blowing; the great world-wide Fellahin Indian ambulances merely come through at eighty miles an hour in the city streets, and everybody just has to get out of the way and they don’t pause for anybody or any circumstances and fly straight through. We saw it reeling out of sight on skittering wheels in the breaking-up moil of dense downtown traffic. The drivers were Indians. People, even old ladies, ran for buses that never stopped. Young Mexico City businessmen made bets and ran by squads for buses and athletically jumped them. The bus-drivers were barefoot, sneering and insane, and sat low and squat in T-shirts at the low, enormous wheels. Ikons burned over them. The lights in the buses were brown and greenish, and dark faces were lined on wooden benches. (IV.6.25)

    Dean’s fascination with Mexico City is based on its movement and its motion.

    "All that again, good buddy. Gotta get back to my life. Wish I could stay with you. Pray I can come back." I grabbed the cramps in my belly and groaned. When I looked up again bold noble Dean was standing with his old broken trunk and looking down at me. I didn’t know who he was any more, and he knew this, and sympathized, and pulled the blanket over my shoulders. "Yes, yes, yes, I’ve got to go now." (IV.6.30)

    Dean ends up prioritizing the need "to go now" over his friendship with Sal.

    Dean drove from Mexico City and saw Victor again in Gregoria and pushed that old car all the way to Lake Charles, Louisiana, before the rear end finally dropped on the road as he had always known it would. So he wired Inez for airplane fare and flew the rest of the way. When he arrived in New York with the divorce papers in his hands, he and Inez immediately went to Newark and got married; and that night, telling her everything was all right and not to worry, and making logics where there was nothing but inestimable sorrowful sweats, he jumped on a bus and roared off again across the awful continent to San Francisco to rejoin Camille and the two baby girls. So now he was three times married, twice divorced, and living with his second wife. (V.1.1)

    Dean’s need for motion in marriage parallels the need for motion in geography.

    "Don’t know why I came." Later he said in a sudden moment of gaping wonder, "Well and yes, of course, I wanted to see your sweet girl and you - glad of you - love you as ever." He stayed in New York three days and hastily made preparations to get back on the train with his railroad passes and again rectos the continent, five days and five nights in dusty coaches and hard-bench crummies, and of course we had no money for a truck and couldn’t go back with him.
    […] "Oh, we shouldn’t let him go like this. What’ll we do?" Old Dean’s gone, I thought, and out loud I said, "He’ll be all right." And off we went to the sad and disinclined concert for which I had no stomach whatever and all the time I was thinking of Dean and how he got back on the train and rode over three thousand miles over that awful land and never knew why he had come anyway, except to see me. (V.1.12-18)

    Dean’s need for motion remains at the end of the text, but Sal now views it with sadness rather than awe.

  • Sadness

    There was a lull when we came in. Gene and Blondey just stood there, looking at nobody; all they wanted was cigarettes. There were some pretty girls, too. And one of them made eyes at Blondey and he never saw it, and if he had he wouldn’t have cared, he was so sad and gone. (I.4.62)

    Sal sees sadness in nearly all the characters he encounters on the road.

    Flat on my back, I stared straight up at the magnificent firmament, glorying in the time I was making, in how far I had come from sad Bear Mountain after all, and tingling with kicks at the thought of what lay ahead of me in Denver - whatever, whatever it would be. And Mississippi Gene began to sing a song. He sang it in a melodious, quiet voice, with a river accent, and it was simple, just "I got a purty little girl, she’s sweet six-teen, she’s the purti-est thing you ever seen," repeating it with other lines thrown in, all concerning how far he’d been and how he wished he could go back to her but he done lost her.

    I said, "Gene, that’s the prettiest song."

    "It’s the sweetest I know," he said with a smile.

    "I hope you get where you’re going, and be happy when you do."

    "I always make out and move along one way or the other." (I.4.63-I.4.67)

    Instead of seeing the hope in Gene’s song, Sal sees sadness and loss.

    Slim was dozing on a bench. I sat down. The floors of bus stations are the same all over the country, always covered with butts and spit and they give a feeling of sadness that only bus stations have. For a moment it was no different from being in Newark, except for the great hugeness outside that I loved so much. I rued the way I had broken up the purity of my entire trip, not saving every dime, and dawdling and not really making time, fooling around with this sullen girl and spending all my money. It made me sick. I hadn’t slept in so long I got too tired to curse and fuss and went off to sleep; I curled up on the seat with my canvas bag for a pillow, and slept till eight o’clock in the morning among the dreamy murmurs and noises of the station and of hundreds of people passing. (I.5.12)

    Here Sal identifies sadness with a loss of purity, a dirtiness. It is interesting that Dean is one of the few characters Sal doesn’t find to be "sad," and he is also the character most associated with the word "purity."

    The opera was Fidelio. "What gloom!" cried the baritone, rising out of the dungeon under a groaning stone. I cried for it. That’s how I see life too. I was so interested in the opera that for a while I forgot the circumstances of my crazy life and got lost in the great mournful sounds of Beethoven and the rich Rembrandt tones of his story.

    [...]

    "What gloom, what gloom," I said. "It’s absolutely great." (I.9.6, I.9.8)

    Sal creates an interesting contrast between sadness and its seeming opposites. He finds the gloom in the opera to be "great" and becomes ecstatic at the thought of finding company for his misery.

    The night was getting more and more frantic. I wished Dean and Carlo were there - then I realized they’d be out of place and unhappy. They were like the man with the dungeon stone and the gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining. (I.9.15)

    In contrasting the social elite of the Denver gang with Dean and Carlo, Sal characterizes the latter with a seriousness and sadness that the former lacks.

    Everything seemed to be collapsing. As we were going out to the car Babe slipped and fell flat on her face. Poor girl was overwrought. Her brother and Tim and I helped her up. We got in the car; Major and Betty joined us. The sad ride back to Denver began. (I.9.21)

    Sal finds a return journey to be sad. We see a pattern in his traveling: anticipation, arrival, disappointment, and finally a sad return.

    Then I went to meet Rita Bettencourt and took her back to the apartment. I got her in my bedroom after a long talk in the dark of the front room. She was a nice little girl, simple and true, and tremendously frightened of sex. I told her it was beautiful. I wanted to prove this to her. She let me prove it, but I was too impatient and proved nothing. She sighed in the dark. "What do you want out of life?" I asked, and I used to ask that all the time of girls.

    "I don’t know," she said. "Just wait on tables and try to get along." She yawned. I put my hand over her mouth and told her not to yawn. I tried to tell her how excited I was about life and the things we could do together; saying that, and planning to leave Denver in two days. She turned away wearily. We lay on our backs, looking at the ceiling and wondering what God had wrought when He made life so sad. We made vague plans to meet in Frisco. (I.10.9, I.10.10).

    Sal believes that life is "so sad" when he is unable to find connections with others. This perhaps explains his obsession with Dean – Dean provides him the opportunity to make soul connections and escape the sadness of solitude.

    I wanted to go and get Rita again and tell her a lot more things, and really make love to her this time, and calm her fears about men. Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk - real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious. (I.10.11)

    Sal finds male-female interaction to be sad because it lacks what he and Dean have together – a connection of souls, a purity and holiness that eliminates, or at least abates, the sadness he sees elsewhere.

    Roy Johnson and I walked in the drizzle; I went to Eddie’s girl’s house to get back my wool plaid shirt, the shirt of Shelton, Nebraska. It was there, all tied up, the whole enormous sadness of a shirt. (I.10.15)

    The sadness of the shirt is that it represents Eddie’s abandonment of Sal – twice – on the road.

    That night it started raining as Lee Ann gave dirty looks to both of us. Not a cent left in the house. The rain drummed on the roof. "It’s going to last for a week," said Remi. He had taken off his beautiful suit; he was back in his miserable shorts and Army cap and T-shirt. His great brown sad eyes stared at the planks of the floor. The gun lay on the table. We could hear Mr. Snow laughing his head off across the rainy night somewhere. (I.11.81)

    Remi’s routine mirrors Sal’s own anticipation, arrival, disappointment, and sad return pattern. For Remi, the journeys are just shorter, and are centered around money.

    In the morning, as Remi and Lee Ann slept, and as I looked with some sadness at the big pile of wash Remi and I were scheduled to do in the Bendix machine in the shack in the back (which had always been such a joyous sunny operation among the colored women and with Mr. Snow laughing his head off), I decided to leave. (I.11.100)

    Sal’s restlessness and movement across the country is focused around avoiding sadness. He flees it from one state to the next, but seems to find it everywhere he goes. The interesting question is what happens to the sadness in Mexico, which is supposedly the end of the road.

    I had bought my ticket and was waiting for the LA bus when all of a sudden I saw the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks come cutting across my sight. She was in one of the buses that had just pulled in with a big sigh of airbrakes; it was discharging passengers for a rest stop. Her breasts stuck out straight and true; her little flanks looked delicious; her hair was long and lustrous black; and her eyes were great big blue things with timidities inside. I wished I was on her bus. A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world. The announcer called the LA bus. I picked up my bag and got on, and who should be sitting there alone but the Mexican girl. I dropped right opposite her and began scheming right off. I was so lonely, so sad, so tired, so quivering, so broken, so beat, that I got up my courage, the courage necessary to approach a strange girl, and acted. Even then I spent five minutes beating my thighs in the dark as the bus rolled down the road. (I.12.5)

    Sal has the courage to approach Terry because he is sad. This suggests that sadness rises from solitude, and that interaction with others is an attempt to abate that sadness.

    "Terry," I pleaded with all my soul. "Please listen to me and understand, I’m not a pimp." An hour ago I’d thought she was a hustler. How sad it was. Our minds, with their store of madness, had diverged. O gruesome life, how I moaned and pleaded, and then I got mad and realized I was pleading with a dumb little Mexican wench and I told her so; and before I knew it I picked up her red pumps and hurled them at the bathroom door and told her to get out. "Go on, beat it!" I’d sleep and forget it; I had my own life, my own sad and ragged life forever. There was a dead silence in the bathroom. I took my clothes off and went to bed. (I.12.25)

    Sal believes he will be sad forever only when he realizes that true companionship, as he wants it, is impossible. The mistrust and suspicions of men and women color the purity that he needs for a sexual relationship.

    We were very happy in our little hotel room. In the middle of the night I got up because I couldn’t sleep, pulled the cover over baby’s bare brown shoulder, and examined the LA night. What brutal, hot, siren-whining nights they are! Right across the street there was trouble. An old rickety rundown rooming house was the scene of some kind of tragedy. The cruiser was pulled up below and the cops were questioning an old man with gray hair. Sobbings came from within. I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon. I never felt sadder in my life. LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets god-awful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. LA is a jungle. (I.13.1)

    Sal sees tragedy and sadness everywhere in post World-War II America. It is this time period and these surroundings that cause his feelings of despair.

    On our left were the freight cars, sad and sooty red beneath the moon; straight ahead the lights and airport pokers of Bakersfield proper; to our right a tremendous aluminum Quonset warehouse. Ah, it was a fine night, a warm night, a wine-drinking night, a moony night, and a night to hug your girl and talk and spit and be heavengoing. This we did. She was a drinking little fool and kept up with me and passed me and went right on talking till midnight. We never budged from those crates. Occasionally bums passed, Mexican mothers passed with children, and the prowl car came by and the cop got out to leak, but most of the time we were alone and mixing up our souls ever more and ever more till it would be terribly hard to say good-by. At midnight we got up and goofed toward the highway. (I.13.11)

    Even when he does find companionship, Sal only sees the sadness inherent in their inevitable departure from one another.

    I huddled in the cold, rainy wind and watched everything across the sad vineyards of October in the valley. My mind was filled with that great song "Lover Man" as Billie Holiday sings it; I had my own concert in the bushes. "Someday we’ll meet, and you’ll dry all my tears, and whisper sweet, little things in my ear, hugging and a-kissing, oh what we’ve been missing, Lover Man, oh where can you be . . ." It’s not the words so much as their great harmonic tune and the way Billie sings it, like a woman stroking her man’s hair in soft lamplight. The winds howled. I got cold. (I.13.45).

    Sal identifies a sad and poignant core in the tune of a song. Later, Dean will tell him that the IT of a song is NOT in the tune, rather it is in something else.

    I plodded along in the ditch. Any minute I expected the poor little madman to go flying in the night, dead. We never found that bridge. I left him at a railroad underpass and, because I was so sweaty from the hike, I changed shirts and put on two sweaters; a roadhouse illuminated my sad endeavors. A whole family came walking down the dark road and wondered what I was doing. Strangest thing of all, a tenorman was blowing very fine blues in this Pennsylvania hick house; I listened and moaned. It began to rain hard. A man gave me a ride back to Harrisburg and told me I was on the wrong road. I suddenly saw the little hobo standing under a sad streetlamp with his thumb stuck out - poor forlorn man, poor lost sometime boy, now broken ghost of the penniless wilds. I told my driver the story and he stopped to tell the old man. (I.14.3)

    The music that is The Blues serves as a fitting background for Sal’s wanderings.

    "Ah now, man," said Dean, "I’ve been digging you for years about the home and marriage and all those fine wonderful things about your soul." It was a sad night; it was also a merry night. In Philadelphia we went into a lunchcart and ate hamburgers with our last food dollar. (II.2.3)

    This moment with Dean very clearly epitomizes the dichotomy of Sal’s emotions. Quite simply, the night was both sad and merry. And Sal sees no contradiction in the two.

    My aunt - a respectable woman hung-up in this sad world, and well she knew the world. She told us about the cop. "He was hiding behind the tree, trying to see what I looked like. I told him - I told him to search the car if he wanted. I’ve nothing to be ashamed of." She knew Dean had something to be ashamed of, and me too, by virtue of my being with Dean, and Dean and I accepted this sadly. (II.3.13).

    While there is something tender in the relationship between Dean and Sal, Sal also identifies a sadness. Necessarily, in his taking responsibility for Dean, Sal is burdened and laden with the guilt of his friend’s – his brother’s – actions.

    Dean was having his kicks; he put on a jazz record, grabbed Marylou, held her tight, and bounced against her with the beat of the music. She bounced right back. It was a real love dance. Ian MacArthur came in with a huge gang. The New Year’s weekend began, and lasted three days and three nights. Great gangs got in the Hudson and swerved in the snowy New York streets from party to party. I brought Lucille and her sister to the biggest party. When Lucille saw me with Dean and Marylou her face darkened - she sensed the madness they put in me.

    "I don’t like you when you’re with them."

    "Ah, it’s all right, it’s just kicks. We only live once. We’re having a good time."

    "No, it’s sad and I don’t like it." (II.4.10-II.4.13)

    Sal’s girlfriend, Lucille, also identifies the sadness in Sal’s friendship with Dean. The extreme highs of their emotions, it seems, come with this price tag.

    "See? See? See?" cackled Dean, poking my ribs. "I told you it was kicks. Everybody’s kicks, man!" We carried Solomon all the way to Testament. My brother by now was in his new house on the other side of town. Here we were back on the long, bleak street with the railroad track running down the middle and the sad, sullen Southerners loping in front of hardware stores and five-and-tens. (II.6.11)

    Sal sees sadness in any strangers he sees from a distance because of their isolation from one another.

    "Gee, I’m sad."

    "What are you sad about, kid?"

    "I’m sad about everything. Oh damn, I wish Dean wasn’t so crazy now." Dean came twinkling back, giggling, and jumped in the car. (II.8.28-II.8.30).

    Marylou identifies the same unexplainable sadness in herself that Sal feels. Somehow, Dean is the common denominator in the sadness they share.

    Then he slowly gets up and takes the mike and says, very slowly, " Great-oroooni... fine-ovauti... hello-orooni... bourbon-orooni... all- orooni... how are the boys in the front row making out with their girls-orooni... vauti... oroonirooni... " He keeps this up for fifteen minutes, his voice getting softer and softer till you can’t hear. His great sad eyes scan the audience.

    [...]

    Finally the set is over; each set takes two hours. Slim Gaillard goes and stands against a post, looking sadly over everybody’s head as people come to talk to him. A bourbon is slipped in his hand. "Bourbon-orooni - thanky-ou-ovauti..." (II.11.8-II.11.9)

    While Dean finds ecstasy in music, Sal finds sadness. Because of Sal’s repeated combinations of seemingly opposite notions (the sad and merry night), this new combination is not unreasonable.

    Near me sat an old N**** who apparently watched the games every night. Next to him was an old white bum; then a Mexican family, then some girls, some boys - all humanity, the lot. Oh, the sadness of the lights that night! The young pitcher looked just like Dean. A pretty blonde in the seats looked just like Marylou. It was the Denver Night; all I did was die. (III.1.4)

    Sal reaches the lowest point of depression during his solitary time in Denver, and it is precisely because of his solitude that he feels this way. The worst moments are when he recognizes glimpses of people that look like his friends, as he is reminded of the actual distances between them.

    Just as flat as that. It was the saddest night. I felt as if I was with strange brothers and sisters in a pitiful dream. Then a complete silence fell over everybody; where once Dean would have talked his way out, he now fell silent himself, but standing in front of everybody, ragged and broken and idiotic, right under the lightbulbs, his bony mad face covered with sweat and throbbing veins, saying, "Yes, yes, yes," as though tremendous revelations were pouring into him all the time now, and I am convinced they were, and the others suspected as much and were frightened. He was BEAT - the root, the soul of Beatific. What was he knowing? He tried all in his power to tell me what he was knowing, and they envied that about me, my position at his side, defending him and drinking him in as they once tried to do. Then they looked at me. What was I, a stranger, doing on the West Coast this fair night? I recoiled from the thought. (III.3.20)

    Even when he's near his friends, Sal can feel the sadness of solitude. He needs not only physical closeness, but mental and spiritual closeness to keep the sadness at bay.

    Then up stepped the tenorman on the bandstand and asked for a slow beat and looked sadly out the open door over people’s heads and began singing "Close Your Eyes." Things quieted down a minute. The tenorman wore a tattered suede jacket, a purple shirt, cracked shoes, and zoot pants without press; he didn’t care. He looked like a N**** Hassel. His big brown eyes were concerned with sadness, and the singing of songs slowly and with long, thoughtful pauses. [...] He sat in the corner with a bunch of boys and paid no attention to them. He looked down and wept. He was the greatest. (III.3.30)

    Just as he did with the opera Fidelio, Sal characterizes an artist’s ability to recognize and accept sadness as "greatness."

    "Yes, man, yes, man. But please harken back and believe me."

    "I do believe you, I do." This was the sad story of that afternoon. (III.6.18, III.6.19)

    For Sal, his fight with Dean is surely the saddest of his sad stories. Here he loses, for a moment, the one soul connection he counted on.

    We roared off. We left Tim in his yard on the Plains outside town and I looked back to watch Tim Gray recede on the plain. That strange guy stood there for a full two minutes watching us go away and thinking God knows what sorrowful thoughts. He grew smaller and smaller, and still he stood motionless with one hand on a washline, like a captain, and I was twisted around to see more of Tim Gray till there was nothing but a growing absence in space, and the space was the eastward view toward Kansas that led all the way back to my home in Atlantis. (IV.3.36).

    If the closeness of friends serves to abate Sal’s sadness, then leaving his friends is another sad act for Sal.

    We passed Walsenburg; suddenly we passed Trinidad, where Chad King was somewhere off the road in front of a campfire with perhaps a handful of anthropologists and as of yore he too was telling his life story and never dreamed we were passing at that exact moment on the highway, headed for Mexico, telling our own stories. O sad American night! Then we were in New Mexico and passed the rounded rocks of Raton and stopped at a diner, ravingly hungry for hamburgers, some of which we wrapped in a napkin to eat over the border below. (IV.4.4)

    Sal often views America through the lens of his own sadness, seeing his emotion reflected in the people and places he passes.

    "Why," said Dean, his face still transfigured into a shower of supreme pleasure and even bliss, "he is the prettiest child I have ever seen. Look at those eyes. Now, Sal and Stan,» he said, turning to us with a serious and tender air, "I want you par-ti-cu-lar-ly to see the eyes of this little Mexican boy who is the son of our wonderful friend Victor, and notice how he will come to manhood with his own particular soul bespeaking itself through the windows which are his eyes, and such lovely eyes surely do prophesy and indicate the loveliest of souls." It was a beautiful speech. And it was a beautiful baby. Victor mournfully looked down at his angel. We all wished we had a little son like that. So great was our intensity over the child’s soul that he sensed something and began a grimace which led to bitter tears and some unknown sorrow that we had no means to soothe because it reached too far back into innumerable mysteries and time. We tried everything; Victor smothered him in his neck and rocked, Dean cooed, I reached over and stroked the baby’s little arms. His bawls grew louder. "Ah," said Dean, "I’m awfully sorry, Victor, that we’ve made him sad." (IV.5.42)

    In Mexico, Sal gains insight into the nature of sadness as an inherent part of the human spirit. Sal cannot soothe the sadness – in the baby or in himself – because it is too ingrained in what it means to be a person.

    "I got wife and kid - ain’t got a money - I see." His sweet polite smile glowed in the redness as we waved to him from the car. Behind him were the sad park and the children. (IV.5.58)

    Now Sal is able to identify sadness without reason; the park isn’t sad because of distance or solitude – it is sad because it is there.

    Occasionally a dim light flashed in town, and this was the sheriff making his rounds with a weak flashlight and mumbling to himself in the jungle night. Then I saw his light jiggling toward us and heard his footfalls coming soft on the mats of sand and vegetation. He stopped and flashed the car. I sat up and looked at him. In a quivering, almost querulous, and extremely tender voice he said, "Dormiendo?" indicating Dean in the road. I knew this meant "sleep."

    "Si, dormiendo. "

    "Bueno, bueno" he said to himself and with reluctance and sadness turned away and went back to his lonely rounds. Such lovely policemen God hath never wrought in America. No suspicions, no fuss, no bother: he was the guardian of the sleeping town, period. (IV.5.6-IV.5.8)

    Sal connects the sadness of the policeman with his loneliness.

    The girls yammered around the car. One particularly soulful child gripped at Dean’s sweaty arm. She yammered in Indian. "Ah yes, ah yes, dear one," said Dean tenderly and almost sadly. (IV.6.15)

    For Dean, sadness is wrapped up in the intensity and purity of young girls. It is interesting to see this moment of sadness in contrast to his previous sexual impulses towards young girls.

    We came into the dizzying heights of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The banana trees gleamed golden in the haze. Great fogs yawned beyond stone walls along the precipice. Below, the Moctezuma was a thin golden thread in a green jungle mat. Strange crossroad towns on top of the world rolled by, with shawled Indians watching us from under hatbrims and rebozos. Life was dense, dark, ancient. They watched Dean, serious and insane at his raving wheel, with eyes of hawks. All had their hands outstretched. They had come down from the back mountains and higher places to hold forth their hands for something they thought civilization could offer, and they never dreamed the sadness and the poor broken delusion of it. They didn’t know that a bomb had come that could crack all our bridges and roads and reduce them to jumbles, and we would be as poor as they someday, and stretching out our hands in the same, same way. Our broken Ford, old thirties upgoing America Ford, rattled through them and vanished in dust. (IV.6.17)

    Here, sadness is the result of the state of America, the modern world, and the atrocities that this pure world doesn’t know about.

    So Dean couldn’t ride uptown with us and the only thing I could do was sit in the back of the Cadillac and wave at him. The bookie at the wheel also wanted nothing to do with Dean. Dean, ragged in a moth-eaten overcoat he brought specially for the freezing temperatures of the East, walked off alone, and the last I saw of him he rounded the corner of Seventh Avenue, eyes on the street ahead, and bent to it again. Poor little Laura, my baby, to whom I’d told everything about Dean, began almost to cry.

    "Oh, we shouldn’t let him go like this. What’ll we do?" Old Dean’s gone, I thought, and out loud I said, "He’ll be all right." And off we went to the sad and disinclined concert for which I had no stomach whatever and all the time I was thinking of Dean and how he got back on the train and rode over three thousand miles over that awful land and never knew why he had come anyway, except to see me. (V.1.17, V.1.18)

    Here the reader is forced to experience the sadness of the narrator. Sal is ultimately unable to understand his hero, and more importantly, unable to help him.

    So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty. (V.1.19)

    On the Road ends on a very sad note. Sal talks about children crying, about the decay of the human body, about Dean’s missing father. The book also ends as we began – with Sal thinking of Dean.

  • Madness

    So we went out to have a few beers because we couldn’t talk like we wanted to talk in front of my aunt, who sat in the living room reading her paper. She took one look at Dean and decided that he was a madman. (I.1.6)

    Dean’s madness is instantly apparent to all.

    In those days he really didn’t know what he was talking about; that is to say, he was a young jailkid all hung-up on the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a jumbled way, that he had heard from "real intellectuals" - although, mind you, he wasn’t so naive as that in all other things, and it took him just a few months with Carlo Marx to become completely in there with all the terms and jargon. Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of madness, and I agreed that he could stay at my house till he found a job and furthermore we agreed to go out West sometime. That was the winter of 1947. (I.1.7)

    It is through madness that Sal tries to understand Dean – but because of his own sanity he fails to find common ground between them.

    They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!" (I.1.12)

    Sal is drawn to Dean because of his madness, but unable to truly participate himself.

    The following ten days were, as W. C. Fields said, "fraught with eminent peril" - and mad. I moved in with Roland Major in the really swank apartment that belonged to Tim Gray’s folks. We each had a bedroom, and there was a kitchenette with food in the icebox, and a huge living room where Major sat in his silk dressing gown composing his latest Hemingwayan short story - a choleric, red-faced, pudgy hater of everything, who could turn on the warmest and most charming smile in the world when real life confronted him sweetly in the night. (I.7.1)

    Sal often connects notions of madness with danger.

    On the wall was a nude drawing of Dean, enormous dangle and all, done by Camille. I was amazed. Everything was so crazy. (I.7.19)

    Sal sees madness in all aspects of Dean’s life, including his relationships with women.

    And Carlo began his monkey dance in the streets of life as I’d seen him do so many times everywhere in New York. (I.7.25)

    Carlo, too, possesses a madness that knows no geographical limitations.

    "He’s been awake all this time, listening. What were you thinking, Sal?" I told them that I was thinking they were very amazing maniacs and that I had spent the whole night listening to them like a man watching the mechanism of a watch that reached clear to the top of Berthoud Pass and yet was made with the smallest works of the most delicate watch in the world. They smiled. I pointed my finger at them and said, "If you keep this up you’ll both go crazy, but let me know what happens as you go along."(I.8.35)

    Although Sal is drawn to the madness of Dean and Carlo, he is unable to participate himself.

    Ray and Tim and I decided to hit the bars. Major was gone, Babe and Betty were gone. We tottered into the night. The opera crowd was jamming the bars from bar to wall. Major was shouting above heads. The eager, bespectacled Denver D. Doll was shaking hands with everybody and saying, "Good afternoon, how are you?" and when midnight came he was saying, "Good afternoon, how are you?" At one point I saw him going off somewhere with a dignitary. Then he came back with a middle-aged woman; next minute he was talking to a couple of young ushers in the street. The next minute he was shaking my hand without recognizing me and saying, "Happy New Year, m’boy." He wasn’t drunk on liquor, just drunk on what he liked - crowds of people milling. Everybody knew him. "Happy New Year," he called, and sometimes "Merry Christmas." He said this all the time. At Christmas he said Happy Halloween. (I.9.17)

    While Sal and Dean seek to overcome the boundaries of time, Sal sees madness in a character who mixes up time.

    At dawn I found Carlo. I read some of his enormous journal, slept there, and in the morning, drizzly and gray, tall, six-foot Ed Dunkel came in with Roy Johnson, a handsome kid, and Tom Snark, the clubfooted poolshark. They sat around and listened with abashed smiles as Carlo Marx read them his apocalyptic, mad poetry. I slumped in my chair, finished. "Oh ye Denver birds!" cried Carlo. (I.10.14)

    Sal sees madness in the written word, such as Carlo’s poetry. What Dean does in action, Carlo does in words.

    But Remi Boncœur and I were on duty alone many a night, and that’s when everything jumped. We made our first round of the evening in a leisurely way, Remi trying all the doors to see if they were locked and hoping to find one unlocked. He’d say, "For years I’ve an idea to develop a dog into a super thief who’d go into these guys’ rooms and take dollars out of their pockets. I’d train him to take nothing but green money; I’d make him smell it all day long. If there was any humanly possible way, I’d train him to take only twenties." Remi was full of mad schemes; he talked about that dog for weeks. (I.11.50).

    All of Sal’s friends possess their own, unique element of madness.

    In Oakland I had a beer among the bums of a saloon with a wagon wheel in front of it, and I was on the road again. I walked clear across Oakland to get on the Fresno road. Two rides took me to Bakersfield, four hundred miles south. The first was the mad one, with a burly blond kid in a souped- up rod. "See that toe?" he said as he gunned the heap to eighty and passed everybody on the road. "Look at it." It was swathed in bandages. "I just had it amputated this morning. The bastards wanted me to stay in the hospital. I packed my bag and left. What’s a toe?" Yes, indeed, I said to myself, look out now, and I hung on. You never saw a driving fool like that. He made Tracy in no time. (I.12.2)

    Madness manifests itself in disregard for physical health.

    The ride I proceeded to get was with a skinny, haggard man who believed in controlled starvation for the sake of health. When I told him I was starving to death as we rolled east he said, "Fine, fine, there’s nothing better for you. I myself haven’t eaten for three days. I’m going to live to be a hundred and fifty years old." He was a bag of bones, a floppy doll, a broken stick, a maniac. I might have gotten a ride with an affluent fat man who’d say, "Let’s stop at this restaurant and have some pork chops and beans." No, I had to get a ride that morning with a maniac who believed in controlled starvation for the sake of health. After a hundred miles he grew lenient and took out bread-and-butter sandwiches from the back of the car. They were hidden among his salesman samples. He was selling plumbing fixtures around Pennsylvania. I devoured the bread and butter. Suddenly I began to laugh. I was all alone in the car, waiting for him as he made business calls in Allentown, and I laughed and laughed. Gad, I was sick and tired of life. But the madman drove me home to New York. (I.14.8)

    Sal sees madness not only in people, but in the crazy events of his adventures on the road.

    Marylou was the only girl Dean ever really loved. He was sick with regret when he saw her face again, and, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Dean; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad. (II.1.12)

    Only by understanding madness is anyone able to understand Dean.

    They ate voraciously as Dean, sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called «The Hunt,» with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume. The Southern folk looked at one another and shook their heads in awe. "What kind of friends does Sal have, anyway?" they said to my brother. He was stumped for an answer. Southerners don’t like madness the least bit, not Dean’s kind. He paid absolutely no attention to them. The madness of Dean had bloomed into a weird flower. I didn’t realize this till he and I and Marylou and Dunkel left the house for a brief spin-the-Hudson, when for the first time we were alone and could talk about anything we wanted. Dean grabbed the wheel, shifted to second, mused a minute, rolling, suddenly seemed to decide something and shot the car full-jet down the road in a fury of decision. (II.1.14)

    Dean’s madness evolves and grows over the course of their travels.

    He had become absolutely mad in his movements; he seemed to be doing everything at the same time. It was. a shaking of the head, up and down, sideways; jerky, vigorous hands; quick walking, sitting, crossing the legs, uncrossing, getting up, rubbing the hands, rubbing his fly, hitching his pants, looking up and saying "Am," and sudden slitting of the eyes to see everywhere; and all the time he was grabbing me by the ribs and talking, talking. (II.1.15).

    Dean’s madness manifests itself in the need for constant motion.

    His laugh was. maniacal; it started low and ended high, exactly like the laugh of a radio maniac, only faster and more like a titter. Then he kept reverting to businesslike tones. There was no purpose in our coming downtown, but he found purposes. He made us all hustle, Marylou for the lunch groceries, me for a paper to dig the weather report, Ed for cigars. Dean loved to smoke cigars. (II.1.16)

    Sal repeatedly recognizes madness in the nature of different characters’ laughs.

    It was a completely meaningless set of circumstances that made Dean come, and similarly I went off with him for no reason. In New York I had been attending school and romancing around with a girl called Lucille, a beautiful Italian honey-haired darling that I actually wanted to marry. All these years I was looking for the woman I wanted to marry. I couldn’t meet a girl without saying to myself, What kind of wife would she make? I told Dean and Marylou about Lucille. Marylou wanted to know all about Lucille, she wanted to meet her. We zoomed through Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, and up to Philadelphia on a winding country road and talked. "I want to marry a girl," I told them, "so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old. This can’t go on all the time - all this franticness and jumping around. We’ve got to go someplace, find something." (II.2.2)

    Sal is unable to participate in Dean’s madness because he seeks reason and stability.

    "What is the meaning of this voyage to New York? What kind of sordid business are you on now? I mean, man, whither goest thou? Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?"

    "Whither goest thou?" echoed Dean with his mouth open. We sat and didn’t know what to say. (II.3.8, II.3.9)

    Dean and Sal are unable to provide logic or reasoning to support their actions that, at heart, are driven only by madness.

    We went looking for my New York gang of friends. The crazy flowers bloom there too. We went to Tom Saybrook’s first. Tom is a sad, handsome fellow, sweet, generous, and amenable; only once in a while he suddenly has fits of depression and rushes off without saying a word to anyone. This night he was overjoyed. "Sal, where did you find these absolutely wonderful people? I’ve never seen anyone like them." (II.3.8)

    Sal’s friends find camaraderie in madness.

    Dean was having his kicks; he put on a jazz record, grabbed Marylou, held her tight, and bounced against her with the beat of the music. She bounced right back. It was a real love dance. Ian MacArthur came in with a huge gang. The New Year’s weekend began, and lasted three days and three nights. Great gangs got in the Hudson and swerved in the snowy New York streets from party to party. I brought Lucille and her sister to the biggest party. When Lucille saw me with Dean and Marylou her face darkened - she sensed the madness they put in me.

    "I don’t like you when you’re with them."

    "Ah, it’s all right, it’s just kicks. We only live once. We’re having a good time."

    "No, it’s sad and I don’t like it." (II.4.10-II.4.13)

    Sal is affected by the madness of those around him,

    To the wild sounds of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing "The Hunt," Dean and I played catch with Marylou over the couch; she was no small doll either. Dean went around with no undershirt, just his pants, barefoot, till it was time to hit the car and fetch more people. Everything happened. We found the wild, ecstatic Roll Greb and spent a night at his house on Long Island. (II.4.15)

    Sal often sets scenes of madness to music, suggesting both a rhythm and a loudness to their scenes of debauchery.

    It was a rainy night. It was the myth of the rainy night. Dean was popeyed with awe. This madness would lead nowhere. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I suddenly realized it was only the tea that we were smoking; Dean had bought some in New York. It made me think that everything was about to arrive - the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever. (II.4.18)

    Sal attributes some fits of madness to drugs.

    There were long, funny days spent in Carlo’s apartment before we left. He went around in his bathrobe and made semi-ironical speeches: "Now I’m not trying to take your hincty sweets from you, but it seems to me the time has come to decide what you are and what you’re going to do."

    Carlo was working as typist in an office. "I want to know what all this sitting around the house all day is intended to mean. What all this talk is and what you propose to do. Dean, why did you leave Camille and pick up Marylou?" No answer - giggles. "Marylou, why are you traveling around the country like this and what are your womanly intentions concerning the shroud?" Same answer. "Ed Dunkel, why did you abandon your new wife in Tucson and what are you doing here sitting on your big fat ass? Where’s your home? What’s your job?" Ed Dunkel bowed his head in genuine befuddlement. "Sal - how comes it you’ve fallen on such sloppy days and what have you done with Lucille?" He adjusted his bathrobe and sat facing us all. "The days of wrath are yet to come. The balloon won’t sustain you much longer. And not only that, but it’s an abstract balloon. You’ll all go flying to the West Coast and come staggering back in search of your stone." (II.5.2)

    Carlo’s madness functions on a system of logic – his own twisted and abstract logic, but a system nonetheless – whereas Dean functions without any attempt at reason whatsoever.

    In these days Carlo had developed a tone of voice which he hoped sounded like what he called The Voice of Rock; the whole idea was to stun people into the realization of the rock. "You pin a dragon to your hats," he warned us; "you’re up in the attic with the bats." His mad eyes glittered at us. Since the Dakar Doldrums he had gone through a terrible period which he called the Holy Doldrums, or Harlem Doldrums, when he lived in Harlem in midsummer and at night woke up in his lonely room and heard "the great machine" descending from the sky; and when he walked on 12 5th Street "under water" with all the other fish. It was a riot of radiant ideas that had come to enlighten his brain. (II.5.3)

    Carlo’s madness, like Dean’s, goes through different stages.

    I could hear Dean, blissful and blabbering and frantically rocking. Only a guy who’s spent five years in jail can go to such maniacal helpless extremes; beseeching at the portals of the soft source, mad with a completely physical realization of the origins of life-bliss; blindly seeking to return the way he came. (II.5.14)

    Sal attributes much of Dean’s madness to his criminal youth and time in jail.

    He had a set of chains in his room that he said he used with his psychoanalyst; they were experimenting with narcoanalysis and found that Old Bull had seven separate personalities, each growing worse and worse on the way down, till finally he was a raving idiot and had to be restrained with chains. The top personality was an English lord, the bottom the idiot. Halfway he was an old N**** who stood in line, waiting with everyone else, and said, "Some’s bastards, some’s ain’t, that’s the score." (II.6.34)

    The mad characters in On the Road seek to characterize their madness in order to organize and understand it.

    He held on. Dean had gotten worse, he confided in me. "He seems to me to be headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psychopathic irresponsibility and violence." He looked at Dean out of the corner of his eye. "If you go to California with this madman you’ll never make it. Why don’t you stay in New Orleans with me?" (II.6.42)

    The mad characters all make judgments on each other’s madness, no one recognizing that they themselves suffer from the same instabilities.

    "Yass, yass," said Dean, watching the ranchers loping up and down Sonora main street, "every one of them is a bloody millionaire, thousand head of cattle, workhands, buildings, money in the bank. If I lived around here I’d go be an idjit in the sagebrush, I’d be jackrabbit, I’d lick up the branches, I’d look for pretty cowgirls - hee-hee-hee-hee! Damn! Bam!" He socked himself. "Yes! Right! Oh me!" We didn’t know what he was talking about any more. He took the wheel and flew the rest of the way across the state of Texas, about five hundred miles, clear to El Paso, arriving at dusk and not stopping except once when he took all his clothes off, near Ozona, and ran yipping and leaping naked in the sage. (II.8.18)

    Dean’s madness, while engaging at first, quickly becomes alienating and impossible to interpret.

    And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seething roar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die, and walked four miles and picked up ten long butts and took them back to Marylou’s hotel room and poured their tobacco in my old pipe and lit up. I was too young to know what had happened. (II.10.5)

    While Dean’s madness is an inherent part of his personality, Sal experiences the same madness only at the extremes of hunger or fever.

    But one night we suddenly went mad together again; we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub. Slim Gaillard is a tall, thin N**** with big sad eyes who’s always saying, "Right-orooni" and "How about a little bourbon-orooni." In Frisco great eager crowds of young semi-intellectuals sat at his feet and listened to him on the piano, guitar, and bongo drums. (II.11.8)

    Many of the musicians in On the Road are portrayed as mad, relating the rhythm and volume of music to the madness that possesses Dean.

    "Not so good, not so good. But we’ve got a million things to talk about. Sal, the time has fi-nally come for us to talk and get with it." We agreed it was about time and went in. My arrival was somewhat like the coming of the strange most evil angel in the home of the snow-white fleece, as Dean and I began talking excitedly in the kitchen downstairs, which brought forth sobs from upstairs. Everything I said to Dean was answered with a wild, whispering, shuddering "Yes!" Camille knew what was going to happen. Apparently Dean had been quiet for a few months; now the angel had arrived and he was going mad again. "What’s the matter with her?" I whispered. (III.2.3)

    The women who know Dean best are those who understand his madness.

    That thumb became the symbol of Dean’s final development. He no longer cared about anything (as before) but now he also cared about everything in principle; that is to say, it was all the same to him and he belonged to the world and there was nothing he could do about it. He stopped me in the middle of the street. (III.2.13)

    Dean’s madness progresses to incorporate a weird logic, which Sal then attempts to understand.

    Everybody was rocking and roaring. Galatea and Marie with beer in their hands were standing on their chairs, shaking and jumping. Groups of colored guys stumbled in from the street, falling over one another to get there. "Stay with it, man!" roared a man with a foghorn voice, and let out a big groan that must have been heard clear out in Sacramento, ah-haa! "Whoo!" said Dean. He was rubbing his chest, his belly; the sweat splashed from his face. Boom, kick, that drummer was kicking his drums down the cellar and rolling the beat upstairs with his murderous sticks, rattlety-boom! A big fat man was jumping on the platform, making it sag and creak. "Yoo!" The pianist was only pounding the keys with spread-eagled fingers, chords, at intervals when the great tenorman was drawing breath for another blast - Chinese chords, shuddering the piano in every timber, chink, and wire, boing! The tenorman jumped down from the platform and stood in the crowd, blowing around; his hat was over his eyes; somebody pushed it back for him. He just hauled back and stamped his foot and blew down a hoarse, laughing blast, and drew breath, and raised the horn and blew high, wide, and screaming in the air. Dean was directly in front of him with his face lowered to the bell of the horn, clapping his hands, pouring sweat on the man’s keys, and the man noticed and laughed in his horn a long quivering crazy laugh, and everybody else laughed and they rocked and rocked; and finally the tenorman decided to blow his top and crouched down and held a note in high C for a long time as everything else crashed along and the cries increased and I thought the cops would come swarming from the nearest precinct. Dean was in a trance. The tenorman’s eyes were fixed straight on him; he had a madman who not only understood but cared and wanted to understand more and much more than there was, and they began dueling for this; everything came out of the horn, no more phrases, just cries, cries, "Baugh" and down to "Beep!" and up to "EEEEE!" and down to clinkers and over to sideways-echoing horn-sounds. He tried everything, up, down, sideways, upside down, horizontal, thirty degrees, forty degrees, and finally he fell back in somebody’s arms and gave up and everybody pushed around and yelled, "Yes! Yes! He blowed that one!" Dean wiped himself with his handkerchief. (III.3.29)

    Dean’s madness is accentuated by music.

    It wasn’t anything much, we were just I talking, except that suddenly we saw a very strange and insane sight. It was Dean. He wanted to give Roy Johnson the I address of the bar, so he told him to hold the phone a minute and ran out to see, and to do this he had to rush pellmell through a long bar of brawling drinkers in white shirtsleeves, go to the middle of the street, and look at the post signs. He did this, crouched low to the ground like Groucho Marx, his feet carrying him with amazing swiftness out of the bar, like an apparition, with his balloon thumb stuck up in the night, and came to a whirling stop in the middle of the road, looking everywhere above him for the signs. They were hard to see in the dark, and he spun a dozen times in the road, thumb upheld, in a wild, anxious silence, a wild-haired person with a ballooning thumb held up like a great goose of the sky, spinning and spinning in the dark, the other hand distractedly inside his pants. Ed Fournier was saying, "I blow a sweet tone wherever I go and if people don’t like it ain’t nothin I can do about it. Say, man, that buddy of yours is a crazy cat, looka him over there" - and we looked. There was a big silence everywhere as Dean saw the signs and rushed back in the bar, practically going under someone’s legs as they came out and gliding so fast through the bar that everybody had to do a double take to see him. (III.3.40)

    Dean’s madness is often related to motion – a need to move, to go, to act.

    "When Ed gets back I’m going to take him to Jamson’s Nook every night and let him get his fill of madness. Do you think that’ll work, Sal? I don’t know what to do." (III.3.47)

    Sal is the only male character who sees the effect of the men’s madness on their women.

    The people in the back seat sighed with relief. I heard them -whispering mutiny. "We can’t let him drive any more, he’s absolutely crazy, they must have let him out of an asylum or something."

    I rose to Dean’s defense and leaned back to talk to them. "He’s not crazy, he’ll be all right, and don’t worry about his driving, he’s the best in the world." (III.5.8, III.5.9)

    Although Sal recognizes Dean’s madness, he hides it from others to protect his friend.

    We stumbled over one another to get out of the cab at the roadhouse, a hillbilly roadhouse near the hills, and went in and ordered beers. Everything was collapsing, and to make things inconceivably more frantic there was an ecstatic spastic fellow in the bar who threw his arms around Dean and moaned in his face, and Dean went mad again with sweats and insanity, and to add still more to the unbearable confusion Dean rushed out the next moment and stole a car right from the driveway and took a dash to downtown Denver and came back with a newer, better one. [...] All the bitterness and madness of his entire Denver life was blasting out of his system like daggers. His face was red and sweaty and mean. (III.7.14)

    Sal earlier related Dean’s madness to his criminal past, and here the act of theft brings about madness in Dean – or vice versa, with his madness driving him to theft and the ways of his youth.

    "Well, it’s about time!" said the Broadway Sam travel-bureau boss. "I thought you’d gone off with that Cadillac."

    "It’s my responsibility," I said, "don’t worry" - and said that because Dean was in such obvious frenzy everybody could guess his madness. (III.8.9, III.8.10)

    Because of Dean’s madness, Sal is forced to take control and responsibility.

    "Is he your brother?" the boys asked in the back seat. "He’s a devil with a car, isn’t he? - and according to his story he must be with the women."

    "He’s mad," I said, "and yes, he’s my brother." I saw Dean coming back with the farmer in his tractor. (III.8.14, III.8.15)

    Sal confesses Dean’s madness as though it is a simple fact, an element of his character, just like hair or eye color.

    It was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then suddenly continue with his soul - which I think is wrapped up in a fast car, a coast to reach, and a woman at the end of the road - calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened. "I get like that every time in Denver now - I can’t make that town any more. Gookly, gooky, Dean’s a spooky. Zoom!" (III.9.6)

    Sal seeks to understand Dean’s madness, but recognizes that doing so isn’t completely possible.

    At intermissions we rushed out in the Cadillac and tried to pick up girls all up and down Chicago. They were frightened of our big, scarred, prophetic car. In his mad frenzy Dean backed up smack on hydrants and tittered maniacally. By nine o’clock the car was an utter wreck; the brakes weren’t working any more; the fenders were stove in; the rods were rattling. Dean couldn’t stop it at red lights, it kept kicking convulsively over the roadway. It had paid the price of the night. It was a muddy boot and no longer a shiny limousine. (III.10.7)

    The destructiveness of Dean’s madness is evident in the physical destruction of the car.

    By this time Dean was so exhausted and out of his mind that everything he saw delighted him. He was reaching another pious frenzy. He sweated and sweated. The moment we were in the new Chrysler and off to New York the poor man realized he had contracted a ride with two maniacs, but he made the best of it and in fact got used to us just as we passed Briggs Stadium and talked about next year’s Detroit Tigers. (III.11.3)

    Sal sees Dean’s madness as akin to religious fervor. What exactly Dean is worshipping, however, is unclear.

    Dean took out other pictures. I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance. (IV.1.26)

    Sal reveals a surprisingly negative view of his group’s madness and cavorting.

    I was getting ready to go to Mexico when suddenly Denver Doll called me one night and said, "Well, Sal, guess who’s coming to Denver?" I had no idea. "He’s on his way already, I got this news from my grapevine. Dean bought a car and is coming out to join you." Suddenly I had a vision of Dean, a burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain, bearing down on me. I saw his huge face over the plains with the mad, bony purpose and the gleaming eyes; I saw his wings; I saw his old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparking flames shooting out from it; I saw the path it burned over the road; it even made its own road and went over the corn, through cities, destroying bridges, drying rivers. It came like wrath to the West. I knew Dean had gone mad again. There was no chance to send money to either wife if he took all his savings out of the bank and bought a car. Everything was up, the jig and all. Behind him charred ruins smoked. He rushed westward over the groaning and awful continent again, and soon he would arrive. We made hasty preparations for Dean. News was that he was going to drive me to Mexico. (IV.2.17)

    While at first in awe of Dean, Sal’s view of his "hero" becomes hesitant and even fearful.

    "Oh, sociology and all that field, you know. Say, Dean gets crazier every year, don’t he?"

    "He sure does." (IV.3.9, IV.3.10)

    Dean’s progressive madness is recognizable to all.

    Then Dean suddenly grew quiet and sat in a kitchen chair between Stan and me and stared straight ahead with rocky doglike wonder and paid no attention to anybody.

    He simply disappeared for a moment to gather up more energy. If you touched him he would sway like a boulder suspended on a pebble on the precipice of a cliff. He might come crashing down or just sway rocklike. Then the boulder exploded into a flower and his face lit up with a lovely smile and he looked around like a man waking up and said, "Ah, look at all the nice people that are sitting here with me. Isn’t it nice! Sal, why, like I was tellin Min just t’other day, why, urp, ah, yes!" He got up and went across the room, hand outstretched to one of the bus-drivers in the party. "Howd’y’do. My name is Dean Moriarty. Yes, I remember you well. Is everything all right? Well, well. Look at the lovely cake. Oh, can I have some? Just me? Miserable me?" Ed’s sister said yes. "Oh, how wonderful. People are so nice. Cakes and pretty things set out on a table and all for the sake of wonderful little joys and delights. Hmm, ah, yes, excellent, splendid, harrumph, egad!" And he stood swaying in the middle of the room, eating his cake and looking at everyone with awe. He turned and looked around behind him. Everything amazed him, everything he saw. People talked in groups all around the room, and he said, "Yes! That’s right!" A picture on the wall made him stiffen to attention. He went up and looked closer, he backed up, he stooped, he jumped up, he wanted to see from all possible levels and angles, he tore at his T-shirt in exclamation, "Damn!" He had no idea of the impression he was making and cared less. People were now beginning to look at Dean with maternal and paternal affection glowing in their faces. He was finally an Angel, as I always knew he would become; but like any Angel he still had rages and furies, and that night when we all left the party and repaired to the Windsor bar in one vast brawling gang, Dean became frantically and demoniacally and seraphically drunk. (IV.3.11, IV.3.12)

    Dean finally loses any semblance of control over his madness.

    "They’re never alone. Nobody’s ever alone in this country. While you’ve been sleeping I’ve been digging this road and this country, and if I could only tell you all the thoughts I’ve had, man!" He was sweating. His eyes were red-streaked and mad and also subdued and tender - he had found people like himself. (IV.5.13)

    Dean is only able to find madness akin to his own outside of the U.S.

    Dean thrust money at him. In this welter of madness I had an opportunity to see what Dean was up to. He was so out of his mind he didn’t know who I was when I peered at his face. "Yeah, yeah!" is all he said. It seemed it would never end. It was like a long, spectral Arabian dream in the afternoon in another life - Ali Baba and the alleys and the courtesans. (IV.5.48)

    Dean’s madness reaches new proportions in Mexico.

    He couldn’t talk any more. He hopped and laughed, he stuttered and fluttered his hands and said, "Ah - ah - you must listen to hear." We listened, all ears. But he forgot what he wanted to say. "Really listen - ahem. Look, dear Sal - sweet Laura - I’ve come - I’m gone - but wait - ah yes." And he stared with rocky sorrow into his hands. "Can’t talk no more - do you understand that it is - or might be - But listen!" We all listened. He was listening to sounds in the night. "Yes!" he whispered with awe. "But you see - no need to talk any more - and further." (V.1.5)

    While Dean’s madness at first makes him talk to excess, it eventually stifles his speech.

  • Admiration

    My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry - trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent - a sideburned hero of the snowy West. In fact he’d just been working on a ranch, Ed Wall’s in Colorado, before marrying Marylou and coming East. (I.1.4)

    Sal’s first image of Dean is tied to his images of heroes of the West – this is the initial pedestal on which Dean is placed.

    And that was the night Dean met Carlo Marx. A tremendous thing happened when Dean met Carlo Marx. Two keen minds that they are, they took to each other at the drop of a hat. Two piercing eyes glanced into two piercing eyes - the holy con-man with the shining mind, and the sorrowful poetic con-man with the dark mind that is Carlo Marx. From that moment on I saw very little of Dean, and I was a little sorry too. Their energies met head-on, I was a lout compared, I couldn’t keep up with them. (I.1.11)

    In his idolatry of Dean, Sal finds himself inferior, unable to keep up with what he at first considers to be greater minds.

    They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!" (I.1.12)

    Sal repeatedly portrays himself as a follower, not a leader.

    Chad and I got in his little coupe and the first thing he had to do was get maps at the State building. Then he had to see an old schoolteacher, and so on, and all I wanted to do was drink beer. And in the back of my mind was the wild thought, Where is Dean and what is he doing right now? Chad had decided not to be Dean’s friend any more, for some odd reason, and he didn’t even know where he lived (I.6.2)

    Sal’s loyalty to Dean arises from his idolatry. His refusal to abandon Dean (as Dean repeatedly abandons him) arises not from genuine feelings of friendship, but from neediness.

    Then he told me how Dean had met Camille. Roy Johnson, the poolhall boy, had found her in a bar and took her to a hotel; pride taking over his sense, he invited the whole gang to come up and see her. Everybody sat around talking with Camille. Dean did nothing but look out the window. Then when everybody left, Dean merely looked at Camille, pointed at his wrist, made the sign "four" (meaning he’d be-back at four), and went out. At three the door was locked to-Roy Johnson. At four it was opened to Dean. I wanted to go-right out and see the madman. Also he had promised to fix me up; he knew all the girls in Denver. (I.7.13)

    Sal idolizes Dean’s interactions with women, looking to Dean for help in his own sex life.

    Major found our hurrying troubles amusing. He’d come to Denver to write leisurely. He treated Dean with extreme deference. Dean paid no attention. Major talked to Dean like this: "Moriarty, what’s this I hear about you sleeping with three girls at the same time?" And Dean shuffled on the rug and said, "Oh yes, oh yes, that’s the way it goes," and looked at his watch, and Major snuffed down his nose. I felt sheepish rushing off with Dean - Major insisted he was a moron and a fool. Of course he wasn’t, and I wanted to prove it to everybody somehow. (I.8.3)

    Sal’s defense of Dean isn’t about friendship, but rather about his own need to preserve the flawless, heroic picture of Dean that he has in his mind.

    In a last-minute phone call Dean said he and Carlo might join me on the Coast; I pondered this, and realized I hadn’t talked to Dean for more than five minutes in the whole time. (I.10.15)

    Dean’s mad and frantic nature prevents Sal from getting truly close to him.

    There were five cousins in all, and every one of them was nice. They seemed to belong to the side of Terry’s family that didn’t fuss off like her brother. But I loved that wild Rickey. He swore he was coming to New York to join me. I pictured him in New York, putting off everything till mañana. He was drunk in a field someplace that day. (I.13.47)

    As readers, we are able to draw a distinction between what Sal admires in characters like Dean and Rickey, and what he is actually able to imitate himself.

    Ed Dunkel was a tall, calm, unthinking fellow who was completely ready to do anything Dean asked him; and at this time Dean was too busy for scruples. (II.1.12)

    Ed idolizes Dean in much the same way that Sal does.

    "Ah now, man," said Dean, "I’ve been digging you for years about the home and marriage and all those fine wonderful things about your soul." It was a sad night; it was also a merry night. In Philadelphia we went into a lunchcart and ate hamburgers with our last food dollar. (II.2.3)

    While Sal has been openly idolizing Dean for much of the novel, we are interested to see that, in some ways, Dean has idolized aspects of Sal that he himself is unable to emulate.

    "I don’t know," he said. "I just go along. I dig life." He repeated it, following Dean’s line. He had no direction. He sat reminiscing about that night in Chicago and the hot coffee cakes in the lonely room. (II.4.5)

    Sal recognizes that Ed idolizes Dean, but fails to make the connection to his own idolatry.

    Then Marylou began making love to me; she said Dean was going to stay with Camille and she wanted me to go with her. "Come back to San Francisco with us. We’ll live together. I’ll be a good girl for you." But I knew Dean loved Marylou, and I also knew Marylou was doing this to make Lucille jealous, and I wanted nothing of it. Still and all, I licked my lips for the luscious blonde. When Lucille saw Marylou pushing me into the corners and giving me the word and forcing kisses on me she accepted Dean’s invitation to go out in the car; but they just talked and drank some of the Southern moonshine I left in the compartment. Everything was being mixed up, and all was falling. I knew my affair with Lucille wouldn’t last much longer. She wanted me to be her way. She was married to a longshoreman who treated her badly. I was willing to marry her and take her baby daughter and all if she divorced the husband; but there wasn’t even enough money to get a divorce and the whole thing was hopeless, besides which Lucille would never understand me because I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. (II.4.14)

    Sal believes that his own idolatry of "mad" characters is a defining quality for him – so much so that he is unable to marry a woman that doesn’t understand this aspect of him.

    Damion came. Damion is the hero of my New York gang, as Dean is the chief hero of the Western. They immediately took a dislike to each other. (II.4.15)

    Sal seems to establish certain types of characters: followers, such as he and Ed, and leaders, such as Damion and Dean.

    Dean stood before him with head bowed, repeating over and over again, "Yes . . . Yes . . . Yes." He took me into a corner. "That Roll Greb is the greatest, most wonderful of all. That’s what I was trying to tell you - that’s what I want to be. I want to be like him. He’s never hung-up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth. Man, he’s the end! You see, if you go like him all the time you’ll finally get it." (II.4.15)

    Dean idolizes Rollo the way that Sal idolizes Dean. Interestingly, both relationships are based on madness and motion.

    He made Marylou sit on his lap and commanded her to subside. He told Dean, "Why don’t you just sit down and relax? Why do you jump around so much?» Dean ran around, putting sugar in his coffee and saying, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" At night Ed Dunkel slept on the floor on cushions, Dean and Marylou pushed Carlo out of bed, and Carlo sat up in the kitchen over his kidney stew, mumbling the predictions of the rock. I came in days and watched everything. (II.5.3)

    Sal is enticed by the life of madness (and therefore enjoys watching), but is too afraid of the consequences to partake himself.

    Where was his father? - old bum Dean Moriarty the Tinsmith, riding freights, working as a scullion in railroad cookshacks, stumbling, down-crashing in wino alley nights, expiring on coal piles, dropping his yellowed teeth one by one in the gutters of the West. Dean had every right to die the sweet deaths of complete love of his Marylou-1 didn’t want to interfere, I just wanted to follow. (II.5.14).

    Sal is unwilling to sleep with Marylou because of his idolatry of Dean.

    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. (II.10.1)

    Sal’s rejection by Dean is made more poignant by his idolatry of Dean; he has been abandoned by his hero.

    Down at 23rd and Welton a softball game was going on under floodlights which also illuminated the gas tank. A great eager crowd roared at every play. The strange young heroes of all kinds, white, colored, Mexican, pure Indian, were on the field, performing with heart-breaking seriousness. Just sandlot kids in uniform. Never in my life as an athlete had I ever permitted myself to perform like this in front of families and girl friends and kids of the neighborhood, at night, under lights; always it had been college, big-time, sober-faced; no boyish, human joy like this. Now it was too late. (III.1.4)

    Sal envies and idolizes the young boys in much the same way that he idolizes Dean. What he finds so admirable, in both cases, is fearlessness and recklessness.

    "Eh?" he said. "Eh? Eh?" We racked our brains for where to go and what to do. I realized it was up to me. Poor, poor Dean - the devil himself had never fallen farther; in idiocy, with infected thumb, surrounded by the battered suitcases of his motherless feverish life across America and back numberless times, an undone bird. "Let’s walk to New York," he said, "and as we do so let’s take stock of everything along the way - yass." I took out my money and counted it; I showed it to him. (III.2.18)

    Sal tries to reverse their roles – to call the shots himself and have Dean follow. Yet shortly after his declaration of control, Dean makes the call and Sal silently complies.

    "Why yass," said Dean, and then realized I was serious and looked at me out of the corner of his eye for the first time, for I’d never committed myself before with regard to his burdensome existence, and that look was the look of a man weighing his chances at the last moment before the bet. There were triumph and insolence in his eyes, a devilish look, and he never took his eyes off mine for a long time. I looked back at him and blushed.

    I said, "What’s the matter?" I felt wretched when I asked it. He made no answer but continued looking at me with the same wary insolent side-eye.

    I tried to remember everything he’d done in his life and if there wasn’t something back there to make him suspicious of something now. Resolutely and firmly I repeated what I said - "Come to New York with me; I’ve got the money." I looked at him; my eyes were watering with embarrassment and tears. Still he stared at me. Now his eyes were blank and looking through me. It was probably the pivotal point of our friendship when he realized I had actually spent some hours thinking about him and his troubles, and he was trying to place that in his tremendously involved and tormented mental categories. Something clicked in both of us. In me it was suddenly concern for a man who was years younger than I, five years, and whose fate was wound with mine across the passage of the recent years; in him it was a matter that I can ascertain only from what he did afterward. He became extremely joyful and said everything was settled. "What was that look?" I asked. He was pained to hear me say that. He frowned. It was rarely that Dean frowned. We both felt perplexed and uncertain of something. (III.2.22-III.2.24).

    It becomes clear to us that Dean was never aware of Sal’s idolatry of him. What is most interesting is Dean’s series of reactions to this news, as well as their enormous fight that follows.

    "Yes," I said, "let’s go to Italy." And so we picked up our bags, he the trunk with his one good arm and I the rest, and staggered to the cable-car stop; in a moment rolled down the hill with our legs dangling to the sidewalk from the jiggling shelf, two broken-down heroes of the Western night. (III.2.26)

    Having declared greater authority, and having traveled to deserve it, Sal now gives himself the title bestowed earlier only on Dean: Hero of the West.

    The people in the back seat sighed with relief. I heard them -whispering mutiny. "We can’t let him drive any more, he’s absolutely crazy, they must have let him out of an asylum or something."

    I rose to Dean’s defense and leaned back to talk to them. "He’s not crazy, he’ll be all right, and don’t worry about his driving, he’s the best in the world." (III.5.8, III.5.9)

    When Sal defends Dean, it is as a close friend, rather than as an idol.

    "See? See?" whispered Dean in my ear. "He doesn’t drink any more and he used to be the biggest whiskyleg in town, he’s got religion now, he told me over the phone, dig him,-dig the change in a man - my hero has become so strange." Sam Brady was suspicious of his young cousin. He took us out for a spin in his old rattly coupe and immediately he made his position clear in regard to Dean. (III.6.28)

    Dean’s remark "my hero has become so strange" carries interesting weight later, when Sal looks at Dean and his evolution over the course of their journeys.

    "He just went for gas. He’ll be right back." I cut down to the corner and watched Dean as he kept the motor running for the waitress, who had been changing in her hotel room; in fact I could see her from where I stood, in front of her mirror, primping and fixing her silk stockings, and I wished I could go along with them. She came running out and jumped in the Cadillac. I wandered back to reassure the travel-bureau boss and the passengers. From where I stood in the door I saw a faint flash of the Cadillac crossing Cleveland Place with Dean, T-shirted and joyous, fluttering his hands and talking to the girl and hunching over the wheel to go as she sat sadly and proudly beside him. (III.8.8)

    Sal watches Dean’s sexual activities from afar, just as he covets Dean’s madness and holiness from a distance.

    I was getting ready to go to Mexico when suddenly Denver Doll called me one night and said, "Well, Sal, guess who’s coming to Denver?" I had no idea. "He’s on his way already, I got this news from my grapevine. Dean bought a car and is coming out to join you." Suddenly I had a vision of Dean, a burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain, bearing down on me. I saw his huge face over the plains with the mad, bony purpose and the gleaming eyes; I saw his wings; I saw his old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparking flames shooting out from it; I saw the path it burned over the road; it even made its own road and went over the corn, through cities, destroying bridges, drying rivers. It came like wrath to the West. I knew Dean had gone mad again. There was no chance to send money to either wife if he took all his savings out of the bank and bought a car. Everything was up, the jig and all. Behind him charred ruins smoked. He rushed westward over the groaning and awful continent again, and soon he would arrive. We made hasty preparations for Dean. News was that he was going to drive me to Mexico. (IV.2.17)

    Once Sal’s hero, Dean has now taken on darker tones, pursuing Sal like the Shrouded Traveler (interpreted as death) from Sal’s vision.

    "Do you think he’ll let me come along?" asked Stan in awe.

    "I’ll talk to him," I said grimly. We didn’t know what to expect. "Where will he sleep? What’s he going to eat? Are there any girls for him?" It was like the imminent arrival of Gargantuan preparations had to be made to widen the gutters of Denver and foreshorten certain laws to fit his suffering bulk and bursting ecstasies. (IV.2.18, IV.2.19)

    Stan treats Dean with all the deference of an idol or a god.

    "All that again, good buddy. Gotta get back to my life. Wish I could stay with you. Pray I can come back." I grabbed the cramps in my belly and groaned. When I looked up again bold noble Dean was standing with his old broken trunk and looking down at me. I didn’t know who he was any more, and he knew this, and sympathized, and pulled the blanket over my shoulders. "Yes, yes, yes, I’ve got to go now.

    "Old fever Sal, good-by." And he was gone. Twelve hours later in my sorrowful fever I finally came to understand that he was gone. By that time he was driving back alone through those banana mountains, this time at night.

    When I got better I realized what a rat he was, but then I had to understand the impossible complexity of his life, how he had to leave me there, sick, to get on with his wives and woes. "Okay, old Dean, I’ll say nothing." (IV.6.30-IV.6.32)

    Sal’s hero once again abandons him, yet Sal does not pass judgment.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    The whole mad swirl of everything that was to come began then; it would mix up all my friends and all I had left of my family in a big dust cloud over the American Night. Carlo told him of Old Bull Lee, Elmer Hassel, Jane: Lee in Texas growing weed, Hassel on Riker’s Island, Jane wandering on Times Square in a Benzedrine hallucination, with her baby girl in her arms and ending up in Bellevue. And Dean told Carlo of unknown people in the West like Tommy Snark, the clubfooted pool hall rotation shark and card player and queer saint. He told him of Roy Johnson, Big Ed Dunkel, his boyhood buddies, his street buddies, his innumerable girls and sex-parties and pornographic pictures, his heroes, heroines, adventures. (I.1.12)

    Sal’s associations with drugs are only through his friends; he doesn’t seem to discuss the two things separately.

    "You got any money?" he said to me.

    "Hell no, maybe enough for a pint of whisky till I get to Denver. What about you?" (I.4.10, I.4.11)

    Sal prioritizes alcohol over food, which may explain his frequent bouts of hunger.

    Montana Slim was asleep. He woke up and said to me,’ "Hey, Blackie, how about you and me investigatin’ Cheyenne together tonight before you go to Denver?"

    "Sure thing." I was drunk enough to go for anything. (I.4.8, I.4.9)

    Sal’s persona approaches that of Dean as he gets drunk – wilder and more reckless.

    First we milled with all the cowboy-dudded tourists and oilmen and ranchers, at bars, in doorways, on the sidewalk; then for a while I shook Slim, who was wandering a little slaphappy in the street from all the whisky and beer: he was that kind of drinker; his eyes got glazed, and in a minute he’d be telling an absolute stranger about things. (I.5.1)

    Sal characterizes people by the way people drink.

    It was a war with social overtones. Dean was the son of a wino, one of the most tottering bums of Larimer Street, and Dean had in fact been brought up generally on Larimer Street and thereabouts.

    He used to plead in court at the age of six to have his father set free. He used to beg in front of Larimer alleys and sneak the money back to his father, who waited among the broken bottles with an old buddy. Then when Dean grew up he began hanging around the Glenarm pool-halls; he set a Denver record for stealing cars and went to the reformatory. From the age of eleven to seventeen he was usually in reform school. His specialty was stealing cars, gunning for girls coming out of high school in the afternoon, driving them out to the mountains, making them, and coming back to sleep in any available hotel bathtub in town. His father, once a respectable and hardworking tinsmith, had become a wine alcoholic, which is worse than a whisky alcoholic, and was reduced to riding freights to Texas in the winter and back to Denver in the summer. Dean had brothers on his dead mother’s side - she died when he was small - but they disliked him. Dean’s only buddies were the poolhall boys. Dean, who had the tremendous energy of a new kind of American saint, and Carlo were the underground monsters of that season in Denver, together with the poolhall gang, and, symbolizing this most beautifully, Carlo had a basement apartment on Grant Street and we all met there many a night that went to dawn - Carlo, Dean, myself, Tom Snark, Ed Dunkel, and Roy Johnson. More of these others later. (I.6.5)

    Although many of his friends drink, certain types of alcohol abuse become a mark of lower classes, a reason for being ostracized.

    "Dean and I are embarked on a tremendous season together. We’re trying to communicate with absolute honesty and absolute completeness everything on our minds. We’ve had to take Benzedrine. We sit on the bed, crosslegged, facing each other. I have finally taught Dean that he can do anything he wants, become mayor of Denver, marry a millionairess, or become the greatest poet since Rimbaud. But he keeps rushing out to see the midget auto races. I go with him. He jumps and yells, excited. You know, Sal, Dean is really hung-up on things like that." Marx said "Hmm" in his soul and thought about this. (I.7.10)

    Just like Bull and Jane, Carlo believes in using drugs for the specific purpose of gaining knowledge or insight.

    And I went to all the doors in this manner, and pretty soon I was as drunk as anybody else. Come dawn, it was my duty to put up the American flag on a sixty-foot pole, and this morning I put it up upside down and went home to bed. When I came back in the evening the regular cops were sitting around grimly in the office. (I.11.31)

    Kerouac uses alcohol to contrast Sal with the cops.

    I forgave everybody, I gave up, I got drunk. I began talking moonshine and roses to the doctor’s young wife. I drank so much I had to go to the men’s room every two minutes, and to do so I had to hop over Dr. Boncœur’s lap. Everything was falling apart. My stay in San Francisco was coming to an end. Remi would never talk to me again. It was horrible because I really loved Remi and I was one of the very few people in the world who knew what a genuine and grand fellow he was. It would take years for him to get over it. How disastrous all this was compared to what I’d written him from Paterson, planning my red line Route 6 across America. (I.11.96)

    Sal’s repeated line "everything was falling apart" is tied to his use of alcohol.

    couple of N**** characters whispered in my ear about tea. One buck. I said okay, bring it. The connection came in and motioned me to the cellar toilet, where I stood around dumbly as he said, "Pick up, man, pick up."

    "Pick up what?" I said.

    He had my dollar already. He was afraid to point at the floor. It was no floor, just basement. There lay something that looked like a little brown turd. He was absurdly cautious. "Got to look out for myself, things ain’t cool this past week." I picked up the turd, which was a brown-paper cigarette, and went back to Terry, and off we went to the hotel room to get high. Nothing happened. It was Bull Durham tobacco. I wished I was wiser with my money. (I.13.5-I.13.7).

    Sal’s drug habits and his money problems seem to be related.

    I was beginning to despair. What I needed - what Terry needed, too - was a drink, so we bought a quart of California port for thirty-five cents and went to the railroad yards to drink. We found a place where hobos had drawn up crates to sit over fires. We sat there and drank the wine. (I.13.11)

    Although Sal drinks when times are good, he also uses alcohol as a crutch when times are bad.

    Rickey had a bottle. "Today we drink, tomorrow we work. Dah you go, man - take a shot!" Terry sat in back with her baby; I looked back at her and saw the flush of homecoming joy on her face. The beautiful green countryside of October in California reeled by madly. I was guts and juice again and ready to go. "Where do we go now, man?" (I.13.16)

    Sal allows many people, not just Dean, to sway him into drinking.

    "What we need is a drink!" yelled Rickey, and off we went to a crossroads saloon. Americans are always drinking in crossroads saloons on Sunday afternoon; they bring their kids; they gabble and brawl over brews; everything’s fine. Come nightfall the kids start crying and the parents are drunk. They go weaving back to the house. Everywhere in America I’ve been in crossroads saloons drinking with dull; whole families. The kids eat popcorn and chips and play in back. This we did. (I.13.19)

    Sal characterizes America in many ways, and alcohol is one lens through which he views the country.

    It was a rainy night. It was the myth of the rainy night. Dean was popeyed with awe. This madness would lead nowhere. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I suddenly realized it was only the tea that we were smoking; Dean had bought some in New York. It made me think that everything was about to arrive - the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever. (II.4.18)

    Although Sal recognizes in Dean a constant and consistent madness, he chalks up his own momentary madness to drugs or alcohol.

    That was the way we greeted each other after four years; Jane used to live with my wife and me in New York. "And is Galatea Dunkel here?" I asked. Jane was still looking for her fire; in those days she ate three tubes of Benzedrine paper a day. Her face, once plump and Germanic and pretty, had become stony and red and gaunt. She had caught polio in New Orleans and limped a little. (II.6.30)

    Sal does recognize the detrimental effects of drugs on his friends.

    Poor Bull came home in his Texas Chevy and found his house invaded by maniacs; but he greeted me with a nice warmth I hadn’t seen in him for a long time. He had bought this house in New Orleans with some money he had made growing black-eyed peas in Texas with an old college schoolmate whose father, a mad-paretic, had died and left a fortune. Bull himself only got fifty dollars a week from his own family, which wasn’t too bad except that he spent almost that much per week on his drug habit - and his wife was also expensive, gobbling up about ten dollars’ worth of benny tubes a week. Their food bill was the lowest in the country; they hardly ever ate; nor did the children - they didn’t seem to care. (II.6.32)

    Drug use isn’t related to money problems for Sal alone, but for Jane and Bull Lee as well.

    Bull had a sentimental streak about the old days m America, especially 1910, when you could get morphine in a drugstore without prescription and Chinese smoked opium in their evening windows and the country was wild and brawling and free, with abundance and any kind of freedom for everyone. His chief hate was Washington bureaucracy; second to that, liberals; then cops. (II.6.35)

    We see that drugs are a lens through which to view and characterize America, as well as America’s changes over time.

    We hit all the dull bars in the French Quarter with Old Bull and went back home at midnight. That night Marylou took everything in the books; she took tea, goofballs, benny, liquor, and even asked Old Bull for a shot of M, which of course he didn’t give her; he did give her a martini. She was so saturated with elements of all kinds that she came to a standstill and stood goofy on the porch with me. It was a wonderful porch Bull had. It ran clear around the house; by moonlight with the willows it looked like an old Southern mansion that had seen better days. In the house Jane sat reading the want ads in the living room; Bull was in the bathroom taking his fix, clutching his old black necktie in his teeth for a tourniquet and jabbing with the needle into his woesome arm with the thousand holes; Ed Dunkel was sprawled out with Galatea in the massive master bed that Old Bull and Jane never used; Dean was rolling tea; and Marylou and I imitated Southern aristocracy. (II.6.43)

    Sal’s visit with Bull and Jane Lee becomes the epitome of alcohol and drug abuse in the novel.

    It was early in the morning; his energy was at its peak. The poor fellow took so much junk into his system he could only weather the greater proportion of his day in that chair with the lamp burning at noon, but in the morning he was magnificent. (II.7.3)

    Sal recognizes the highs and lows of drug use in Bull Lee.

    Suddenly he grew tired and quiet and went in the house and disappeared in the bathroom for his pre-lunch fix. He came out glassy-eyed and calm, and sat down under his burning lamp. (II.7.7)

    Bull Lee’s drug use reflects a habit and a need that neither Sal’s nor Dean’s ever does.

    We told Jane about it. She sniffed. "It sounds silly to me." She plied the broom around the kitchen. Bull went in the bathroom for his afternoon fix. (II.7.15)

    Bull Lee’s drug use is a serious addiction.

    "I got hung-up myself - 1 gunned shopping women in the afternoon, right here, downtown, supermarkets" - we flashed by in the empty night – "and found a real gone dumb girl who was out of her mind and just wandering, trying to steal an orange. She was from Wyoming. Her beautiful body was matched only by her idiot mind. I found her babbling and took her back to the room. Bull was drunk trying to get this young Mexican kid drunk. Carlo was writing poetry on heroin. Hassel didn’t show up till midnight at the jeep. We found him sleeping in the back seat. The ice was all melted. Hassel said he took about five sleeping pills. Man, if my memory could only serve me right the way my mind works I could tell you every detail of the things we did. Ah, but we know time. Everything takes care of itself. I could close my eyes and this old car would take care of itself." (II.8.9)

    Dean, like Sal, ties up drug use with his friends.

    Finally he got hold of some bad green, as it’s called in the trade - green, uncured marijuana - quite by mistake, and smoked too much of it.

    "The first day," he said, "I lay rigid as a board in bed and couldn’t move or say a word; I just looked straight up with my eyes open wide. I could hear buzzing in my head and saw all kinds of wonderful technicolor visions and felt wonderful. The second day everything came to me, EVERYTHING I’d ever done or known or read or heard of or conjectured came to me and rearranged itself in my mind in a brand-new logical way and because I could think of nothing else in the interior concerns of holding and catering to the amazement and gratitude I felt, I kept saying, ’Yes, yes, yes, yes.’ Not loud. Yes,’ real quiet, and these green tea visions lasted until the third day. I had understood everything by then, my life was decided, I knew I loved Marylou, I knew I had to find my father wherever he is and save him, I knew you were buddy et cetera, I knew how great Carlo is. I knew a thousand things about everybody everywhere. Then the third day began having a terrible series of waking nightmares, and the were so absolutely horrible and grisly and green that I lay there doubled up with my hands around my knees, saying, ’Oh, oh, oh, ah, oh . . .’ The neighbors heard me and sent for a doctor. Camille was away with the baby, visiting hot folks. The whole neighborhood was concerned. They came in and found me lying on the bed with my arms stretched out forever. Sal, I ran to Marylou with some of that tea. And do you know that the same thing happened to that dumb little box? - the same visions, the same logic, the same final decision about everything, the view of all truths in one painful In leading to nightmares and pain - ack! Then I knew I loved her so much I wanted to kill her. I ran home and beat my head on the wall [...] came back in an hour, I barged in, she was alone - and gave her the gun and told her to kill me. She held the gun in her hand the longest time. I asked her for a sweet dead pact. She didn’t want. I said one of us had to die. She said no. I beat my head on the wall. Man, I was out of my mind. She’ll tell you, she talked me out of it." (III.2.5, III.2.6)

    Dean’s experience with "bad green" highlights the physical dangers of his drug use, and his own repeated flirtations with death.

    "See? See?" whispered Dean in my ear. "He doesn’t drink any more and he used to be the biggest whiskyleg in town, he’s got religion now, he told me over the phone, dig him,- dig the change in a man - my hero has become so strange." Sam Brady was suspicious of his young cousin. He took us out for a spin in his old rattly coupe and immediately he made his position clear in regard to Dean. (III.6.28)

    Through the character Sam Brady, we see that some people managed to move past alcohol and drugs.

    As the cab honked outside and the kids cried and the dogs barked and Dean danced with Frankie I yelled every conceivable curse I could think over that phone and added all kinds of new ones, and in my drunken frenzy I told everybody over the phone to go to hell and slammed it down and went out to get drunk. (III.7.13)

    Sal uses alcohol as a crutch when his life is going badly.

    He was reduced to simple pleasures like these. He lived with Inez in a cold water flat in the East Eighties. When he came home at night he took off all his clothes and put on a hip-length Chinese silk jacket and sat in his easy chair to smoke a water pipe loaded with tea. These were his coming-home pleasures, together with a deck of dirty cards. (IV.1.2)

    Dean’s drug use evolves from a frenetic pace to a calming activity.

    Remember that the Windsor, once Denver’s great Gold Rush’ hotel and in many respects a point of interest - in the big saloon downstairs bullet holes are still in the walls - had once been Dean’s home. He’d lived here with his father in one of the rooms upstairs. He was no tourist. He drank in his saloon like the ghost of his father; he slopped down wine, beer, and whisky like water. His face got red and sweaty and he bellowed and hollered at the bar and staggered across the dance-floor where honkytonkers of the West danced with girls and tried to play the piano, and he threw his arms around ex-cons and shouted with them in the uproar.[...] In the men’s room Dean and I punched the door and tried to break it but it was an inch thick. I cracked a bone in my middle finger and didn’t even realize it till the next day. We were fumingly drunk. Fifty glasses of beer sat on our tables at one time. All you had to do was rush around and sip from each one. Canyon City ex-cons reeled and gabbled with us. In the foyer outside the saloon old former prospectors sat dreaming over their canes under the tocking old clock. This fury had been known by them in greater days. Everything swirled. There were scattered parties everywhere. There was even a party in a castle to which we all drove - except Dean, who ran off elsewhere - and in this castle we sat at a great table in the hall and shouted. There were a swimming pool and grottoes outside. I had finally found the castle where the great snake of the world was about to rise up. (IV.3.13)

    Sal and Dean’s frenetic activities and frantic pace are enhanced by their use of alcohol.

    Presently Victor’s tall brother came ambling along with some weed piled on a page of newspaper. He dumped it on Victor’s lap and leaned casually on the door of the car to nod and smile at us and say, "Hallo." Dean nodded and smiled pleasantly at him. Nobody talked; it was fine. Victor proceeded to roll the biggest bomber anybody ever saw. He rolled (using brown bag paper) what amounted to a tremendous Corona cigar of tea. It was huge. Dean stared at it, popeyed. Victor casually lit it and passed it around. To drag on this thing was like leaning over a chimney and inhaling. It blew into your throat in one great blast of heat. We held our breaths and all let out just about simultaneously. Instantly we were all high. The sweat froze on our foreheads and it was suddenly like the beach at Acapulco. I looked out the back window of the car, and another and the strangest of Victor’s brothers - a tall Peruvian of an Indian with a sash over his shoulder - leaned grinning on a post, too bashful to come up and shake hands. It seemed the car was surrounded by brothers, for another one appeared on Dean’s side. Then the strangest thing happened. Everybody became so high that usual formalities were dispensed with and the things of immediate interest were concentrated on, and now it was the strangeness of Americans and Mexicans blasting together on the desert and, more than that, the strangeness of seeing in close proximity the faces and pores of skins and calluses of fingers and general abashed cheekbones of another world. So the Indian brothers began talking about us in low voices and commenting; you saw them look, and size, and compare mutualities of impression, or correct and modify, "Yeh, yeh", while Dean and Stan and I commented on them in English.(IV.5.32)

    Sal and Dean’s drug use takes on a different form in Mexico – greater in intensity and lacking the frenzy and dependence of their use in America. It is interesting to see how these different uses might reflect Sal’s visions of the countries.

    For a mad moment I thought Dean was understanding everything he said by sheer wild insight and sudden revelatory genius inconceivably inspired by his glowing happiness. In that moment, too, he looked so exactly like Franklin Delano Roosevelt - some delusion in my flaming eyes and floating brain - that I drew up in my seat and gasped with amazement. In myriad pricklings of heavenly radiation I had to struggle to see Dean’s figure, and he looked like God. I was so high I had to lean my head back on the seat; the bouncing of the car sent shivers of ecstasy through me. The mere thought of looking out the window at Mexico - which was now something else in my mind - was like recoiling from some gloriously riddled glittering treasure-box that you’re afraid to look at because of your eyes, they bend inward, the riches and the treasures are too much to take all at once. I gulped. I saw streams of gold pouring through the sky and right across the tattered roof of the poor old car, right across my eyeballs and indeed right inside them; it was everywhere. I looked out the window at the hot, sunny streets and saw a woman in a doorway and I thought she was listening to every word we said and nodding to herself - routine paranoiac visions due to tea. But the stream of gold continued. For a long time I lost consciousness in my lower mind of what we were doing and only came around sometime later when I looked up from fire and silence like waking from sleep to the world, or waking from void to a dream, and they told me we were parked outside Victor’s house and he was already at the door of the car with his little baby son in his arms, showing him to us. (IV.5.40)

    Sal makes Dean into a hero indirectly when he’s sober, but when they get high together, his visions take on a whole new level of idolatry.

    Dean’s pretty Venezuelan dragged me through a door and into another strange bar that apparently belonged to the whorehouse. Here a young bartender was talking and wiping glasses and an old man with handlebar mustache sat discussing something earnestly. And here too the mambo roared over another loud speaker. It seemed the whole world was turned on. Venezuela clung about my neck and begged for drinks. The bartender wouldn’t give her one. She begged and begged, and when he gave it to her she spilled it and this time not on purpose, for I saw the chagrin in her poor sunken lost eyes. "Take it easy, baby," I told her. I had to support her on the stool; she kept slipping off. I’ve never seen a drunker woman, and only eighteen. I bought her another drink; she was tugging at my pants for mercy. She gulped it up. I didn’t have the heart to try her. My own girl was about thirty and took care of herself better. With Venezuela writhing and suffering in my arms, I had a longing to take her in the back and undress her and only talk to her - this I told myself. (IV.5.47).

    Sal characterizes women’s use of alcohol differently than men’s.

    We staggered out; we had forgotten Stan; we ran back in to get him and found him charmingly bowing to the new evening whores, who had just come in for night shift. He wanted to start all over again. When he is drunk he lumbers like a man ten feet tall and when he is drunk he can’t be dragged away from women. Moreover women cling to him like ivy. He insisted on staying and trying some of the newer, stranger, more proficient senoritas. Dean and I pounded him on the back and dragged him out. He waved profuse good-bys to everybody - the girls, the cops, the crowds, the children in the street outside; he blew kisses in all directions to ovations of Gregoria and staggered proudly among the gangs and tried to speak to them and communicate his joy and love of everything this fine afternoon of life. (IV.5.53)

    Sal uses the way people drink as a means to understanding their character.

  • Sex

    Dean had dispatched the occupant of the apartment to the kitchen, probably to make coffee, while he proceeded with his love problems, for to him sex was the one and only holy and important thing in life, although he had to sweat and curse to make a living and so on. (I.1.4)

    Sal immediately presents Dean’s sexual desires as the core of his personality.

    Dean got up nervously, paced around, thinking, and decided the thing to do was to have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor. "In other words we’ve got to get on the ball, darling, what I’m saying, otherwise it’ll be fluctuating and lack of true knowledge or crystallization of our plans." Then I went away. (I.1.4)

    Dean constricts the women in his life to certain gender roles.

    "And where’s Marylou?" I asked, and Dean said she’d apparently whored a few dollars together and gone back to Denver - "the whore!" (I.1.6)

    Though Marylou behaves the same way the men do, they call her a "whore" for her actions.

    Along about three in the afternoon, after an apple pie and ice cream in a roadside stand, a woman stopped for me in a little coupe. I had a twinge of hard joy as I ran after the car. But she was a middle-aged woman, actually the mother of sons my age, and wanted somebody to help her drive to Iowa. (I.2.2)

    Sal’s first thought when he sees any woman is sex.

    There were the most beautiful bevies of girls everywhere I looked in Des Moines that afternoon - they were coming home from high school - but I had no time now for thoughts like that and promised myself a ball in Denver...So I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines. (I.3.7)

    Sal and Dean are both attracted to very young girls.

    I went into a chili joint and the waitress was Mexican and beautiful. I ate, and then I wrote her a little love note on the back of the bill. The chili joint was deserted; everybody was somewhere else, drinking. I told her to turn the bill over. She read it and laughed. It was a little poem about how I wanted her to come and see the night with me.

    "I’d love to, Chiquito, but I have a date with my boy friend."

    "Can’t you shake him?"

    "No, no, I don’t," she said sadly, and I loved the way she said it. (I.5.1-I.5.4)

    Sal finds something to love in every girl he meets.

    We picked up two girls, a pretty young blonde and a fat brunette. They were dumb and sullen, but we wanted to make them. We took them to a rickety nightclub that was already closing, and there I spent all but two dollars on Scotches for them and beer for us. I was getting drunk and didn’t care; everything was fine. My whole being and purpose was pointed at the little blonde. I wanted to go in there with all my strength. I hugged her and wanted to tell her. (I.5.6)

    The closest Sal comes to madness is when he is with women.

    Incidentally, a very beautiful Colorado gal shook me that cream; she was all smiles too; I was grateful, it made up for last night. I said to myself, Wow! What’ll Denver be like! (I.5.15)

    Sal sees beauty and sex in virtually every woman he meets.

    "The schedule is this: I came off work a half-hour ago. In that time Dean is balling Marylou at the hotel and gives me time to change and dress. At one sharp he rushes from Marylou to Camille - of course neither one of them knows what’s going on - and bangs her once, giving me time to arrive at one-thirty. Then he comes out with me - first he has to beg with Camille, who’s already started hating me - and we come here to talk till six in the morning. We usually spend more time than that, but it’s getting awfully complicated and he’s pressed for time. Then at six he goes back to Marylou - and he’s going to spend all day tomorrow running around to get the necessary papers for their divorce. Marylou’s all for it, but she insists on banging in the interim. She says she loves him - so does Camille." (I.7.12)

    Despite his poor treatment of them, women clearly find something appealing about Dean.

    We went up carpeted stairs. Carlo knocked; then he darted to the back to hide; he didn’t want Camille to see him. I stood in the door. Dean opened it stark naked. I saw a brunette on the bed, one beautiful creamy thigh covered with black lace, look up with mild wonder. (I.7.14)

    Dean has no bashfulness when it comes to sex.

    Off we rushed into the night; Carlo joined us in an alley. And we proceeded down the narrowest, strangest, and most crooked little city street I’ve ever seen, deep in the heart of Denver Mexican- town. We talked in loud voices in the sleeping stillness. "Sal," said Dean, "I have just the girl waiting for you at this very minute - if she’s off duty" (looking at his watch). "A waitress, Rita Bettencourt, fine chick, slightly hung-up on a few sexual difficulties which I’ve tried to straighten up and I think you can manage, you fine gone daddy you. So we’ll go there at once - we must bring beer, no, they have some themselves, and damn!" he said socking his palm. "I’ve just got to get into her sister Mary tonight."(I.7.20)

    Just as Dean’s madness draws Sal in, so does his sexual prowess and, more importantly, his ability to obtain sex for Sal.

    We got to the house where the waitress sisters lived. The one for me was still working; the sister that Dean wanted was in. We sat down on her couch. I was scheduled at this time to call Ray Rawlins. I did. He came over at once. Coming into the door, he took off his shirt and undershirt and began hugging the absolute stranger, Mary Bettencourt. Bottles rolled on the floor. Three o’clock came. Dean rushed off for his hour of reverie with Camille. He was back on time. (I.7.28)

    Unlike Sal, Ray doesn’t hesitate when it comes to sex.

    Then I went to meet Rita Bettencourt and took her back to the apartment. I got her in my bedroom after a long talk in the dark of the front room. She was a nice little girl, simple and true, and tremendously frightened of sex. I told her it was beautiful. I wanted to prove this to her. She let me prove it, but I was too impatient and proved nothing. She sighed in the dark. "What do you want out of life?" I asked, and I used to ask that all the time of girls.

    "I don’t know," she said. "Just wait on tables and try to get along." She yawned. I put my hand over her mouth and told her not to yawn. I tried to tell her how excited I was about life and the things we could do together; saying that, and planning to leave Denver in two days. She turned away wearily. We lay on our backs, looking at the ceiling and wondering what God had wrought when He made life so sad. We made vague plans to meet in Frisco. (I.10.9, I.10.10).

    Sal looks for a woman with energy and verve, but is essentially unable to find what he wants: a female version of Dean.

    I wanted to go and get Rita again and tell her a lot more things, and really make love to her this time, and calm her fears about men. Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk - real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious. (I.10.11)

    While he seems to be interested in sex, it is not the act that Sal seeks, rather the emotional connection he hopes to obtain through it.

    The reason I’m going into everything that happened in San Fran is because it ties up with everything else all the way down the line. Remi Boncœur and I met at prep school years ago; but the thing that really linked us together was my former wife. Remi found her first. He came into my dorm room one night and said, "Paradise, get up, the old maestro has come to see you." I got up and dropped some pennies on the floor when I put my pants on. It was four in the afternoon; I used to sleep all the time in college. "All right, all right, don’t drop your gold all over the place. I have found the gonest little girl in the world and I am going straight to the Lion’s Den with her tonight." And he dragged me to meet her. A week later she was going with me. (I.11.4)

    Sal’s past actions toward Remi are surprisingly selfish, making him seem for a moment like Dean.

    When I found him in Mill City that morning he had fallen on the beat and evil days that come to young guys in their middle twenties. He was hanging around waiting for a ship, and to earn his living he had a job as a special guard in the barracks across the canyon. His girl Lee Ann had a bad tongue and gave him a calldown every day. They spent all week saving pennies and went out Saturdays to spend fifty bucks in three hours. Remi wore shorts around the shack, with a crazy Army cap on his head. Lee Ann went around with her hair up in pincurls. Thus attired, they yelled at each other all week. 1 never saw so many snarls in all my born days. But on Saturday night, smiling graciously at each other, they took off like a pair of successful Hollywood characters and went on the town. (I.11.6)

    There is a mad sort of logic in the relationships Sal encounters.

    I looked at Lee Ann. She was a fetching hunk, a honey-colored creature, but there was hate in her eyes for both of us. Her ambition was to marry a rich man. She came from a small town in Oregon. She rued the day she ever took up with Remi. On one of his big showoff weekends he spent a hundred dollars on her and she thought she’d found an heir. Instead she was hung-up in this shack, and for lack of anything else she had to stay there. She had a job in Frisco; she had to take the Greyhound bus at the crossroads and go in every day. She never forgave Remi for it. (I.11.11)

    In On the Road, woman and men are equally manipulative when it comes to sex and relationships.

    "Agreed!" I said. Remi ran to tell Lee Ann. I wanted to jump down from a mast and land right in her, but I kept my promise to Remi. I averted my eyes from her. (I.11.76)

    Unlike Dean when he leaves Sal in Mexico to return to Inez, Sal values friendship above sex.

    Meanwhile I began going to Frisco more often; I tried everything in the books to make a girl. I even spent a whole night with a girl on a park bench, till dawn, without success. She was a blonde from Minnesota. There were plenty of queers. Several times I went to San Fran with my gun and when a queer approached me in a bar John I took out the gun and said, "Eh? Eh? What’s that you say?" He bolted. I’ve never understood why I did that; I knew queers all over the country. It was just the loneliness of San Francisco and the fact that I had a gun. I had to show it to someone. I walked by a jewelry store and had the sudden impulse to shoot up the window, take out the finest rings and bracelets, and run to give them to Lee Ann. Then we could flee to Nevada together. (I.11.77)

    Sal sees women as a solution to his sexual restlessness, just as his travels on the road are a solution to his geographical restlessness.

    I spun around till I was dizzy; I thought I’d fall down as in a dream, clear off the precipice. Oh where is the girl I love? I thought, and looked everywhere, as I had looked everywhere in the little world below. And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded - at least that’s what I thought then. (I.11.102)

    Sal searches in vain for a woman to love, just as he searches in vain for a city to settle in.

    I had bought my ticket and was waiting for the LA bus when all of a sudden I saw the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks come cutting across my sight. She was in one of the buses that had just pulled in with a big sigh of airbrakes; it was discharging passengers for a rest stop. Her breasts stuck out straight and true; her little flanks looked delicious; her hair was long and lustrous black; and her eyes were great big blue things with timidities inside. I wished I was on her bus. A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world. The announcer called the LA bus. I picked up my bag and got on, and who should be sitting there alone but the Mexican girl. I dropped right opposite her and began scheming right off. I was so lonely, so sad, so tired, so quivering, so broken, so beat, that I got up my courage, the courage necessary to approach a strange girl, and acted. Even then I spent five minutes beating my thighs in the dark as the bus rolled down the road. (I.12.5)

    Sal confuses lust with love, declaring the latter every time he sees an attractive girl.

    "That’s where I’m going too!" I cried. "I’m very glad you let me sit with you, I was very lonely and I’ve been traveling a hell of a lot." And we settled down to telling our stories. Her story was this: She had a husband and child. The husband beat her, so she left him, back at Sabinal, south of Fresno, and was going to LA to live with her sister awhile. She left her little son with her family, who were grape-pickers and lived in a shack in the vineyards. She had nothing to do but brood and get mad. I felt like putting my arms around her right away. We talked and talked. She said she loved to talk with me. Pretty soon she was saying she wished she could go to New York too. "Maybe we could!" I laughed. The bus groaned up Grapevine Pass and then we were coming down into the great sprawls of light. Without coming to any particular agreement we began holding hands, and in the same way it was mutely and beautifully and purely decided that when I got my hotel room in LA she would be beside me. I ached all over for her; I leaned my head in her beautiful hair. Her little shoulders drove me mad; I hugged her and hugged her. And she loved it. "I love love," she said, closing her eyes. I promised her beautiful love. I gloated over her. Our stories were told; we subsided into silence and sweet anticipatory thoughts. It was as simple as that. You could have all your Peaches and Bettys and Marylous and Ritas and Camilles and Inezes in this world; this was my girl and my kind of girlsoul, and I told her that. She confessed she saw me watching her in the bus station. "I thought you was a nice college boy." (1.12.12, I.12.13)

    While Sal meets many women, it is only those who "love to talk" that really capture his interest.

    And here my mind went haywire, I don’t know why. I began getting the foolish paranoiac visions that Teresa, or Terry - her name - was a common little hustler who worked the buses for a guy’s bucks by making appointments like ours in LA where she brought the sucker first to a breakfast place, where her pimp waited, and then to a certain hotel to which he had access with his gun or his whatever. I never confessed this to her. We ate breakfast and a pimp kept watching us; I fancied Terry was making secret eyes at him. I was tired and felt strange and lost in a faraway, disgusting place. The goof of terror took over my thoughts and made me act petty and cheap. "Do you know that guy?" I said. (I.12.15)

    Sal is unable to recognize sexual happiness even when he finds it.

    "Six-foot redhead, hey? And I thought you was a nice college boy, I saw you in your lovely sweater and I said to myself, Hmm, ain’t he nice? No! And no! And no! You have to be a goddam pimp like all of them!"

    "What on earth are you talking about?"

    "Don’t stand there and tell me that six-foot redhead ain’t a madame, ‘cause I know a madame when I hear about one, and you, you’re just a pimp like all the rest I meet, everybody’s a pimp."

    "Listen, Terry, I am not a pimp. I swear to you on the Bible I am not a pimp. Why should I be a pimp? My only interest is you."

    "All the time I thought I met a nice boy. I was so glad, I hugged myself and said, Hmm, a real nice boy instead of a pimp." (I.12.20-I.12.24)

    Terry is only interested in Sal as the best-alternative, not as a genuine person. She "loves love," not Sal.

    "Terry," I pleaded with all my soul. "Please listen to me and understand, I’m not a pimp." An hour ago I’d thought she was a hustler. How sad it was. Our minds, with their store of madness, had diverged. O gruesome life, how I moaned and pleaded, and then I got mad and realized I was pleading with a dumb little Mexican wench and I told her so; and before I knew it I picked up her red pumps and hurled them at the bathroom door and told her to get out. "Go on, beat it!" I’d sleep and forget it; I had my own life, my own sad and ragged life forever. There was a dead silence in the bathroom. I took my clothes off and went to bed. (I.12.25)

    Sal lashes out at Terry the way he later lashes out at Dean. He is unable to allow himself to get truly close to someone.

    Terry came out with tears of sorriness in her eyes. In her simple and funny little mind had been decided the fact that a pimp does not throw a woman’s shoes against the door and does not tell her to get out. In reverent and sweet little silence she took all her clothes off and slipped her tiny body into the sheets with me. It was brown as grapes. I saw her poor belly where there was a Caesarian scar; her hips were so narrow she couldn’t bear a child without getting gashed open. Her legs were like little sticks. She was only four foot ten. I made love to her in the sweetness of the weary morning. Then, two tired angels of some kind, hung-up forlornly in an LA shelf, having found the closest and most delicious thing in life together, we fell asleep and slept till late afternoon. (I.12.26)

    Sal repeatedly describes sex as a holy act.

    The most beautiful little gone gals in the world cut by in slacks; they came to be starlets; they ended up in drive-ins. (I.13.3)

    Sal’s view of women follows its own mad logic: every group of girls he meets is "the most beautiful."

    With her pretty nose in the air she cut out of there and we wandered together in the dark up along the ditches of the highways. I carried the bags. We were breathing fogs in the cold night air. I finally decided to hide from the world one more night with her, and the morning be damned. We went into a motel court and bought a comfortable little suite for about four dollars - shower, bathtowels, wall radio, and all. We held each other tight. We had long, serious talks and took baths and discussed things with the light on and then with the light out. Something was being proved, I was convincing her of something, which she accepted, and we concluded the pact in the dark, breathless, then pleased, like little lambs. (I.13.10)

    Sal sees women as an escape, a way to "hide from the world."

    I huddled in the cold, rainy wind and watched everything across the sad vineyards of October in the valley. My mind was filled with that great song "Lover Man" as Billie Holiday sings it; I had my own concert in the bushes. "Someday we’ll meet, and you’ll dry all my tears, and whisper sweet, little things in my ear, hugging and a-kissing, oh what we’ve been missing, Lover Man, oh where can you be . . ." It’s not the words so much as their great harmonic tune and the way Billie sings it, like a woman stroking her man’s hair in soft lamplight. The winds howled. I got cold. (I.13.45)

    Sal relates music to sex, just as he relates music to madness.

    Nightfall came. Terry went home for supper and came to the barn at nine o’clock with delicious tortillas and mashed beans. I lit a woodfire on the cement floor of the barn to make light. We made love on the crates. Terry got up and cut right back to the shack. Her father was yelling at her; I could hear him from the barn. (I.13.49)

    Sal’s role with Terry is that of husband for a short amount of time. In this way, he treats his "wife" as recklessly as Dean treats his actual wives.

    "Yes, yes. We lay down one more time, then you leave." We went back to the barn; I made love to her under the tarantula. What was the tarantula doing? We slept awhile on the crates as the fire died. She went back at midnight; her father was drunk; I could hear him roaring; then there was silence as he fell asleep. The stars folded over the sleeping countryside. (I.13.55)

    Terry loves Sal in spite of his abandoning her, just as Dean’s mistreated wives love Dean.

    Terry brought my breakfast. I had my canvas bag all packed and ready to go to New York, as soon as I picked up my money in Sabinal. I knew it was waiting there for me by now. I told Terry I was leaving. She had been thinking about it all night and was resigned to it. Emotionlessly she kissed me in the vineyard and walked off down the row. We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel, and looked at each other for the last time. (I.13.61)

    Sal sees loss as an inherent aspect of love.

    I made the acquaintance of a girl and we necked all the way to Indianapolis. She was nearsighted. When we got off to eat I had to lead her by the hand to the lunch counter. She bought my meals; my sandwiches were all gone. In exchange I told her long stories. She was coming from Washington State, where she had spent the summer picking apples. Her home was on an upstate New York farm. She invited me to come there. We made a date to meet at a New York hotel anyway. She got off at Columbus, Ohio, and I slept all the way to Pittsburgh. (I.14.2)

    Sal shows no remorse at having left Terry, moving on in his sexual life immediately.

    Big tall Ed Dunkel also worked on the railroad. He and Dean had just been laid off during a seniority lapse because of a drastic reduction of crews. Ed had met a girl called Galatea who was living in San Francisco on her savings. These two mindless cads decided to bring the girl along to the East and have her foot the bill. Ed cajoled and pleaded; she wouldn’t go unless he married her. In a whirlwind few days Ed Dunkel married Galatea, with Dean rushing around to get the necessary papers, and a few days before Christmas they rolled out of San Francisco at seventy miles per, headed for LA and the snowless southern road. In LA they picked up a sailor in a travel bureau and took him along for fifteen dollars’ worth of gas. He was bound for Indiana. They also picked up a woman with her idiot daughter, for four dollars’ gas fare to Arizona. Dean sat the idiot girl with him up front and dug her, as he said, "All the way, man! such a gone sweet little soul. Oh, we talked, we talked of fires and the desert turning to a paradise and her parrot that swore in Spanish." Dropping off these passengers, they proceeded to Tucson. All along the way Galatea Dunkel, Ed’s new wife, kept complaining that she was tired and wanted to sleep in a motel. If this kept up they’d spend all her money long before Virginia. Two nights she forced a stop and blew tens on motels. By the time they got to Tucson she was broke. Dean and Ed gave her the slip in a hotel lobby and resumed the voyage alone, with the sailor, and without a qualm. (II.1.11)

    Sal recognizes the manipulative nature of Ed and Dean’s attitude toward woman, but does not pass judgment on them.

    Ed Dunkel was a tall, calm, unthinking fellow who was completely ready to do anything Dean asked him; and at this time Dean was too busy for scruples. He was roaring through Las Cruces, New Mexico, when he suddenly had an explosive yen to see his sweet first wife Marylou again. She was up in Denver. He swung the car north, against the feeble protests of the sailor, and zoomed into Denver in the evening. He ran and found Marylou in a hotel. They had ten hours of wild lovemaking. Everything was decided again: they were going to stick. Marylou was the only girl Dean ever really loved. He was sick with regret when he saw her face again, and, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Dean; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad. To soothe the sailor, Dean fixed him up with a girl in a hotel room over the bar where the old poolhall gang always drank. But the sailor refused the girl and in fact walked off in the night and they never saw him again; he evidently took a bus to Indiana. (II.1.12)

    Marylou’s love for Dean necessitates her understanding and accepting his madness.

    It was a completely meaningless set of circumstances that made Dean come, and similarly I went off with him for no reason. In New York I had been attending school and romancing around with a girl called Lucille, a beautiful Italian honey-haired darling that I actually wanted to marry. All these years I was looking for the woman I wanted to marry. I couldn’t meet a girl without saying to myself, What kind of wife would she make? I told Dean and Marylou about Lucille. Marylou wanted to know all about Lucille, she wanted to meet her. We zoomed through Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, and up to Philadelphia on a winding country road and talked. "I want to marry a girl," I told them, "so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old. This can’t go on all the time - all this franticness and jumping around. We’ve got to go someplace, find something." (II.2.2)

    Both Dean and Sal want marriage, but only to Sal does marriage mean permanence.

    Dean stood googing around with a towel, so did Marylou. Finally they started necking among the pots and pans; they withdrew to a dark corner in the pantry. The counterman was satisfied as long as Ed and I did the dishes. We finished them in fifteen minutes. (II.2.3)

    Dean consistently chooses women and sex over his friends.

    It was Old Bull Lee, who’d moved to New Orleans. Old Bull Lee in his high, whining voice was making a complaint. It seemed a girl called Galatea Dunkel had just arrived at his house for a guy Ed Dunkel; Bull had no idea who these people were. Galatea Dunkel was a tenacious loser. I told Bull to reassure her that Dunkel was with Dean and me and that most likely we’d be picking her up in New Orleans on the way to the Coast. Then the girl herself talked on the phone. She wanted to know how Ed was. She was all concerned about his happiness. (II.3.1)

    Sal is amazed that a woman could possibly love a man after being treated so poorly; yet he stays loyal to Dean after being treated just as badly.

    The guy who ran the drugstore said, "You just got another call - this one from San Francisco - for a guy called Dean Moriarty. I said there wasn’t anybody by that name." It was sweetest Camille, calling Dean. The drugstore man, Sam, a tall, calm friend of mine, looked at me and scratched his head. "Geez, what are you running, an international whorehouse?" (II.3.4)

    Sal occasionally gives us insight into what their goings-on look like to the outside world, reminding the reader of the madness of their schemes.

    My aunt once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness. But Dean knew this; he’d mentioned it many times. "I’ve pleaded and pleaded with Marylou for a peaceful sweet understanding of pure love between us forever with all hassles thrown out - she understands; her mind is bent on something else - she’s after me; she won’t understand how much I love her, she’s knitting my doom."

    "The truth of the matter is we don’t understand our women; we blame on them and it’s all our fault," I said. (II.3.14, II.3.15)

    Sal is the only male in his gang to place any fault with men rather than with women.

    Then Marylou began making love to me; she said Dean was going to stay with Camille and she wanted me to go with her. "Come back to San Francisco with us. We’ll live together. I’ll be a good girl for you." But I knew Dean loved Marylou, and I also knew Marylou was doing this to make Lucille jealous, and I wanted nothing of it. Still and all, I licked my lips for the luscious blonde. When Lucille saw Marylou pushing me into the corners and giving me the word and forcing kisses on me she accepted Dean’s invitation to go out in the car; but they just talked and drank some of the Southern moonshine I left in the compartment. Everything was being mixed up, and all was falling. I knew my affair with Lucille wouldn’t last much longer. She wanted me to be her way. She was married to a longshoreman who treated her badly. I was willing to marry her and take her baby daughter and all if she divorced the husband; but there wasn’t even enough money to get a divorce and the whole thing was hopeless, besides which Lucille would never understand me because I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. (II.4.14)

    Despite claims of his own confusion, Sal sees his and Dean’s sexual scenarios clearly and objectively.

    I only went along for the ride, and to see what else Dean was going to do, and finally, also, knowing Dean would go back to Camille in Frisco, I wanted to have an affair with Marylou. (II.5.1)

    Sal initially believes he wants an affair with Marylou, although he proves incapable of doing so later.

    Suddenly Dean leaned to me earnestly and said, "Sal, I have something to ask of you - very important to me - I wonder how you’ll take it - we’re buddies, aren’t we?"

    "Sure are, Dean." He almost blushed. Finally he came out with it: he wanted me to work Marylou. I didn’t ask him why because I knew he wanted to see what Marylou was like with another man. (II.5.5, II.5.6)

    While Sal sees sleeping with a friend’s girl as betrayal, Dean sees it as a sexual adventure.

    Marylou lay there, with Dean and myself on each side of her, poised on the upjutting mattress-ends, not knowing what to say. I said, "Ah hell, I can’t do this."

    "Go on, man, you promised!" said Dean.

    "What about Marylou?" I said. "Come on, Marylou, what do you think?"

    "Go ahead," she said.

    She embraced me and I tried to forget old Dean was there. Every time I realized he was there in the dark, listening for every sound, I couldn’t do anything but laugh. It was horrible.

    "We must all relax," said Dean.

    "I’m afraid I can’t make it. Why don’t you go in the kitchen a minute?"

    Dean did so. Marylou was so lovely, but I whispered, "Wait until we be lovers in San Francisco; my heart isn’t in it." (II.5.7-II.5.14).

    Sal is unable to sleep with Marylou because he isn’t as open and free about sex as Dean is.

    I could hear Dean, blissful and blabbering and frantically rocking. Only a guy who’s spent five years in jail can go to such maniacal helpless extremes; beseeching at the portals of the soft source, mad with a completely physical realization of the origins of life-bliss; blindly seeking to return the way he came. This is the result of years looking at sexy pictures behind bars; looking at the legs and breasts of women in popular magazines; evaluating the hardness of the steel halls and the softness of the woman who is not there. Prison is where you promise yourself the right to live. Dean had never seen his mother’s face. Every new girl, every new wife, every new child was an addition to his bleak impoverishment. (II.5.14)

    Just as he seeks to understand Dean’s madness through his criminal past, Sal also explains Dean’s sexual nature through his time in jail.

    "Oh man, what kicks!" yelled Dean. "Now Marylou, listen really, honey, you know that I’m hotrock capable of everything at the same time and I have unlimited energy - now in San Francisco we must go on living together. I know just the place for you - at the end of the regular chain-gang run - I’ll be home just a cut-hair less than every two days and for twelve hours at a stretch, and man, you know what we can do in twelve hours, darling. Meanwhile I’ll go right on living at Camille’s like nothin, see, she won’t know. We can work it, we’ve done it before." It was all right with Marylou, she was really out for Camille’s scalp. (II.6.4)

    In On the Road, women and men are equally manipulative when it comes to sex.

    He went right on with his tale. "I tell you it’s true, I started at nine, with a girl called Milly Mayfair in back of Rod’s garage on Grant Street - same street Carlo lived on in Denver. That’s when my father was still working at the smithy’s a bit. I remember my aunt yelling out the window, ’What are you doing down there in back of the garage?’ Oh honey Marylou, if I’d only known you then! Wow! How sweet you musta been at nine." He tittered maniacally; he stuck his finger in her mouth and licked it; he took her hand and rubbed it over himself. She just sat there, smiling serenely. (II.6.15)

    Dean’s proclivity for very young girls may have something to do with the circumstances of his own first sexual experience.

    "Poor Dean," said Marylou, and she kissed him. He stared ahead proudly. He loved her. (II.6.18)

    Although Sal is later glad that Dean ends up with Camille, he repeatedly speaks highly of the love between Dean and Marylou.

    Galatea Dunkel came out of her stately retirement in the back of the house to meet her tormentor. Galatea was a serious girl. She was pale and looked like tears all over. Big Ed passed his hand through his hair and said hello. She looked at him steadily.

    "Where have you been? Why did you do this to me?" And she gave Dean a dirty look; she knew the score. Dean paid absolutely no attention. (II.6.30, II.6.31)

    Many of the mistreated women blame Dean, not their men.

    His relation with his wife was one of the strangest: they talked till late at night; Bull liked to hold the floor, he went right on in his dreary monotonous voice, she tried to break in, she never could; at dawn he got tired and then Jane talked and he listened, snuffing and going thfump down his nose. She loved that man madly, but in a delirious way of some kind; there was never any mooching and mincing around, just talk and a very deep companionship that none of us would ever be able to fathom. Something curiously unsympathetic and cold between them was really a form of humor by which they communicated their own set of subtle vibrations. Love is all; Jane was never more than ten feet away from Bull and never missed a word he said, and he spoke in a very low voice, too. (II.6.41)

    Sal devotes a lot of time to examining the relationships between men and women, perhaps in an attempt to define what it is that he wants from a relationship himself.

    Little Dodie called her mother to the porch and said, "Look at the silly men." She was such a cute sassy little thing that Dean couldn’t take his eyes off her.

    "Wow. Wait till she grows up! Can you see her cuttin down Canal Street with her cute eyes. Ah! Oh!" He hissed through his teeth. (II.7.16, II.7.17)

    Dean repeatedly lusts after young girls in a way nearly pedophilic in nature.

    Marylou was driving; Dean was sleeping. She drove with one hand on the wheel and the other reaching back to me in the back seat. She cooed promises about San Francisco. I slavered miserably over it. (II.8.17).

    Sal is unable to reconcile his sexual desire for Marylou with his loyalties to Dean.

    Dean and Marylou parked the car near Van Horn and made love while I went to sleep. (II.8.19).

    Dean and Marylou making love while Sal sleeps is reminiscent of Sal making love to Terry while her son was in the same room.

    It was cold outside. A college boy was sweating at the sight of luscious Marylou and trying to look unconcerned. Dean and I consulted but decided we weren’t pimps. (II.8.21)

    That Dean and Sal consider pimping out Marylou at all is evidence of their general mistreatment of women.

    "I dig you, man!" yelled Dean. They dashed off. For a moment I was worried; but Dean only wanted to dig the streets of El Paso with the kid and get his kicks. Marylou and I waited in the car. She put her arms around me.

    I said, "Dammit, Lou, wait till we get to Frisco."

    "I don’t care. Dean’s going to leave me anyway."

    "When are you going back to Denver?"

    "I don’t know. I don’t care what I’m doing. Can I go back east with you?" (II.8.22-II.8.26)

    Unlike Sal, Marylou seems to have no loyalty whatsoever to Dean.

    Marylou was watching Dean as she had watched him clear across the country and back, out of the corner of her eye - with a sullen, sad air, as though she wanted to cut off his head and hide it in her closet, an envious and rueful love of him so amazingly himself, all raging and sniffy and crazy- wayed, a smile of tender dotage but also sinister envy that frightened me about her, a love she knew would never bear fruit because when she looked at his hangjawed bony face with its male self- containment and absentmindedness she knew he was too mad. Dean was convinced Marylou was a whore; he confided in me that she was a pathological liar. But when she watched him like this it was love too; and when Dean noticed he always turned with his big false flirtatious smile, with the eyelashes fluttering and the teeth pearly white, while a moment ago he was only dreaming in his eternity. Then Marylou and I both laughed - and Dean gave no sign of discomfiture, just a goofy glad grin that said to us, Ain’t we gettin our kicks anyway? And that was it. (II.8.31)

    Dean and Marylou’s love for each other is somehow based on mutual hatred and distrust.

    One night Marylou disappeared with a nightclub owner. I was waiting for her by appointment in a doorway across the street, at Larkin and Geary, hungry, when she suddenly stepped out of the foyer of the fancy apartment house with her girl friend, the nightclub owner, and a greasy old man with a roll. Originally she’d just gone in to see her girl friend. I saw what a whore she was. She was afraid to give me the sign, though she saw me in that doorway. She walked on little feet and got in the Cadillac and off they went. Now I had nobody, nothing. (II.10.4)

    Sal’s interest in Marylou may not have been about sex as much as it was about companionship.

    He said, "She’s getting worse and worse, man, she cries and makes tantrums, won’t let me out to see Slim Gaillard, gets mad every time I’m late, then when I stay home she won’t talk to me and says I’m an utter beast." He ran upstairs to soothe her. I heard Camille yell, "You’re a liar, you’re a liar, you’re a liar! " (III.2.4)

    The destructiveness of Dean’s madness is evident in the deteriorating state of his second wife, Camille.

    After my last leaving of Frisco he had gone crazy over Marylou again and spent months haunting her apartment on Divisadero, where every night she had a different sailor in and he peeked down through her mail-slot and could see her bed. There he saw Marylou sprawled in the mornings with a boy. He trailed her around town. He wanted absolute proof that she was a whore. He loved her, he sweated over her. (III.2.5)

    Dean’s love for Marylou is lasting; repeatedly he goes back to her.

    And in the morning Camille threw both of us out, baggage and all. It began when we called Roy Johnson, old Denver Roy, and had him come over for beer, while Dean minded the baby and did the dishes and the wash in the backyard but did a sloppy job of it in his excitement. Johnson agreed to drive us to Mill City to look for Remi Boncœur. Camille came in from work at the doctor’s office and gave us all the sad look of a harassed woman’s life. I tried to show this haunted woman that I had no mean intentions concerning her home life by saying hello to her and talking as warmly as I could, but she knew it was a con and maybe one I’d learned from Dean, and only gave a brief smile. In the morning there was a terrible scene: she lay on the bed sobbing, and in the midst of this I suddenly had the need to go to the bathroom, and the only way I could get there was through her room. "Dean, Dean," I cried, "where’s the nearest bar?"

    "Bar?" he said, surprised; he was washing his hands in the kitchen sink downstairs. He thought I wanted to get drunk. I told him my dilemma and he said, "Go right ahead, she does that all the time." No, I couldn’t do that. I rushed out to look for a bar; (III.2.11, III.2.12)

    As the novel progresses, Sal becomes sensitive to the women whose lives are being ruined by the madness of their men.

    A few moments later Camille was throwing Dean’s things on the living-room floor and telling him to pack. To my amazement I saw a full-length oil painting of Galatea Dunkel over the sofa. I suddenly realized that all these women were spending months of loneliness and womanliness together, chatting about the madness of the men. (III.2.12)

    As the novel progresses, Sal becomes sensitive to the women whose lives are being ruined by the madness of their men.

    Dean claimed he no longer needed Marylou though he still loved her. We both agreed he would make out in New York. (III.3.2)

    Unlike Sal, Dean is able to distinguish between love and need. For Sal, the need for companionship is often mistaken for love.

    I took one last look at Mill City and knew there was no sense trying to dig up the involved past; instead we decided to go see Galatea Dunkel about sleeping accommodations. Ed had left her again, was in Denver, and damned if she still didn’t plot to get him back. We found her sitting crosslegged on the Oriental-type rug of her four-room tenement flat on upper Mission with a deck of fortune cards. Good girl. I saw sad signs that Ed Dunkel had lived here awhile and then left out of stupors and disinclinations only.

    "He’ll come back," said Galatea. "That guy can’t take care of himself without me." She gave a furious look at Dean and Roy Johnson. "It was Tommy Snark who did it this time. All the time before he came Ed was perfectly happy and worked and we went out and had wonderful times. Dean, you know that. Then they’d sit in the bathroom for hours, Ed in the bathtub and Snarky on the seat, and talk and talk and talk - such silly things." (III.3.4, III.3.5)

    The women in On the Road choose to blame the friends of their husbands and boyfriends for neglect and mistreatment, rather than blaming their own men.

    Galatea looked like the daughter of the Greeks with the sunny camera as she sat there on the rug, her long hair streaming to the floor, plying the fortune-telling cards. I got to like her. (III.3.8)

    Indicative of larger changes in his character, Sal transitions from seeing Galatea as a useless fool to actually liking her.

    He invited us to his home for a bottle of beer. He lived in the tenements in back of Howard. His wife was asleep when we came in. The only light in the apartment was the bulb over her bed. We had to get up on a chair and unscrew the bulb as she lay smiling there; Dean did it, fluttering his lashes. She was about fifteen years older than Walter and the sweetest woman in the world. Then we had to plug in the extension over her bed, and she smiled and smiled. She never asked Walter where he’d been, what time it was, nothing. Finally we were set in the kitchen with the extension and sat down around the humble table to drink the beer and tell the stories. Dawn. It was time to leave and move the extension back to the bedroom and screw back the bulb. Walter’s wife smiled and smiled as we repeated the insane thing all over again. She never said a word.

    Out on the dawn street Dean said, "Now you see, man, there’s real woman for you. Never a harsh word, never a complaint, or modified; her old man can come in any hour of the night with anybody and have talks in the kitchen and drink the beer and leave any old time. This is a man, and that’s his castle." (III.3.43, III.3.44)

    Dean, like Sal, tries to define exactly what it is he wants in a wife. But while Sal wants a soul connection, Dean simply wants to be free of obligation.

    "When Ed gets back I’m going to take him to Jamson’s Nook every night and let him get his fill of madness. Do you think that’ll work, Sal? I don’t know what to do." (III.3.47)

    Galatea struggles to reconcile her love for her husband with his madness.

    Dean went there and of course he was all sweats and joy at the sight of them, especially Janet, but I warned him not to touch her, and probably didn’t have to. The woman was a great man’s woman and took to Dean right away but she was bashful and he was bashful. She said Dean reminded her of the husband gone. "Just like him - oh, he was a crazy one, I tell ya!" (III.6.19)

    Dean repeatedly lusts after very young girls, perhaps because of an attraction to youth itself.

    Dean immediately took over the responsibility of selecting and naming the price of the car, because of course he wanted to use it himself so as of yore he could pick up girls coming out of high school in the afternoons and drive them up to the mountains. (III.6.21)

    Sex is the motivation for many of Dean’s actions.

    There were a lot of Mexican girls too, and one amazing little girl about three feet high, a midget, with the most beautiful and tender face in the world, who turned to her companion and said, "Man, let’s call up Gomez and cut out." Dean stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of her. A great knife stabbed him from the darkness of the night. "Man, I love her, oh, love her . . ." We had to follow her around for a long time. She finally went across the highway to make a phone call in a motel booth and Dean pretended to be looking through the pages of the directory but was really all wound tight watching her. I tried to open up a conversation with the lovey-doll’s friends but they paid no attention to us. Gomez arrived in a rattly truck and took the girls off. Dean stood in the road, clutching his breast. "Oh, man, I almost died. . . ."

    "Why the hell didn’t you talk to her?"

    "I can’t, I couldn’t . . ." (III.6.32-III.6.34)

    Dean’s hesitation with the Mexican girl is reminiscent of Sal’s hesitation with Terry (also Mexican and short). Unlike Sal, however, Dean is unable to speak to her.

    We decided to buy some beer and go up to Okie Frankie’s and play records. We hitched on the road with a bag of beer cans. Little Janet, Frankie’s thirteen- year-old daughter, was the prettiest girl in the world and was about to grow up into a gone woman. Best of all were her long, tapering, sensitive fingers that she used to talk with like a Cleopatra Nile dance. Dean sat in the farthest corner of the room, watching her with slitted eyes and saying, "Ye yes, yes." Janet was already aware of him; she turned to for protection. Previous months of that summer I had a lot of time with her, talking about books and little thing she was interested in. (III.6.34)

    Janet makes clear the sexual differences between Dean and Sal: while Dean wants sex, Sal wants to talk.

    "He just went for gas. He’ll be right back." I cut down to the corner and watched Dean as he kept the motor running for the waitress, who had been changing in her hotel room; in fact I could see her from where I stood, in front of her mirror, primping and fixing her silk stockings, and I wished I could go along with them. She came running out and jumped in the Cadillac. I wandered back to reassure the travel-bureau boss and the passengers. From where I stood in the door I saw a faint flash of the Cadillac crossing Cleveland Place with Dean, T-shirted and joyous, fluttering his hands and talking to the girl and hunching over the wheel to go as she sat sadly and proudly beside him. They went to a parking lot in broad daylight, parked near the brick wall at the back (a lot Dean had worked in once), and there, he claims, he made it with her, in nothing flat; not only that but persuaded her to follow us east as soon as she had her pay on Friday, come by bus, and meet us at Ian MacArthur’s pad on Lexington Avenue in New York. She agreed to come; her name was Beverly. Thirty minutes and Dean roared back, deposited the girl at her hotel, with kisses, farewells, promises, and zoomed right up to the travel bureau to pick up the crew. (III.8.8)

    Sal watches and envies Dean with the waitress, just as he envies but is unable to fully participate in Dean’s "flowering" madness.

    "Oh, that Beverly is a sweet gone little gal – she’s going to join me in New York - we’re going to get married as soon as I can get divorce papers from Camille – everything’s jumping, Sal, and we’re off. Yes!" (III.8.11)

    While Sal confuses companionship with love, Dean confuses lust with love.

    They hooked chains on and the farmer hauled us out of the ditch. The car was muddy brown, a whole fender was crushed. The farmer charged us five dollars. His daughters watched in the rain. The prettiest, shyest one hid far back in the field to watch and she had good reason because she was absolutely and finally the most beautiful girl Dean and I ever saw in all our lives.

    She was about sixteen, and had Plains complexion like wild roses, and the bluest eyes, the most lovely hair, and the modesty and quickness of a wild antelope. At every look from us she flinched. She stood there with the immense winds that blew clear down from Saskatchewan knocking her hair about her lovely head like shrouds, living curls of them. She blushed and blushed.

    We finished our business with the farmer, took one last look at the prairie angel, and drove off, slower now, till dark came and Dean said Ed Wall’s ranch was dead ahead. "Oh, a girl like that scares me," I said. "I’d give up everything and throw myself on her mercy and if she didn’t want me I’d just as simply go and throw myself off the edge of the world." (III.8.16-III.8.18)

    Sal fears rejection in a way that Dean does not.

    "What are you thinking, Pops?"

    "Ah-ha, ah-ha, same old thing, y’know - gurls gurls gurls." (III.9.10-11)

    Sex is a constant thought and concern in On the Road.

    I took up a conversation with a gorgeous country girl wearing a low-cut cotton blouse that displayed the beautiful sun-tan on her breast tops. She was dull. She spoke of evenings in the country making popcorn on the porch. Once this would have gladdened my heart but because her heart was not glad when she said it I knew there was nothing in it but the idea of what one should do. "And what else do you do for fun?" I tried to bring up boy friends and sex. Her great dark eyes surveyed me with emptiness and a kind of chagrin that reached back generations and generations in her blood from not having done what was crying to be done - whatever it was, and everybody knows what it was. "What do you want out of life?" I wanted to take her and wring it out of her. She didn’t have the slightest idea what she wanted. She mumbled of jobs, movies, going to her grandmother’s for the summer, wishing she could go to New York and visit the Roxy, what kind of outfit she would wear - something like the one she wore last Easter, white bonnet, roses, rose pumps, and lavender gabardine coat. "What do you do on Sunday afternoons?" I asked. She sat on her porch. The boys went by on bicycles and stopped to chat. She read the funny papers, she reclined on the hammock. "What do you do on a warm summer’s night?" She sat on the porch, she watched the cars in the road. She and her mother made popcorn. "What does your father do on a summer’s night?" He works, he has an all-night shift at the boiler factory, he’s spent his whole life supporting a woman and her outpoppings and no credit or adoration. "What does your brother do on a summer’s night?" He rides around on his bicycle, he hangs out in front of the soda fountain. "What is he aching to do? What are we all aching to do? What do we want" She didn’t know. She yawned. She was sleepy. It was too much. Nobody could tell. Nobody would ever tell. It was all over. She was eighteen and most lovely, and lost. (III.11.1)

    Sal is more interested in conversation than sex, and is disappointed easily, even by very beautiful women.

    Not five nights later we went to a party in New York and I saw a girl called Inez and told her I had a friend with me that she ought to meet sometime. I was drunk and told her he was a cowboy. "Oh, I’ve always wanted to meet a cowboy."

    "Dean?" I yelled across the party - which included Angel Luz Garcia, the poet; Walter Evans; Victor Villanueva, the Venezuelan poet; Jinny Jones, a former love of mine; Carlo Marx; Gene Dexter; and innumerable others - "Come over here, man." Dean came bashfully over. An hour later, in the drunkenness and chichiness of the party ("It’s in honor of the end of the summer, of course"), he was kneeling on the floor with his chin on her belly and telling her and promising her everything and sweating. She was a big, sexy brunette - as Garcia said, "Something straight out of Degas," and generally like a beautiful Parisian coquette. In a matter of days they were dickering with Camille in San Francisco by long distance telephone for the necessary divorce papers so they could get married. Not only that, but a few months later Camille gave birth to Dean’s second baby, the result of a few nights’ rapport early in the year. And another matter of months and Inez had a baby. With one illegitimate child in the West somewhere, Dean then had four little ones and not a cent, and was all troubles and ecstasy and speed as ever. So we didn’t go to Italy.(III.11.7, III.11.8)

    Sal recognizes Dean’s irresponsibility in his love life.

    Inez cooked in the kitchen and looked in with a wry smile. Everything was all right with her. "Dig her? Dig her, man? That’s Inez. See, that’s all she does, she pokes her head in the door and smiles. Oh, I’ve talked with her and we’ve got everything straightened out most beautifully. We’re going to go and live on a farm in Pennsylvania this summer - station wagon for me to cut back to New York for kicks, nice big house, and have a lot of kids in the next few years. Ahem! Harrumph! Egad!" (IV.1.2)

    Dean’s genuine enthusiasm for his future with Inez suggests that he does not intentionally manipulate women, rather he's at the whim of his own impulses.

    "Me, I was singing. I sat down next to you ‘cause I was afraid to set down next to any gals for fear I go crazy and reach under their dress. I gotta wait awhile." (IV.2.4)

    Sal appears to be validated in his belief that Dean’s sexual madness is the result of his jail time.

    A group of girls walked directly in front of us. As we bounced by, one of them said, "Where you going, man?"

    I turned to Dean, amazed. "Did you hear what she said?" Dean was so astounded he kept on driving slowly and saying, "Yes, I heard what she said, I certainly damn well did, oh me, oh my, I don’t know what to do I’m so excited and sweetened in this morning world. We’ve finally got to heaven. It-couldn’t be cooler, it couldn’t be grander, it couldn’t be anything."

    "Well, let’s go back and pick em up!" I said.

    "Yes," said Dean and drove right on at five miles an hour. He was knocked out, he didn’t have to do the usual things he-would have done in America. (IV.5.8-IV.5.11)

    Just as Dean’s madness changes once they get to Mexico, so does his attitude toward girls.

    Strange young girls, dark as the moon, stared from mysterious verdant doorways. "Oh, man, I want to stop and twiddle thumbs with the little darlings," cried Dean, "but notice the old lady or the old man is always somewhere around - in the back usually. (IV.5.13)

    Dean’s interest in very young girls is ambiguous: it may be sexual in nature, or it may not.

    On the fast "Mambo Jambo" we danced frantically with the girls. Through our deliriums we began to discern their varying personalities. They were great girls. Strangely the wildest one was half Indian, half white, and came from Venezuela, and only eighteen. She looked as if she came from a good family. What she was doing whoring in Mexico at that age and with that tender cheek and fair aspect, God knows. Some awful grief had driven her to it. She drank beyond all bounds. She threw down drinks when it seemed she was about to chuck up the last. She overturned glasses continually, the idea also being to make us spend’ as much money as possible. Wearing her flimsy housecoat in broad afternoon, she frantically danced with Dean and clung about his neck and begged and begged for everything. Dean was so stoned he didn’t know what to start with, girls or mambo. They ran off to the lockers. I was set upon by a fat and uninteresting girl with a puppy dog, who got sore at me when I took a dislike to the dog because it kept trying to bite me. She compromised by putting it away in the back, but by the time she returned I had been hooked by another girl, better looking but not the best, who clung to my neck like a leech. I was trying to break loose to get at a sixteen-year-old colored girl who sat gloomily inspecting her navel through an opening in her short shirty dress across the hall. I couldn’t do it. Stan had a fifteen-year-old girl with an almond-colored skin and a dress that was buttoned halfway down and halfway up. It was mad. A good twenty men leaned in that window, watching. (IV.5.46)

    Interestingly, Sal begins to mirror Dean in their trip to Mexico, in that he, too, desires a very young girl.

    At one point the mother of the little colored girl - not colored, but dark - came in to hold a brief and mournful convocation with her daughter. When I saw that, I was too ashamed to try for the one I really wanted. I let the leech take me off to the back, where, as in a dream, to the din and roar of more loudspeakers inside, we made the bed bounce a half-hour. It was just a square room with wooden slats and no ceiling, ikon in a corner, a washbasin in another. All up and down the dark hall the girls were calling, "Agua, agua caliente!" which means «hot water.» Stan and Dean were also out of sight. (IV.5.47)

    Unlike Dean, Sal feels guilt at lusting after such a young girl.

    I had to support her on the stool; she kept slipping off. I’ve never seen a drunker woman, and only eighteen. I bought her another drink; she was tugging at my pants for mercy. She gulped it up. I didn’t have the heart to try her. My own girl was about thirty and took care of herself better. With Venezuela writhing and suffering in my arms, I had a longing to take her in the back and undress her and only talk to her - this I told myself. I was delirious with want of her and the other little dark girl. (IV.5.47)

    Sal wants soul connections, so his lust manifests itself in a desire to talk, rather than have sex.

    Poor Victor, all this time he stood on the brass rail of the bar with his back to the counter and jumped up and down gladly to see his three American friends cavort. We bought him drinks. His eyes gleamed for a woman but he wouldn’t accept any, being faithful to his wife. (IV.5.48)

    Victor is one of few men in the novel to remain faithful to his wife.

    Soon it would be mysterious night in old gone Gregoria. The mambo never let up for a moment, it frenzied on like an endless journey in the jungle. I couldn’t take my eyes off the little dark girl and the way, like a queen, she walked around and was even reduced by the sullen bartender to menial tasks such as bringing us drinks and sweeping the back. Of all the girls in there she needed the money most; maybe her mother had come to get money from her for her little infant/ sisters and brothers. Mexicans are poor. It never, never occurred to me just to approach her and give her some money. I have a feeling she would have taken it with a degree of scorn, and scorn from the likes of her made me flinch. In my madness I was actually in love with her for the few hours it all lasted; it was the same unmistakable ache and stab across the mind, the same sighs, the same pain, and above all the same reluctance and fear to approach. Strange that Dean and Stan also failed to approach her; her unimpeachable dignity was the thing that made her poor in a wild old whorehouse, and think of that. At one point I saw Dean leaning like a statue toward her, ready to fly, and befuddlement cross his face as she glanced coolly and imperiously his way and he stopped rubbing his belly and gaped and finally bowed his head. For she was the queen. (IV.5.49)

    In a way, Sal and Dean converge in Mexico. They lust (unsuccessfully) after the same girl, and Sal describes his love as the result of madness, an emotion previously attributed to Dean.

    Dean drove from Mexico City and saw Victor again in Gregoria and pushed that old car all the way to Lake Charles, Louisiana, before the rear end finally dropped on the road as he had always known it would. So he wired Inez for airplane fare and flew the rest of the way. When he arrived in New York with the divorce papers in his hands, he and Inez immediately went to Newark and got married; and that night, telling her everything was all right and not to worry, and making logics where there was nothing but inestimable sorrowful sweats, he jumped on a bus and roared off again across the awful continent to San Francisco to rejoin Camille and the two baby girls. So now he was three times married, twice divorced, and living with his second wife. (V.1.1)

    Dean’s marital restlessness mirrors Sal’s geographical restlessness.

    "Come on up," she called. "I’m making hot chocolate." So I went up and there she was, the girl with the pure and innocent dear eyes that I had always searched for and for so long. We agreed to love each other madly. In the winter we planned to migrate to San Francisco, bringing all our beat furniture and broken belongings with us in a jalopy panel truck. (V.1.4)

    Sal’s description of Laura, his final love, carries interesting parallels to the connection between Carlo and Dean, in particular the descriptions of eyes.

    "What about Camille?"

    "Gave permission of course - waiting for me. Camille and I all straight forever-and-ever..."

    "And Inez?"

    "I - I - I want her to come back to Frisco with me live other side of town - don’t you think?" (V.1.9-V.1.12)

    Unable to decide on one woman, Dean’s selfish solution is to have everything and everyone at the same time.

    With Inez he spent one night explaining and sweating and fighting, and she threw him out. A letter came for him, care of me. I saw it. It was from Camille. "My heart broke when I saw you go across the tracks with your bag. I pray and pray you get back safe. ... I do want Sal and his friend to come and live on the same street. ... I know you’ll make it but I can’t help worrying - now that we’ve decided everything . . . Dear Dean, it’s the end of the first half of the century. Welcome with love and kisses to spend the other half with us. We all wait for you. [Signed] Camille, Amy, and Little Joanie." So Dean’s life was settled with his most constant, most embittered, and best-knowing wife Camille, and I thanked God for him. (V.1.12)

    Although he previously described Marylou as understanding Dean’s madness, Sal interestingly now describes Camille as being Dean’s "best-knowing wife."

  • Time

    We felt silly and didn’t know what to say, and I for one didn’t want to get hung-up with a carnival. I was in such a bloody hurry to get to the gang in Denver.

    I said, "I don’t know, I’m going as fast as I can and I don’t think I have the time." Eddie said the same thing, and the old man waved his hand and casually sauntered back to his car and drove off. And that was that. (I.3.22, I.3.23)

    Interestingly it is Sal, not frantic Dean, that begins the novel with a sense of running out of time.

    "What’s the schedule?" I said. There was always a schedule in Dean’s life.

    "The schedule is this: I came off work a half-hour ago. In that time Dean is balling Marylou at the hotel and gives me time to change and dress. At one sharp he rushes from Marylou to Camille - of course neither one of them knows what’s going on - and bangs her once, giving me time to arrive at one-thirty. Then he comes out with me - first he has to beg with Camille, who’s already started hating me - and we come here to talk till six in the morning. We usually spend more time than that, but it’s getting awfully complicated and he’s pressed for time. Then at six he goes back to Marylou - and he’s going to spend all day tomorrow running around to get the necessary papers for their divorce. Marylou’s all for it, but she insists on banging in the interim. She says she loves him - so does Camille." (I.7.11, I.7.12)

    While Sal claims he doesn’t have enough time, Dean is the master of time, scheduling everything to the minute and never being late. Sal envies this ability.

    "It is now" (looking at his watch) "exactly one-fourteen. I shall be back at exactly three- fourteen, for our hour of reverie together, real sweet reverie, darling, and then, as you know, as I told you and as we agreed, I have to go and see the one-legged lawyer about those papers - in the middle of the night, strange as it seems and as I tho-ro-ly explained." (This was a coverup for his rendezvous with Carlo, who was still hiding.) "So now in this exact minute I must dress, put on my pants, go back to life, that is to outside life, streets and what not, as we agreed, it is now one-fifteen and time’s running, running - " (I.7.17)

    Dean does, however, later reflect a franticness. He, too, shares Sal’s sense of urgency.

    Dean came on schedule. "Everything’s straight," he announced. "I’m going to divorce Marylou and marry Camille and go live with her in San Francisco. But this is only after you and I, dear Carlo, go to Texas, dig Old Bull Lee, that gone cat I’ve never met and both of you’ve told me so much about, and then I’ll go to San Fran." (I.8.8)

    Dean treats people recklessly in his schedule – he does not have time, as Sal later says, for scruples.

    Ray and Tim and I decided to hit the bars. Major was gone, Babe and Betty were gone. We tottered into the night. The opera crowd was jamming the bars from bar to wall. Major was shouting above heads. The eager, bespectacled Denver D. Doll was shaking hands with everybody and saying, "Good afternoon, how are you?" and when midnight came he was saying, "Good afternoon, how are you?" At one point I saw him going off somewhere with a dignitary. Then he came back with a middle-aged woman; next minute he was talking to a couple of young ushers in the street. The next minute he was shaking my hand without recognizing me and saying, "Happy New Year, m’boy." He wasn’t drunk on liquor, just drunk on what he liked - crowds of people milling. Everybody knew him. "Happy New Year," he called, and sometimes "Merry Christmas." He said this all the time. At Christmas he said Happy Halloween. (I.9.17)

    Interestingly, Sal describes madness (or at least the madness of one individual) as the mixing-up of time.

    In Oakland I had a beer among the bums of a saloon with a wagon wheel in front of it, and I was on the road again. I walked clear across Oakland to get on the Fresno road. Two rides took me to Bakersfield, four hundred miles south. The first was the mad one, with a burly blond kid in a souped- up rod. "See that toe?" he said as he gunned the heap to eighty and passed everybody on the road. "Look at it." It was swathed in bandages. "I just had it amputated this morning. The bastards wanted me to stay in the hospital. I packed my bag and left. What’s a toe?" Yes, indeed, I said to myself, look out now, and I hung on. You never saw a driving fool like that. He made Tracy in no time. (I.12.2)

    There seems to be a correlation between madness and those who move the fastest.

    The sun began to get red. Nothing had been accomplished. What was there to accomplish? "Manana" said Rickey. "Manana, man, we make it; have another beer, man, dah you go, dab you go!" (I.13.19)

    Characters like Rickey have a poor understanding of time, thinking of tomorrow as an intangible date that never arrives, and suffering because of it. If Dean "knows time," then Rickey is the antithesis, knowing nothing whatsoever of time.

    "Nowhere, man. I’m supposed to live with Big Rosey but she threw me out last night. I’m gonna get my truck and sleep in it tonight." Guitars tinkled. Terry and I gazed at the stars together and kissed. "Manana" she said. "Everything’ll be all right tomorrow, don’t you think, Sal-honey, man?"

    "Sure, baby, manana." It was always manana. For the next week that was all I heard - manana, a lovely word and one that probably means heaven. (I.13.25, I.13.26)

    Sal’s claim that mañana "probably means heaven" is fascinating – mañana, or "tomorrow," is in some ways a day never reached. So is the end of the road, that place father east or farther west or farther south. Sal also refers to the end of the road as heaven.

    Suddenly I found myself on Times Square. I had traveled eight thousand miles around the American continent and I was back on Times Square; and right in the middle of a rush hour, too, seeing with my innocent road-eyes the absolute madness and fantastic hoorair of New York with its millions and millions hustling forever for a buck among themselves, the mad dream - grabbing, taking, giving, sighing, dying, just so they could be buried in those awful cemetery cities beyond Long Island City. (I.14.9)

    It is interesting that Sal always returns to Times Square when he gets back to New York. Here he relates time to the fear of death. His sense of urgency, we see, comes from his fear of death, the Shrouded Traveler pursuing him ruthlessly.

    The first cold winds rattled the windowpane, and I had made it just in time. Dean had come to my house, slept several nights there, waiting for me; spent afternoons talking to my aunt as she worked on a great rag rug woven of all the clothes in my family for years, which was now finished and spread on my bedroom floor, as complex and as rich as the passage of time itself; and then he had left, two days before I arrived, crossing my path probably somewhere in Pennsylvania or Ohio, to go to San Francisco. He had his own life there; Camille had just gotten an apartment. It had never occurred to me to look her up while I was in Mill City. Now it was too late and I had also missed Dean. (I.14.10)

    Sal says he arrived "just in time," yet he barely missed Dean! The comment may be sarcastic, or it may be a sigh of relief. This is an odd comment from Sal.

    "All right now, children," he said, rubbing his nose and bending down to feel the emergency and pulling cigarettes out of the compartment, and swaying back and forth as he did these things and drove. "The time has come for us to decide what we’re going to do for the next week. Crucial, crucial. Ahem!"...He stared doggedly ahead. Marylou was smiling serenely. This was the new and complete Dean, grown to maturity. I said to myself, My God,, he’s changed. Fury spat out of his eyes when he told of things he hated; great glows of joy replaced this when he suddenly got happy; every muscle twitched to live and go. "Oh, man, the things I could tell you," he said, poking me, "Oh, man, we must absolutely find the time." (II.1.15)

    Dean’s evolution involved a frantic feeling of running out of time.

    "You remember, Sal, when I first came to New York and I wanted Chad King to teach me about Nietzsche. You see how long ago? Everything is fine, God exists, we know time. Everything since the Greeks has been predicated wrong. You can’t make it with geometry and geometrical systems of thinking. It’s all this!"(II.3.10)

    For Dean, enlightenment centers around time.

    "Wow! Dig that gone gal on his belt! Let’s all blow!" Dean tried to catch up with them. "Now wouldn’t it be fine if we could all get together and have a real going goofbang together with everybody sweet and fine and agreeable, no hassles, no infant rise of protest or body woes misconceptalized or sumpin? Ah! but we know time." He bent to it and pushed the car. (II.8.10)

    While Dean was at first capable of scheduling in his every desire, he is now limited by his supposed understanding of time, incapable of accomplishing anything.

    It occurred to me that I had a pocket watch Rocco had just given me for a birthday present, a four-dollar watch. At the gas station I asked the man if he knew a pawnshop in Benson. It was right next door to the station. I knocked, someone got up out of bed, and in a minute I had a dollar for the watch. It went into the tank. Now we had enough gas for Tucson. (II.8.35)

    Sal sells his watch so they can travel. This could suggest a few different interpretations: that Sal is abandoning his own notions of time to conform to Dean’s, that keeping track of time has become trivial, or that, since he only received one dollar for a four dollar watch, he has begun to undervalue time.

    And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seething roar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die, and walked four miles and picked up ten long butts and took them back to Marylou’s hotel room and poured their tobacco in my old pipe and lit up. I was too young to know what had happened. (II.10.5)

    While Dean reaches his revelations about time on his own, Sal only ruminates on the subject at the vast extremes of hunger or drugs.

    Dean stands in the back, saying, "God! Yes!" - and clasping his hands in prayer and sweating. "Sal, Slim knows time, he knows time." Slim sits down at the piano and hits two notes, two Cs, then two more, then one, then two, and suddenly the big burly bass-player wakes up from a reverie and realizes Slim in playing "C-Jam Blues" and he slugs in his big forefinger on the string and the big booming beat begins and everybody starts rocking and Slim looks up just as sad as ever, and they blow jazz for half an hour, and then Slim goes mad and grabs the bongos and plays tremendous rapid Cubana beats and yells crazy things in Spanish, in Arabic, in Peruvian dialect, in Egyptian, in every language he knows, and he knows innumerable languages. Finally the set is over; each set takes two hours. Slim Gaillard goes and stands against a post, looking sadly over everybody’s head as people come to talk to him. A bourbon is slipped in his hand. "Bourbon-orooni - thanky-ou-ovauti..." (II.11.8-II.11.9)

    The characters who seem to understand time best are separate from others in some way. Shearing is blind, and Slim speaks in his own odd language. Dean attempts to cross the barriers and get close to these individuals so that he, too, might "know time."

    "We’re going to Italy," I said, I washed my hands of the whole matter. Then, too, there was a strange sense of maternal satisfaction in the air, for the girls were really looking at Dean the way a mother looks at the dearest and most errant child, and he with his sad thumb and all his revelations knew it well, and that was why he was able, in tick-tocking silence, to walk out of the apartment without a word, to wait for us downstairs as soon as we’d made up our minds about time. This was what we sensed about the ghost on the sidewalk. I looked out the window. He was alone in the doorway, digging the street. Bitterness, recriminations, advice, morality, sadness - everything was behind him, and ahead of him was the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being. (III.3.21)

    Dean’s new sense of time ostracizes him from the gang, just as the others who know time are made separate from the rest of the world.

    "Now, Roy, I know you’re all hung-up with your wife about this thing but we absolutely must make Forty-sixth and Geary in the incredible time of three minutes or everything is lost. Ahem! Yes! (Cough-cough.) In the morning Sal and I are leaving for New York and this is absolutely our last night of kicks and I know you won’t mind." (III.3.41)

    We can see Dean’s sense of urgency when he discusses time – he speaks in absolutes, that he "must" and "has to" get certain things done.

    Dean and I sat alone in the back seat and left it up to them and talked. "Now, man, that alto man last night had IT - he held it once he found it; I’ve never seen a guy who could hold so long." I wanted to know what "IT" meant. "Ah well" - Dean laughed - "now you’re asking me impon-de-rables - ahem! Here’s a guy and everybody’s there, right? Up to him to put down what’s on everybody’s mind. He starts the first chorus, then lines up his ideas, people, yeah, yeah, but get it, and then he rises to his fate and has to blow equal to it. All of a sudden somewhere in the middle of the chorus he gets it - everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He’s filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows it’s not the tune that counts but IT -" Dean could go no further; he was sweating telling about it. (III.5.1)

    Why does Dean refuse to tell Sal what "IT" is? The question becomes a game to them, like a Zen master who insists his student must answer a koan for himself.

    "Oh, man! man! man!" moaned Dean. "And it’s not even the beginning of it - and now here we are at last going east together, we’ve never gone east together, Sal, think of it, we’ll dig Denver together and see what everybody’s doing although that matters little to us, the point being that we know what IT is and we know TIME and we know that everything is really FINE." Then he whispered, clutching my sleeve, sweating, "Now you just dig them in front. They have worries, they’re counting the miles, they’re thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there - and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see." (III.5.5)

    Dean’s sense of urgency begins to give way to one of calm. Rather than fear time, Dean begins to accept it.

    "Sal, in my young days when I used to come to this corner to steal change off the newsstand for bowery beef stew, that rough-looking cat you see out there standing had nothing but murder in his heart, got into one horrible fight after another, I remember his scars even, till now years and y-e-a-r-s of standing on the corner have finally softened him and chastened him ragely, here completely he’s become sweet and willing and patient with everybody, he’s become a fixture on the corner, you see how things happen?" (III.6.26)

    Dean recognizes the extraordinary changes that time has wrought on his hometown.

    "See? See?" whispered Dean in my ear. "He doesn’t drink any more and he used to be the biggest whiskyleg in town, he’s got religion now, he told me over the phone, dig him, -- dig the change in a man - my hero has become so strange." Sam Brady was suspicious of his young cousin. He took us out for a spin in his old rattly coupe and immediately he made his position clear in regard to Dean. (III.6.28)

    Dean recognizes the extraordinary changes that time has wrought on his hometown.

    Dean hopped in his chair convulsively. "Well yes, well yes, and now I think we’d better be cutting along because we gotta be in Chicago by tomorrow night and we’ve already wasted several hours." The college boys thanked Wall graciously and we were off again. I turned to watch the kitchen light recede in the sea of night. Then I leaned ahead. (III.8.25)

    Dean brings up the notion of "wasting" time, an interesting idea as the reader could easily accuse Dean of such an activity at nearly every moment of the story.

    We had come from Denver to Chicago via Ed Wall’s ranch, 1180 miles, in exactly seventeen hours, not counting the two hours in the ditch and three at the ranch and two with the police in Newton, Iowa, for a mean average of seventy miles per hour across the land, with one driver. Which is a kind of crazy record. (III.9.26)

    Sal frequently lists numbers – hours, days, minutes, miles – and these lists become his own private accounting of time, and in a way similar to Dean’s madness.

    "Why not, man? Of course we will if we want to, and all that. There’s no harm ending that way. You spend a whole life of non-interference with the wishes of others, including politicians and the rich, and nobody bothers you and you cut along and make it your own way." I agreed with him. He was reaching his Tao decisions in the simplest direct way. "What’s your road, man? - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?" We nodded in the rain. "Sheeit, and you’ve got to look out for your boy. He ain’t a man ‘less he’s a jumpin man - do what the doctor say. I’ll tell you. Sal, straight, no matter where I live, my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out. I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands. You’ve seen me try and break my ass to make it and you know that it doesn’t matter and we know time - how to slow it up and walk and dig and just old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know." (IV.1.6)

    Dean’s repeated phrase of "we know time" becomes "we know." Yet it is still not clear exactly what he is referring to. At times, we the reader must question if Dean actually knows anything at all.

    He came the following Sunday afternoon. I had a television set. We played one ballgame on the TV, another on the radio, and kept switching to a third and kept track of all that was happening every moment. "Remember, Sal, Hodges is on second in Brooklyn so while the relief pitcher is coming in for the Phillies we’ll switch to Giants-Boston and at the same time notice there DiMaggio has three balls count and the pitcher is fiddling with the resin bag, so we quickly find out what happened to Bobby Thomson when we left him thirty seconds ago with a man on third. Yes!" (IV.1.17)

    Dean’s need to beat time becomes evident in even the smallest of activities, as he tries to do as much as possible in the shortest amount of time.

    We were sitting around like this on a sunny afternoon toward suppertime when Dean pulled up in front in his jalopy and jumped out in a tweed suit with vest and watch chain. (IV.3.2)

    A watch becomes a noted part of Dean’s attire – time is always connected to Dean in Sal’s mind.

    "Yass, yass. Well, Sal old man, what’s the story, when do we take off for Mexico? Tomorrow afternoon? Fine, fine. Ahem! And now, Sal, I have exactly sixteen minutes to make it to Ed Dunkel’s house, where I am about to recover my old railroad watch which I can pawn on Larimer Street before closing time, meanwhile buzzing very quickly and as thoroughly as time allows to see if my old man by chance may be in Jiggs’ Buffet or some of the other bars and then I have an appointment with the barber Doll always told me to patronize and I have not myself changed over the years and continue with that policy - kaff! kaff! At six o’clock sharp.’ - sharp, hear me? - I want you to be right here where I’ll come buzzing by to get you for one quick run to Roy Johnson’s house, play Gillespie and assorted bop records, an hour of relaxation prior to any kind of further evening you and Tim and Stan and Babe may have planned for tonight irrespective of my arrival which incidentally was exactly forty-five minutes ago in my old thirty-seven Ford which you see parked out there, I made it together with a long pause in Kansas City seeing my cousin, not Sam Brady but the younger one . . ." And saying all these things, he was busily changing from his suitcoat to T-shirt in the living-room alcove just out of sight of everyone and transferring his watch to another pair of pants that he got out of the same old battered trunk. (IV.3.3)

    Dean reverts to his previous mode of scheduling later in the novel, but this time he is sure to keep his watch with him at every moment to help him keep track of time. Dean never seemed to need a watch before.

    Then Dean poked in the little girl’s hand for "the sweetest and purest and smallest crystal she has personally picked from the mountain for me." He found one no bigger than a berry. And he handed her the wristwatch dangling. Their mouths rounded like the mouths of chorister children. The lucky little girl squeezed it to her ragged breastrobes. They stroked Dean and thanked him. He stood among them with his ragged face to the sky, looking for the next and highest and final pass, and seemed like the Prophet that had come to them. He got back in the car. They hated to see us go. For the longest time, as we mounted a straight pass, they waved and ran after us. We made a turn and never saw them again, and they were still running after us. (IV.6.15)

    Dean is fascinated to have found a group of people untouched by the advancements of modern time.

    "But why did you come so soon, Dean?"

    "Ah," he said, looking at me as if for the first time, "so soon, yes. We - we’ll know - that is, I don’t know. I came on the railroad pass - cabooses - old hard-bench coaches - Texas - played flute and wooden sweet potato all the way." He took out his new wooden flute. He played a few squeaky notes on it and jumped up and down in his stocking feet. "See?" he said. "But of course, Sal, I can talk as soon as ever and have many things to say to you in fact with my own little bangtail mind I’ve been reading and reading this gone Proust all the way across the country and digging a great number of things I’ll never have TIME to tell you about and we STILL haven’t talked of Mexico and our parting there in fever - but no need to talk. Absolutely, now, yes?" (V.1.6, V.1.7)

    By the end of the novel, Dean has lost his control over time. He makes plans for a certain time and arrives far too early, unable to explain to Sal why that is. He is paralyzed by his need to get everything done NOW, and he spends all his time talking about it and never actually doing anything.

  • Friendship

    In those days he really didn’t know what he was talking about; that is to say, he was a young jailkid all hung-up on the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a jumbled way, that he had heard from "real intellectuals" - although, mind you, he wasn’t so naive as that in all other things, and it took him just a few months with Carlo Marx to become completely in there with all the terms and jargon. Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of madness, and I agreed that he could stay at my house till he found a job and furthermore we agreed to go out West sometime. That was the winter of 1947. (I.1.7)

    Dean and Sal’s friendship is based on madness. The question that follows is how does Sal and Dean's friendship evolve as Dean's madness evolves?

    And that was the night Dean met Carlo Marx. A tremendous thing happened when Dean met Carlo Marx. Two keen minds that they are, they took to each other at the drop of a hat. Two piercing eyes glanced into two piercing eyes - the holy con-man with the shining mind, and the sorrowful poetic con-man with the dark mind that is Carlo Marx. From that moment on I saw very little of Dean, and I was a little sorry too. Their energies met head-on, I was a lout compared, I couldn’t keep up with them. (I.1.11)

    If Dean and Sal’s friendship is based on learning of the mind, then Carlo and Dean’s is based on a deeper soul connection, the kind that Sal ultimately looks for in a woman. In fact, Sal’s descriptions of Laura’s eyes mirror this description of "two piercing eyes."

    Yes, and it wasn’t only because I was a writer and needed new experiences that I wanted to know Dean more, and because my life hanging around the campus had reached the completion of its cycle and was stultified, but because, somehow, in spite of our difference in character, he reminded me of some long-lost brother; the sight of his suffering bony face with the long sideburns and his straining muscular sweating neck made me remember my boyhood in those dye-dumps and swimholes and riversides of Paterson and the Passaic. (I.1.16)

    Sal repeatedly uses the word "brother" to describe Dean, suggesting a greater bond than mere friendship between them.

    Although my aunt warned me that he would get me in trouble, I could hear a new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young age; and a little bit of trouble or even Dean’s eventual rejection of me as a buddy, putting me down, as he would later, on starving sidewalks and sickbeds - what did it matter? I was a young writer and I wanted to take off. (I.1.17)

    Sal identifies his own naiveté in his friendship with Dean.

    In this town, under a big elm tree near a gas station, I made the acquaintance of another hitchhiker, a typical New Yorker, an Irishman who’d been driving a truck for the post office most of his work years and was now headed for a girl in Denver and a new life. I think he was running away from something in New York, the law most likely. He was a real red- nose young drunk of thirty and would have bored me ordinarily, except that my senses were sharp for any kind of human friendship. He wore a beat sweater and baggy pants and had nothing with him in the way of a bag - just a toothbrush and handkerchiefs. He said we ought to hitch together. I should have said no, because he looked pretty awful on the road. But we stuck together and got a ride with a taciturn man to Stuart, Iowa, a town in which we were really stranded. (I.3.8)

    The transient friendships that Sal makes on the road provide the opportunity for contrast to his friendship with Dean.

    Eddie turned out to be a pretty absent-minded pal of the road. A funny old contraption rolled by, driven by an old man; it was made of some kind of aluminum, square as a box - a trailer, no doubt, but a weird, crazy Nebraska homemade trailer. He was going very slow and stopped. We rushed up; he said he could only take one; without a word Eddie jumped in and slowly rattled from my sight, and wearing my wool plaid shirt. Well, alackaday, I kissed the shirt good-by; it had only sentimental value in any case. (I.3.24)

    Sal again has an odd reaction to being rejected by a supposed friend; rather than mourn the loss of a buddy or feel angry at betrayal, Sal focuses on the loss of his shirt.

    Meanwhile the blond young fugitive sat the same way; every now and then Gene leaned out of his Buddhistic trance over the rushing dark plains and said something tenderly in the boy’s ear. The boy nodded. Gene was taking care of him, of his moods and his fears. I wondered where the hell they would go and what they would do. They had no cigarettes. I squandered my pack on them, I loved them so. They were grateful and gracious. They never asked, I kept offering. Montana Slim had his own but never passed the pack. (I.4.55)

    Sal is always willing to be friends, he’s always the one that steps forward with a word or gesture.

    I sensed some kind of conspiracy in the air, and this conspiracy lined up two groups in the gang: it was Chad King and Tim Gray and Roland Major, together with the Rawlinses, generally agreeing to ignore Dean Moriarty and Carlo Marx. I was smack in the middle of this interesting war. (I.6.4)

    Although Sal is not always an active participant in the goings on of his gang, he is an astute observer of the subtle interactions taking place.

    It was a war with social overtones. Dean was the son of a wino, one of the most tottering bums of Larimer Street, and Dean had in fact been brought up generally on Larimer Street and thereabouts. He used to plead in court at the age of six to have his father set free. He used to beg in front of Larimer alleys and sneak the money back to his father, who waited among the broken bottles with an old buddy. Then when Dean grew up he began hanging around the Glenarm pool-halls; he set a Denver record for stealing cars and went to the reformatory. From the age of eleven to seventeen he was usually in reform school. His specialty was stealing cars, gunning for girls coming out of high school in the afternoon, driving them out to the mountains, making them, and coming back to sleep in any available hotel bathtub in town. His father, once a respectable and hardworking tinsmith, had become a wine alcoholic, which is worse than a whisky alcoholic, and was reduced to riding freights to Texas in the winter and back to Denver in the summer. Dean had brothers on his dead mother’s side - she died when he was small - but they disliked him. Dean’s only buddies were the poolhall boys. Dean, who had the tremendous energy of a new kind of American saint, and Carlo were the underground monsters of that season in Denver, together with the poolhall gang, and, symbolizing this most beautifully, Carlo had a basement apartment on Grant Street and we all met there many a night that went to dawn - Carlo, Dean, myself, Tom Snark, Ed Dunkel, and Roy Johnson. More of these others later. (I.6.5)

    Sal makes the interesting point that social status can be used as a means to accept or reject friendship.

    "Dean and I are embarked on a tremendous season together. We’re trying to communicate with absolute honesty and absolute completeness everything on our minds. We’ve had to take benzedrine. We sit on the bed, crosslegged, facing each other. I have finally taught Dean that he can do anything he wants, become mayor of Denver, marry a millionairess, or become the greatest poet since Rimbaud. But he keeps rushing out to see the midget auto races. I go with him. He jumps and yells, excited. You know, Sal, Dean is really hung-up on things like that." Marx said "Hmm" in his soul and thought about this. (I.7.10)

    Carlo’s desire to connect with Dean’s soul mirrors Sal’s desire to do so with a woman.

    Major found our hurrying troubles amusing. He’d come to Denver to write leisurely. He treated Dean with extreme deference. Dean paid no attention. Major talked to Dean like this: "Moriarty, what’s this I hear about you sleeping with three girls at the same time?" And Dean shuffled on the rug and said, "Oh yes, oh yes, that’s the way it goes," and looked at his watch, and Major snuffed down his nose. I felt sheepish rushing off with Dean - Major insisted he was a moron and a fool. Of course he wasn’t, and I wanted to prove it to everybody somehow. (I.8.3)

    Sal is unwavering in his desire to help his friend. These actions make Dean’s later betrayal of Sal more poignant.

    Then they got down to business. They sat on the bed crosslegged and looked straight at each other. I slouched in a nearby chair and saw all of it. They began with an abstract thought, discussed it; reminded each other of another abstract point forgotten in the rush of events; Dean apologized but promised he could get back to it and manage it fine, bringing up illustrations. (I.8.9)

    Dean and Carlo have a completely unique way of interacting; Sal can only watch from afar.

    The night was getting more and more frantic. I wished Dean and Carlo were there - then I realized they’d be out of place and unhappy. They were like the man with the dungeon stone and the gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining. (I.9.15)

    Sal has a subtle and detailed understanding of his friends.

    It’s not that he ever blamed me for taking off with his girl; it was only a point that always tied us together; that guy was loyal to me and had real affection for me, and God knows why. (I.11.5)

    Sal’s casual treatment of Remi’s loyalty is interesting and may reflect Dean’s initial feelings for Sal.

    "Agreed!" I said. Remi ran to tell Lee Ann. I wanted to jump down from a mast and land right in her, but I kept my promise to Remi. I averted my eyes from her. (I.11.76)

    Sal’s loyalty to Remi stands in contrast to Dean’s poor treatment of Sal.

    I forgave everybody, I gave up, I got drunk. I began talking moonshine and roses to the doctor’s young wife. I drank so much I had to go to the men’s room every two minutes, and to do so I had to hop over Dr. Boncœur’s lap. Everything was falling apart. My stay in San Francisco was coming to an end. Remi would never talk to me again. It was horrible because I really loved Remi and I was one of the very few people in the world who knew what a genuine and grand fellow he was. It would take years for him to get over it. How disastrous all this was compared to what I’d written him from Paterson, planning my red line Route 6 across America. (I.11.96)

    It is not until he believes their friendship is destroyed that Sal is able to understand Remi’s real value.

    My aunt - a respectable woman hung-up in this sad world, and well she knew the world. She told us about the cop. "He was hiding behind the tree, trying to see what I looked like. I told him - I told him to search the car if he wanted. I’ve nothing to be ashamed of." She knew Dean had something to be ashamed of, and me too, by virtue of my being with Dean, and Dean and I accepted this sadly. (II.3.13)

    By being friends with Dean, Sal must take on all of Dean’s baggage, problems, and guilt – not only in his becoming an accomplice to Dean’s crimes, but the mental and metaphorical weight of Dean’s madness.

    Suddenly Dean leaned to me earnestly and said, "Sal, I have something to ask of you - very important to me - I wonder how you’ll take it - we’re buddies, aren’t we?"

    "Sure are, Dean." He almost blushed. Finally he came out with it: he wanted me to work Marylou. I didn’t ask him why because I knew he wanted to see what Marylou was like with another man. (II.5.5, II.5.6)

    Dean uses his friendship with Sal to very different ends than Sal uses their friendship.

    Suddenly Dean was saying good-by. He was bursting to see Camille and find out what had happened. Marylou and I stood dumbly in the street and watched him drive away. "You see what a bastard he is?" said Marylou. "Dean will leave you out in the cold any time it’s in his interest."

    "I know," I said, and I looked back east and sighed. (II.9.9)

    Sal agrees with Marylou’s assessment of Dean as a "bastard," but is never fully and truly angry with Dean.

    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. (II.10.1)

    Sal’s attitude toward Dean takes on that of a disappointed parent, rather than an angry friend.

    That was the way Dean found me when he finally decided I was worth saving. He took me home to Camille’s house. "Where’s Marylou, man?" (II.11.1)

    Sal hints at his feelings about Dean’s betrayal.

    At dawn I got my New York bus and said good-by to Dean and Marylou. They wanted some of my sandwiches. I told them no. It was a sullen moment. We were all thinking we’d never see one another again and we didn’t care. (II.11.12)

    Sal’s refusal to give Dean a sandwich mirrors his decision at the end of the novel not to give Dean a ride; both small favors whose refusal carries enormous weight.

    In the spring of 1949 I had a few dollars saved from my GI education checks and I went to Denver, thinking of settling down there. I saw myself in Middle America, a patriarch. I was lonesome. Nobody was there - no Babe Rawlins, Ray Rawlins, Tim Gray, Betty Gray, Roland Major, Dean Moriarty, Carlo Marx, Ed Dunkel, Roy Johnson, Tommy Snark, nobody. (III.1.1)

    Sal feels saddest when he is alone. He needs Dean for the same reason he needs women: companionship.

    Before I knew it, once again I was seeing the fabled city of San Francisco stretched on the bay in the middle of the night. I ran immediately to Dean. He had a little house now. I was burning to know what was on his mind and what would happen now, for there was nothing behind me any more, all my I bridges were gone and I didn’t give a damn about anything at all. I knocked on his door at two o’clock in the morning. (III.1.7)

    Sal’s exuberance to see Dean reminds us of the intensity of their friendship.

    "Eh?" he said. "Eh? Eh?" We racked our brains for where to go and what to do. I realized it was up to me. Poor, poor Dean - the devil himself had never fallen farther; in idiocy, with infected thumb, surrounded by the battered suitcases of his motherless feverish life across America and back numberless times, an undone bird. "Let’s walk to New York," he said, "and as we do so let’s take stock of everything along the way - yass." I took out my money and counted it; I showed it to him. (III.2.18)

    Sal begins to identify a switch in roles in his friendship with Dean, but Dean prevents such a switch from occurring.

    "Why yass," said Dean, and then realized I was serious and looked at me out of the corner of his eye for the first time, for I’d never committed myself before with regard to his burdensome existence, and that look was the look of a man weighing his chances at the last moment before the bet. There were triumph and insolence in his eyes, a devilish look, and he never took his eyes off mine for a long time. I looked back at him and blushed.

    I said, "What’s the matter?" I felt wretched when I asked it. He made no answer but continued looking at me with the same wary insolent side-eye.

    I tried to remember everything he’d done in his life and if there wasn’t something back there to make him suspicious of something now. Resolutely and firmly I repeated what I said - "Come to New York with me; I’ve got the money." I looked at him; my eyes were watering with embarrassment and tears. Still he stared at me. Now his eyes were blank and looking through me. It was probably the pivotal point of our friendship when he realized I had actually spent some hours thinking about him and his troubles, and he was trying to place that in his tremendously involved and tormented mental categories. Something clicked in both of us. In me it was suddenly concern for a man who was years younger than I, five years, and whose fate was wound with mine across the passage of the recent years; in him it was a matter that I can ascertain only from what he did afterward. He became extremely joyful and said everything was settled. "What was that look?" I asked. He was pained to hear me say that. He frowned. It was rarely that Dean frowned. We both felt perplexed and uncertain of something. (III.2.22-III.2.24).

    Sal and Dean struggle together to understand the nature and intensity of their friendship. When Dean begins to realize he is being idolized, he deals with the situation awkwardly.

    "Dean, why do you act so foolish?" said Galatea. "Camille called and said you left her. Don’t you realize you have a daughter?"

    "He didn’t leave her, she kicked him out!" I said, breaking my neutrality. They all gave me dirty looks; Dean grinned. "And with that thumb, what do you expect the poor guy to do?" I added. They all looked at me; particularly Dorothy Johnson lowered a mean gaze on me. It wasn’t anything but a sewing circle, and the center of it was the culprit, Dean - responsible, perhaps, for everything that was wrong. (III.3.10, III.10.11)

    Sal feels guilt when the group attacks Dean for his decisions.

    This was not true; I knew better and I could have told them all. I didn’t see any sense in trying it. I longed to go and put my arm around Dean and say, Now look here, all of you, remember just one thing: this guy has his troubles too, and another thing, he never complains and he’s given all of you a damned good time just being himself, and if that isn’t enough for you then send him to the firing squad, that’s apparently what you’re itching to do anyway . . . (III.3.17)

    Sal feels a friend’s defensiveness for Dean, but is left in the unfortunate position of choosing one friend over everyone else.

    "Ah," I said, "you’re always making cracks about my age. I’m no old fag like that fag, you don’t have to warn me about! my kidneys." We went back to the booth and just as the waitress set down the hot-roast-beef sandwiches - and ordinarily Dean would have leaped to wolf the food at once - I said to cap my anger, "And I don’t want to hear any more of it." And suddenly Dean’s eyes grew tearful and he got up and left his food steaming there and walked out of the restaurant. I wondered if he was just wandering off forever. I didn’t care, - I was so mad - I had nipped momentarily and turned it down on Dean. But the sight of his uneaten food made me sadder than anything in years. I shouldn’t have said that ... he likes to eat so much . . . He’s never left his food like this . . . What the hell. That’s showing him, anyway. (III.6.6)

    Sal’s final lashing out at Dean is over the smallest of events – which surely reflect his anger at their earlier conversation.

    "You don’t die enough to cry." Every one of these things I said was a knife at myself. Everything I had ever secretly held against my brother was coming out: how ugly I was and what filth I was discovering in the depths of my own impure psychologies.

    [...]

    "Believe me, Sal, really do believe me if you’ve ever believed anything about me." I knew he was telling the truth and yet I didn’t want to bother with the truth and when I looked up at him I think I was cockeyed from cracked intestinal twistings in my awful belly. Then I knew I was wrong. (III.6.13, III.6.16)

    Sal’s guilt at hurting Dean is unbelievably palpable. He uses the word "impure" to describe himself, having used the word "pure" in reference to Dean many times.

    "Ah, man, Dean, I’m sorry, I never acted this way before with you. Well, now you know me. You know I don’t have close relationships with anybody any more - I don’t know what to do with these things. I hold things in my hand like pieces of crap and don’t know where to put it down. Let’s forget it." The holy con-man began to eat. "It’s not my fault! it’s not my fault!" I told him. "Nothing in this lousy world is my fault, don’t you see that? I don’t want it to be and it can’t be and it won’t be." (III.6.17)

    Sal’s apology quickly turns into a defense, as he feels the need to grovel to the "holy con-man."

    "Remember that I believe in you. I’m infinitely sorry for the foolish grievance I held against you yesterday afternoon."(III.6.31)

    It is not until later that Sal’s real apology actually surfaces, and only when he sees Dean suffer a hardship.

    I said, "He won’t do it again. I’ll watch him; he’s my brother and listens to me. Please put your gun away and don’t bother about anything." (III.7.8)

    Sal’s use of the word "brother" to describe his friendship with Dean underscores the intensity of their relationship.

    "Well, it’s about time!" said the Broadway Sam travel-bureau boss. "I thought you’d gone off with that Cadillac."

    "It’s my responsibility," I said, "don’t worry" - and said that because Dean was in such obvious frenzy everybody could guess his madness. (III.8.9, III.8.10)

    Sal is forced to be the responsible member in their friendship.

    "Is he your brother?" the boys asked in the back seat. "He’s a devil with a car, isn’t he? - and according to his story he must be with the women."

    "He’s mad," I said, "and yes, he’s my brother." I saw Dean coming back with the farmer in his tractor. (III.8.14, III.8.15)

    Sal’s use of the word "brother" to describe his friendship with Dean underscores the intensity of their relationship.

    "What in the hell did you go and do that for?" I could see he used to be Dean’s older brother. He shook his head; the milk pail was still at his feet. "You always been a crackbrained sonofab**** anyhow." (III.8.21)

    Just as Sal is in constant need of a hero, so Dean is in need of an older brother.

    We were so used to traveling we had to walk all over Long Island, but there was no more land, just the Atlantic Ocean, and we could only go so far. We clasped hands and agreed to be friends forever. (III.11.6)

    Sal contrasts the limitations of geography with what he believes is the limitlessness of his friendship with Dean. It may turn out, however, that they could "only go so far" in their friendship with each other.

    "Well, lessgo, lessgo!" Dean leaped out of the car and clasped Victor’s hand. There was a group of other boys hanging around the station and grinning, half of them barefoot, all wearing floppy straw hats. "Man," said Dean to me, "ain’t this a nice way to spend an afternoon. It’s so much cooler than Denver poolhalls. Victor, you got gurls? Where? A donde?" he cried in Spanish. "Dig that, Sal, I’m speaking Spanish." (IV.5.21)

    While Sal is more reserved, Dean makes friends quickly and easily.

    Dean didn’t bother with a shower, and we saw him far across the sad park, strolling arm in arm with good Victor and chatting volubly and pleasantly and even leaning excitedly toward him to make a point, and pounding his fist. Then they resumed the arm-in-arm position and strolled. The time was coming to say good-by to Victor, so Dean was taking the opportunity to have moments alone with him and to inspect the park and get his views on things in general and in all dig him as only Dean could do. (IV.5.55)

    Dean is immediately drawn to many of the people he meets, forming close friendships in a matter of hours.

    "All that again, good buddy. Gotta get back to my life. Wish I could stay with you. Pray I can come back." I grabbed the cramps in my belly and groaned. When I looked up again bold noble Dean was standing with his old broken trunk and looking down at me. I didn’t know who he was any more, and he knew this, and sympathized, and pulled the blanket over my shoulders. "Yes, yes, yes, I’ve got to go now.

    "Old fever Sal, good-by." And he was gone. Twelve hours later in my sorrowful fever I finally came to understand that he was gone. By that time he was driving back alone through those banana mountains, this time at night.

    When I got better I realized what a rat he was, but then I had to understand the impossible complexity of his life, how he had to leave me there, sick, to get on with his wives and woes. "Okay, old Dean, I’ll say nothing." (IV.6.30-IV.6.32)

    Sal is incredibly lenient in his view of Dean, forgiving his friend a second time for abandoning him.

    "D’you think I can ride to Fortieth Street with you?" he whispered. "Want to be with you as much as possible, m’boy, and besides it’s so durned cold in this here New Yawk ..." I whispered to Remi. No, he wouldn’t have it, he liked me but he didn’t like my idiot friends. I wasn’t going to start all over again ruining his planned evenings as I had done at Alfred’s in San Francisco in 1947 with Roland Major. (V.1.15)

    Sal and Dean’s friendship ends on this note of sadness, with Sal’s inability – or perhaps unwillingness – to help Dean in New York.

  • Spirituality

    Dean had dispatched the occupant of the apartment to the kitchen, probably to make coffee, while he proceeded with his love problems, for to him sex was the one and only holy and important thing in life, although he had to sweat and curse to make a living and so on. (I.1.4)

    Sal doesn’t connect holiness and sex at first, but recognizes the connection in Dean.

    "That’s right, man, now you’re talking." And a kind of holy lightning I saw flashing from his excitement and his visions, which he described so torrentially that people in buses looked around to see the "overexcited nut." In the West he’d spent a third of his time in the poolhall, a third in jail, and a third in the public library. They’d seen him rushing eagerly down the winter streets, bareheaded, carrying books to the poolhall, or climbing trees to get into the attics of buddies where he spent days reading or hiding from the law. (I.1.10)

    The holy element that Sal recognizes in Dean is Dean’s frenzied nature, his "holy lightning." Dean’s madness takes on the fervor of religious ecstasy,

    Dean, who had the tremendous energy of a new kind of American saint, and Carlo were the underground monsters of that season in Denver, together with the poolhall gang, and, symbolizing this most beautifully, Carlo had a basement apartment on Grant Street and we all met there many a night that went to dawn - Carlo, Dean, myself, Tom Snark, Ed Dunkel, and Roy Johnson. More of these others later. (I.6.5)

    It is interesting that Sal refers to Dean as a saint, given his criminal past, his drug use, his alcohol abuse, and his general mistreatment of Sal as a friend.

    I wanted to go and get Rita again and tell her a lot more things, and really make love to her this time, and calm her fears about men. Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk - real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious. (I.10.11)

    While Dean sees sex as holy, Sal sees the interaction between men and women in conversation as the holy part. Sex, according to Sal, only obscures the issue.

    Terry came out with tears of sorriness in her eyes. In her simple and funny little mind had been decided the fact that a pimp does not throw a woman’s shoes against the door and does not tell her to get out. In reverent and sweet little silence she took all her clothes off and slipped her tiny body into the sheets with me. It was brown as grapes. I saw her poor belly where there was a Caesarian scar; her hips were so narrow she couldn’t bear a child without getting gashed open. Her legs were like little sticks. She was only four foot ten. I made love to her in the sweetness of the weary morning. Then, two tired angels of some kind, hung-up forlornly in an LA shelf, having found the closest and most delicious thing in life together, we fell asleep and slept till late afternoon. (I.12.26)

    It is not until after the act of sex that Sal uses religious terms to describe himself and Terry, suggesting that sex is not the important bit for Sal.

    "How did you get from Tucson to New Orleans?" I asked. She said she wired home for money and took a bus. She was determined to catch up with Ed because she loved him. I went upstairs and told Big Ed. He sat in the chair with a worried look, an angel of a man, actually. (II.3.2)

    Sal sees holiness in all of his friends, but never in himself.

    He was out of his mind with real belief. "And of course now no one can tell us that there is no God. We’ve passed through all forms. You remember, Sal, when I first came to New York and I wanted Chad King to teach me about Nietzsche. You see how long ago? Everything is fine, God exists, we know time. Everything since the Greeks has been predicated wrong. You can’t make it with geometry and geometrical systems of thinking. It’s all this!" He wrapped his finger in his fist; the car hugged the line straight and true. "And not only that but we both understand that I couldn’t have time to explain why I know and you know God exists." At one point I moaned about life’s troubles - how poor my family was, how much I wanted to help Lucille, who was also poor and had a daughter. "Troubles, you see, is the generalization-word for what God exists in. The thing is not to get hung-up. My head rings!" he cried, clasping his head. (II.3.10)

    Dean believes he has found God in the knowledge he sought.

    We passed a little kid who was throwing stones at the cars in the road. "Think of it," said Dean. "One day he’ll put a stone through a man’s windshield and the man will crash and die - all on account of that little kid. You see what I mean? God exists without qualms. As we roll along this way 1 am positive beyond doubt that everything will be taken care of for us - that even you, as you drive, fearful of the wheel" (I hated to drive and drove carefully) - "the thing will go along of itself and you won’t go off the road and I can sleep. Furthermore we know America, we’re at home; I can go anywhere in America and get what I want because it’s the same in every corner, I know the people, I know what they do. We give and take and go in the incredibly complicated sweetness zigzagging every side." There was nothing clear about the things he said, but what he meant to say was somehow made pure and clear. He used the word "pure" a great deal. I had never dreamed Dean would become a mystic. These were the first days of his mysticism, which would lead to the strange, ragged W. C. Fields saintliness of his later days. (II.3.10)

    Sal traces Dean’s evolution with religious terms. His way of describing Dean emphasizes his idolatry, seeing Dean as something greater-than-human.

    George Shearing, the great jazz pianist, Dean said, was exactly like Roll Greb. Dean and I went to see Shearing at Birdland in the midst of the long, mad weekend. The place was deserted, we were the first customers, ten o’clock. Shearing came out, blind, led by the hand to his keyboard. He was distinguished-looking Englishman with a stiff white collar, slightly beefy, blond, with a delicate English-summer’s-night air about him that came out in the first rippling sweet number he played as the bass-player leaned to him reverently and thrummed the beat. The drummer, Denzil Best, sat motionless except for his wrists snapping the brushes. And Shearing began to rock; a smile broke over his ecstatic face; he began to rock in the piano seat, back and forth, slowly at first, then the beat went up, and he began rocking fast, his left foot jumped up with every beat, his neck began to rock crookedly, he brought his face down to the keys, he pushed his hair back, his combed hair dissolved, he began to sweat. The music I picked up. The bass-player hunched over and socked it in, faster and faster, it seemed faster and faster, that’s all. Shearing began to play his chords; they rolled out of the piano in great rich showers, you’d think the man wouldn’t have time to line them up. They rolled and rolled like the sea. Folks yelled for him to "Go!" Dean was sweating; the swear poured down his collar. "There he is! That’s him! Old God! Old God Shearing! Yes! Yes! Yes!" And Shearing was conscious of the madman behind him, he could hear every one of Dean’s gasps and imprecations, he could sense it though he couldn’t see. "That’s right!" Dean said. "Yes!" Shearing smiled; he rocked. Shearing rose from the piano, dripping with sweat; these were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial. When he was gone Dean pointed to the empty piano seat. "God’s empty chair," he said. On the piano a horn sat; its golden shadow made a strange reflection along the desert caravan painted on the wall behind the drums. God was gone; it was the silence of his departure. (II.4.18)

    Dean sees God in musicians, precisely because they "know time." In his mind, the keeping of a beat and the control of an instrument represents the power of the divine.

    Solomon never showed up so we roared out of Testament. "Now you see, Sal, God does exist, because we keep getting hung-up with this town, no matter what we try to do, and you’ll notice the strange Biblical name of it, and that strange Biblical character who made us stop here once more, and all things tied together all over like rain connecting everybody the world over by chain touch. . ." Dean rattled on like this; he was overjoyed and exuberant. (II.6.13).

    As Dean’s "madness" evolves, he becomes more and more spiritual.

    I drove through South Carolina and beyond Macon, Georgia, as Dean, Marylou, and Ed slept. All alone in the night I had my own thoughts and held the car to the white line in the holy road. (II.6.13)

    Learning from Dean, Sal begins to see holiness in his travels.

    Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is. Dean once had a dream that he was having a baby and his belly was all bloated up blue as he lay on the grass of a California hospital. Under a tree, with a group of colored men, sat Slim Gaillard. Dean turned despairing eyes of a mother to him. Slim said "There you go-orooni." Now Dean approached him, he approached his God; he thought Slim was God; he shuffled and bowed in front of him and asked him to join us; "Right-orooni," says Slim; he’ll join anybody but he won’t guarantee to be there with you in spirit. Dean got a table, bought drinks, and sat stiffly in front of Slim. Slim dreamed over his head. Every time Slim said "Orooni," Dean said, "Yes!" I sat there with these two madmen. Nothing happened. To Slim Gaillard the whole world was just one big orooni. (II.11.9)

    Again, Dean finds "God" in a musician.

    Two fellows were driving this car; they said they were pimps. Two other fellows were passengers with me. We sat tight and bent our minds to the goal. We went over Berthoud Pass, down to the great plateau, Tabernash, Troublesome, Kremmling; down Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs, and out; fifty miles of dusty detour; then Craig and the Great American Desert. As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, "Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven." Ah well, alackaday, I was more interested in some old rotted covered wagons and pool tables sitting in the Nevada desert near a Coca-Cola stand and where there were huts with the weatherbeaten signs still napping in the haunted shrouded desert wind, saying, "Rattlesnake Bill lived here" or "Broken-mouth Annie holed up here for years." Yes, zoom! In Salt! Lake City the pimps checked on their girls and we drove on. (III.1.7)

    While Dean sees God in music, Sal sees God on the road, in the act of traveling.

    "Not so good, not so good. But we’ve got a million things to talk about. Sal, the time has fi-nally come for us to talk and get with it." We agreed it was about time and went in. My arrival was somewhat like the coming of the strange most evil angel in the home of the snow-white fleece, as Dean and I began talking excitedly in the kitchen downstairs, which brought forth sobs from upstairs. Everything I said to Dean was answered with a wild, whispering, shuddering "Yes!" Camille knew what was going to happen. Apparently Dean had been quiet for a few months; now the angel had arrived and he was going mad again. "What’s the matter with her?" I whispered. (III.2.3)

    When On the Road begins, Dean is the holy saint, the angel. But as the story progresses, Sal becomes the angel coming to Dean.

    "Eh?" he said. "Eh? Eh?" We racked our brains for where to go and what to do. I realized it was up to me. Poor, poor Dean - the devil himself had never fallen farther; in idiocy, with infected thumb, surrounded by the battered suitcases of his motherless feverish life across America and back numberless times, an undone bird. "Let’s walk to New York," he said, "and as we do so let’s take stock of everything along the way - yass." I took out my money and counted it; I showed it to him. (III.2.18)

    While Dean is originally described as an angel, he is later a devil.

    Dean laughed. For years he had been chief prophet of that gang and now they were learning his technique. Tommy Snark had grown a beard and his big sorrowful blue eyes had come looking for Ed Dunkel in Frisco. (III.3.6).

    The idea of Dean as a prophet is an interesting one; whose word is he bringing and what exactly is his message?

    "I think Marylou was very, very wise leaving you, Dean," said Galatea. "For years now you haven’t had any sense of responsibility for anyone. You’ve done so many awful things I don’t know what to say to you."

    And in fact that was the point, and they all sat around looking at Dean with lowered and hating eyes, and he stood on the carpet in the middle of them and giggled - he just giggled. He made a little dance. His bandage was getting dirtier all the time; it began to flop and unroll. I suddenly realized that Dean, by virtue of his enormous series of sins, was becoming the Idiot, the Imbecile, the Saint of the lot.

    "You have absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and your damned kicks. All you think about is what’s hanging between your legs and how much money or fun you can get out of people and then you just throw them aside. Not only that but you’re silly about it. It never occurs to you that life is serious and there are people trying to make something decent out of it instead of just goofing all the time."

    That’s what Dean was, the HOLY GOOF. (III.3.12-III.3.15).

    Sal’s epiphany that Dean is a "holy goof" is an apt one, combining the silliness of Dean’s lack of logic and whimsical decisions with the intensity of his beliefs and the religious adherence to his own set of personally revered rules.

    There were earlier days in Denver when Dean had everybody sit in the dark with the girls and just talked, and talked, and talked, with a voice that was once hypnotic and strange and was said to make the girls come across by sheer force of persuasion and the content of what he said. This was when he was fifteen, sixteen. Now his disciples were married and the wives of his disciples had him on the carpet for the sexuality and the life he had helped bring into being. I listened further. (III.3.18)

    Dean is again described as a prophet, but the message he brings is detrimental and destroying the lives of the men around him.

    Just as flat as that. It was the saddest night. I felt as if I was with strange brothers and sisters in a pitiful dream. Then a complete silence fell over everybody; where once Dean would have talked his way out, he now fell silent himself, but standing in front of everybody, ragged and broken and idiotic, right under the lightbulbs, his bony mad face covered with sweat and throbbing veins, saying, "Yes, yes, yes," as though tremendous revelations were pouring into him all the time now, and I am convinced they were, and the others suspected as much and were frightened. He was BEAT - the root, the soul of Beatific. What was he knowing? He tried all in his power to tell me what he was knowing, and they envied that about me, my position at his side, defending him and drinking him in as they once tried to do. Then they looked at me. What was I, a stranger, doing on the West Coast this fair night? I recoiled from the thought. (III.3.20)

    Sal’s word "beat" signifies the culmination of many aspects of Dean – "beatific" addresses the holy aspect.

    "Very well, then," I said, "but now he’s alive and I’ll bet you want to know what he does next and that’s because he’s got the secret that we’re all busting to find and it’s splitting his head wide open and if he goes mad don’t worry, it won’t be your fault but the fault of God." (III.3.24)

    Sal uses God to explain Dean’s madness.

    Holy flowers floating in the air, were all these tired faces in the dawn of Jazz America. (III.3.42)

    Sal, like Dean, connects music with God.

    We were telling these things and both sweating. We had completely forgotten the people up front who had begun to wonder what was going on in the back seat. At one point the driver said, "For God’s sakes, you’re rocking the boat back there." Actually we were; the car was swaying as Dean and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all innumerable riotous angelic particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our lives. (III.5.4)

    Part of Dean’s appeal for Sal is his holiness; the two understand each other not only "on other levels of madness," but also on a level of spirituality.

    The holy con-man began to eat. (III.6.17)

    Again, Sal connects two seemingly inconsistent traits in Dean: holiness and criminality.

    "Don’t worry, man, I know what I’m doing." I began to flinch. Dean came up on lines of cars like the Angel of Terror. He almost rammed them along as he looked for an opening. He teased their bumpers, he eased and pushed and craned around to see the curve, then the huge car leaped to his touch and passed, and always by a hair we made it back to our side as other lines filed by in the opposite direction and I shuddered. I couldn’t take it any more. (III.9.14)

    Sal seems to emphasize Dean’s holiness at his greatest moments of intensity – intense driving, intense drug use, and intense madness or music.

    Stranger flowers yet - for as the N**** alto mused over everyone’s head with dignity, the young, tall, slender, blond kid from Curtis Street, Denver, jeans and studded belt, sucked on his mouthpiece while waiting for the others to finish; and when they did he started, and you had to look around to see where the solo was coming from, for it came from angelical smiling lips upon the mouthpiece and it was a soft, sweet, fairy-tale solo on an alto. Lonely as America, a throatpierced sound in the night. (III.10.5)

    Like Dean, Sal connects spirituality with music.

    Suddenly Dean stared into the darkness of a corner beyond the bandstand and said, "Sal, God has arrived."

    I looked. George Shearing. And as always he leaned his blind head on his pale hand, all ears opened like the ears of an elephant, listening to the American sounds and mastering them for his own English summer’s-night use. Then they urged him to get up and play. He did. He played innumerable choruses with amazing chords that mounted higher and higher till the sweat splashed all over the piano and everybody listened in awe and fright. They led him off the stand after an hour. He went back to his dark corner, old God Shearing, and the boys said, "There ain’t nothin left after that." (III.10.8, III.10.9)

    Dean sees God in Shearing because of his ability to keep a beat and "know time."

    By this time Dean was so exhausted and out of his mind that everything he saw delighted him. He was reaching another pious frenzy. He sweated and sweated. The moment we were in the new Chrysler and off to New York the poor man realized he had contracted a ride with two maniacs, but he made the best of it and in fact got used to us just as we passed Briggs Stadium and talked about next year’s Detroit Tigers. (III.11.3)

    Sal compares Dean’s fits of madness to religious fervors, an analogy that emphasizes the intensity and admirability of Dean’s character.

    "Why not, man? Of course we will if we want to, and all that. There’s no harm ending that way. You spend a whole life of non-interference with the wishes of others, including politicians and the rich, and nobody bothers you and you cut along and make it your own way." I agreed with him. He was reaching his Tao decisions in the simplest direct way. "What’s your road, man? - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?" We nodded in the rain. "Sheeit, and you’ve got to look out for your boy. He ain’t a man ‘less he’s a jumpin man - do what the doctor say. I’ll tell you. Sal, straight, no matter where I live, my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out. I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands. You’ve seen me try and break my ass to make it and you know that it doesn’t matter and we know time - how to slow it up and walk and dig and just old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know." (IV.1.6)

    Sal uses religious terms to characterize Dean’s transitions of character.

    "That’s only Ed Dunkel. He came back to Galatea, they’re gone to Denver now. They spent a day taking pictures."

    Ed Dunkel, his compassion unnoticed like the compassion of saints. (IV.1.25, IV.1.26)

    While Dean is a "saint" despite his treatment of women, Ed is a "saint" because of it.

    He was on his way to live with his brother and sister-in-law; they had a job for him in Colorado. His ticket was bought by the feds, his destination the parole. Here was a young kid like Dean had been; his blood boiled too much for him to bear; his nose opened up; but no native strange saintliness to save him from the iron fate. (IV.2.7)

    Sal uses Henry Glass to examine Deal further; Dean’s saintliness, it seems, is in spite of his criminality, not because of it.

    He simply disappeared for a moment to gather up more energy. If you touched him he would sway like a boulder suspended on a pebble on the precipice of a cliff. He might come crashing down or just sway rocklike. Then the boulder exploded into a flower and his face lit up with a lovely smile and he looked around like a man waking up and said, "Ah, look at all the nice people that are sitting here with me. Isn’t it nice! Sal, why, like I was tellin Min just t’other day, why, urp, ah, yes!" He got up and went across the room, hand outstretched to one of the bus-drivers in the party. "Howd’y’do. My name is Dean Moriarty. Yes, I remember you well. Is everything all right? Well, well. Look at the lovely cake. Oh, can I have some? Just me? Miserable me?" Ed’s sister said yes. "Oh, how wonderful. People are so nice. Cakes and pretty things set out on a table and all for the sake of wonderful little joys and delights. Hmm, ah, yes, excellent, splendid, harrumph, egad!" And he stood swaying in the middle of the room, eating his cake and looking at everyone with awe. He turned and looked around behind him. Everything amazed him, everything he saw. People talked in groups all around the room, and he said, "Yes! That’s right!" A picture on the wall made him stiffen to attention. He went up and looked closer, he backed up, he stooped, he jumped up, he wanted to see from all possible levels and angles, he tore at his T-shirt in exclamation, "Damn!" He had no idea of the impression he was making and cared less. People were now beginning to look at Dean with maternal and paternal affection glowing in their faces. He was finally an Angel, as I always knew he would become; but like any Angel he still had rages and furies, and that night when we all left the party and repaired to the Windsor bar in one vast brawling gang, Dean became frantically and demoniacally and seraphically drunk. (IV.3.12)

    Sal compares Dean’s fits of madness to religious fervors, an analogy that emphasizes the intensity and admirability of Dean’s character.

    We saw a vision of the entire Western Hemisphere rockribbing clear down to Tierra del Fuego and us flying down the curve of the world into other tropics and other worlds. "Man, this will finally take us to IT!" said Dean with definite faith. He tapped my arm. "Just wait and see. Hoo! Wheel" (IV.3.19)

    Dean’s "faith" in their journey makes the trip to Mexico a religious pilgrimage; their Mecca is "the end of the road."

    Dean was so astounded he kept on driving slowly and saying, "Yes, I heard what she said, I certainly damn well did, oh me, oh my, I don’t know what to do I’m so excited and sweetened in this morning world. We’ve finally got to heaven. It-couldn’t be cooler, it couldn’t be grander, it couldn’t be anything." (IV.5.10)

    The religious nature of the journey to Mexico is heightened by Dean’s commentary.

    "Why," said Dean, his face still transfigured into a shower of supreme pleasure and even bliss, "he is the prettiest child I have ever seen. Look at those eyes. Now, Sal and Stan," he said, turning to us with a serious and tender air, "I want you par-ti-cu-lar-ly to see the eyes of this little Mexican boy who is the son of our wonderful friend Victor, and notice how he will come to manhood with his own particular soul bespeaking itself through the windows which are his eyes, and such lovely eyes surely do prophesy and indicate the loveliest of souls." It was a beautiful speech. And it was a beautiful baby. Victor mournfully looked down at his angel. We all wished we had a little son like that. So great was our intensity over the child’s soul that he sensed something and began a grimace which led to bitter tears and some unknown sorrow that we had no means to soothe because it reached too far back into innumerable mysteries and time. We tried everything; Victor smothered him in his neck and rocked, Dean cooed, I reached over and stroked the baby’s little arms. His bawls grew louder. "Ah," said Dean, "I’m awfully sorry, Victor, that we’ve made him sad." (IV.5.42)

    Sal and Dean see in Victor’s baby a purity they themselves lack – there is beauty in the child, but the sadness lies in the comparison of the baby to themselves.

    "More Mambo Jambo," "Chattanooga de Mambo," "Mambo Numero Ocho" - all these tremendous numbers resounded and flared in the golden, mysterious afternoon like the sounds you expect to hear on the last day of the world and the Second Coming. The trumpets seemed so loud I thought they could hear them clear out in the desert, where the trumpets had originated anyway. The drums were mad. The mambo beat is the conga beat from Congo, the river of Africa and the world; it’s really the world beat. Oom-ta, ta-poo-poom - oom- ta, ta-poo-poom. The piano montunos showered down on us from the speaker. The cries of the leader were like great gasps in the air. The final trumpet choruses that came with drum climaxes on conga and bongo drums, on the great mad Chattanooga record, froze Dean in his tracks for a moment till he shuddered and sweated; then when the trumpets bit the drowsy air with their quivering echoes, like a cavern’s or a cave’s, his eyes grew large and round as though seeing the devil, and he closed them tight. I myself was shaken like a puppet by it; I heard the trumpets flail the light I had seen and trembled in my boots. (IV.5.45)

    Sal sees spirituality in music, just as Dean does.

    As we climbed, the air grew cooler and the Indian girls on the road wore shawls over their heads and shoulders. They hailed us desperately; we stopped to see. They wanted to sell us little pieces of rock crystal. Their great brown, innocent eyes looked into ours with such soulful intensity that not one of us had the slightest sexual thought about them; moreover they were very young, some of them eleven and looking almost thirty. "Look at those eyes!" breathed Dean. They were like the eyes of the Virgin Mother when she was a child. We saw in them the tender and forgiving gaze of Jesus. And they stared unflinching into ours. We rubbed our nervous blue eyes and looked again. Still they penetrated us with sorrowful and hypnotic gleam. When they talked they suddenly became frantic and almost silly. In their silence they were themselves. (IV.6.14)

    In Mexico, everything and everyone becomes imbued with a holy status.

    Under great trees on the shimmering desert the shepherds sat and convened, and the sheep moiled in the sun and raised dust beyond. "Man, man," I yelled to Dean, "wake up and see the shepherds, wake up and see the golden world that Jesus came from, with your own eyes you can tell!"

    He shot his head up from the seat, saw one glimpse of it all in the fading red sun, and dropped back to sleep. When he woke up he described it to me in detail and said, "Yes, man, I’m glad you told me to look. Oh, Lord, what shall I do? Where will I go?" He rubbed his belly, he looked to heaven with red eyes, he almost wept. (IV.6.19, IV.6.20)

    Sal catches on to Dean’s holiness, using the same terminology to express his awe of Mexico.

    This was the great and final wild uninhibited Fellahin-childlike city that we knew we would find at the end of the road. Dean walked through with his arms hanging zombie-like at his sides, his mouth open, his eyes gleaming, and conducted a ragged and holy tour that lasted till dawn in a field with a boy in a straw hat who laughed and chatted with us and wanted to play catch, for nothing ever ended. (IV.6.26)

    Sal and Dean’s tour of a "holy" city solidifies their belief that this is their heaven, this is their Mecca – the end of the road they have been searching for.

  • Art and Culture

    At this time, 1947, bop was going like mad all over America. The fellows at the Loop blew, but with a tired air, because bop was somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis. And as I sat there listening to that sound of the .light which bop has come to represent for all of us, I thought of all my friends from one end of the country to the other and how they were really all in the same vast backyard doing something so frantic and rushing-about. (I.3.2)

    Sal uses music as a tool to connect his friends and himself. Throughout his travels across the country, the music is the same wherever he goes.

    Flat on my back, I stared straight up at the magnificent firmament, glorying in the time I was making, in how far I had come from sad Bear Mountain after all, and tingling with kicks at the thought of what lay ahead of me in Denver - whatever, whatever it would be. And Mississippi Gene began to sing a song. He sang it in a melodious, quiet voice, with a river accent, and it was simple, just "I got a purty little girl, she’s sweet six-teen, she’s the purti-est thing you ever seen," repeating it with other lines thrown in, all concerning how far he’d been and how he wished he could go back to her but he done lost her.

    I said, "Gene, that’s the prettiest song."

    "It’s the sweetest I know," he said with a smile.

    "I hope you get where you’re going, and be happy when you do."

    "I always make out and move along one way or the other." (I.4.63-I.4.67)

    Sal connects to other people through music.

    And what a wild place it is, with chickenshacks barely big enough to house a jukebox, and the jukebox blowing nothing but blues, bop, and jump. We went up dirty tenement stairs and came to the room of Terry’s friend Margarina, who owed Terry a skirt and a pair of shoes. Margarina was a lovely mulatto; her husband was black as spades and kindly. He went right out and bought a pint of whisky to host me proper. I tried to pay part of it, but he said no. They had two little children. The kids bounced on the bed; it was their play-place. They put their arms around me and looked at me with wonder. The wild humming night of Central Avenue - the night of Hamp’s "Central Avenue Breakdown" - howled and boomed along outside. They were singing in the halls, singing from their windows, just hell be damned and look out. Terry got her clothes and we said good-by. We went down to a chickenshack and played records on the jukebox. (I.13.5)

    Sal relies on music the same way he does on alcohol – as a crutch to help him get through difficult times.

    They ate voraciously as Dean, sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called "The Hunt," with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume. The Southern folk looked at one another and shook their heads in awe. (II.1.14)

    Dean’s madness is related to and inspired by jazz music.

    Dean sat on the floor with a music box and listened with tremendous amazement at the little song it played, "A Fine Romance" - "Little tinkling whirling doodlebells. Ah! Listen! We’ll all bend down together and look into the center of the music box till we learn about the secrets - tinklydoodle-bell, whee." Ed Dunkel was also sitting on the floor; he had my drumsticks; he suddenly began beating a tiny beat to go with the music box, that we barely could hear. Everybody held his breath to listen. "Tick . . . tack . . . tick-tick . . . tack-tack." Dean cupped a hand over his ear; his mouth hung open; he said, "Ah! Whee!" (II.3.5)

    Dean’s determination to "know time" is both spiritual and musical.

    George Shearing, the great jazz pianist, Dean said, was exactly like Roll Greb. Dean and I went to see Shearing at Birdland in the midst of the long, mad weekend. The place was deserted, we were the first customers, ten o’clock. Shearing came out, blind, led by the hand to his keyboard. He was distinguished-looking Englishman with a stiff white collar, slightly beefy, blond, with a delicate English-summer’s-night air about him that came out in the first rippling sweet number he played as the bass-player leaned to him reverently and thrummed the beat. The drummer, Denzil Best, sat motionless except for his wrists snapping the brushes. And Shearing began to rock; a smile broke over his ecstatic face; he began to rock in the piano seat, back and forth, slowly at first, then the beat went up, and he began rocking fast, his left foot jumped up with every beat, his neck began to rock crookedly, he brought his face down to the keys, he pushed his hair back, his combed hair dissolved, he began to sweat. The music I picked up. The bass-player hunched over and socked it in, faster and faster, it seemed faster and faster, that’s all. Shearing began to play his chords; they rolled out of the piano in great rich showers, you’d think the man wouldn’t have time to line them up. They rolled and rolled like the sea. Folks yelled for him to "Go!" Dean was sweating; the swear poured down his collar. "There he is! That’s him! Old God! Old God Shearing! Yes! Yes! Yes!" And Shearing was conscious of the madman behind him, he could hear every one of Dean’s gasps and imprecations, he could sense it though he couldn’t see. "That’s right!" Dean said. "Yes!" Shearing smiled; he rocked. Shearing rose from the piano, dripping with sweat; these were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial. When he was gone Dean pointed to the empty piano seat. "God’s empty chair," he said. On the piano a horn sat; its golden shadow made a strange reflection along the desert caravan painted on the wall behind the drums. God was gone; it was the silence of his departure.(II.4.18)

    Dean sees God in the musician George Shearing because Shearing "knows time." His ability to keep the beat in music represents to Dean a larger understanding not only of musical melodies, but of the ebb and flow of human life.

    In Frisco great eager crowds of young semi-intellectuals sat at his feet and listened to him on the piano, guitar, and bongo drums. When he gets up warmed up he gets off his shirt and undershirt and really goes. He does and says anything that comes into his head. He’ll sing "Cement Mixer, Put-ti, Put-ti," and suddenly slows down the beat and broods over his bongos with fingertips barely tapping the skin as everybody leans forward breathlessly to hear; you think he’ll do this for a minute or so, but he goes right on, for as long as an hour, making an imperceptible little noise with the tips of his fingernails, smaller and smaller all the time till you can’t hear it any more and sounds of traffic come in the open door. Then he slowly gets up and takes the mike and says, very slowly, " Great-oroooni... fine-ovauti... hello-orooni... bourbon-orooni... all- orooni... how are the boys in the front row making out with their grils-orooni... vauti... oroonirooni... " He keeps this up for fifteen minutes, his voice getting softer and softer till you can’t hear. His great sad eyes scan the audience.

    Dean isn’t the only one fascinated by music – the "intellectuals," whom Sal compared to Dean earlier, feel the same pull to musicians, treating them as gods or sages.

    Dean stands in the back, saying, "God! Yes!" - and clasping his hands in prayer and sweating. "Sal, Slim knows time, he knows time." Slim sits down at the piano and hits two notes, two Cs, then two more, then one, then two, and suddenly the big burly bass-player wakes up from a reverie and realizes Slim in playing "C-Jam Blues" and he slugs in his big forefinger on the string and the big booming beat begins and everybody starts rocking and Slim looks up just as sad as ever, and they blow jazz for half an hour, and then Slim goes mad and grabs the bongos and plays tremendous rapid Cubana beats and yells crazy things in Spanish, in Arabic, in Peruvian dialect, in Egyptian, in every language he knows, and he knows innumerable languages. Finally the set is over; each set takes two hours. Slim Gaillard goes and stands against a post, looking sadly over everybody’s head as people come to talk to him. A bourbon is slipped in his hand. "Bourbon-orooni - thanky-ou-ovauti..." (II.11.8-II.11.9)

    That Slim speaks in a different language suggests a barrier between musicians and non-musicians. There is also a madness, however, in Slim’s dialect, that mirrors that of Dean.

    Everybody was rocking and roaring. Galatea and Marie with beer in their hands were standing on their chairs, shaking and jumping. Groups of colored guys stumbled in from the street, falling over one another to get there. "Stay with it, man!" roared a man with a foghorn voice, and let out a big groan that must have been heard clear out in Sacramento, ah-haa! "Whoo!" said Dean. He was rubbing his chest, his belly; the sweat splashed from his face. Boom, kick, that drummer was kicking his drums down the cellar and rolling the beat upstairs with his murderous sticks, rattlety-boom! A big fat man was jumping on the platform, making it sag and creak. "Yoo!" The pianist was only pounding the keys with spread-eagled fingers, chords, at intervals when the great tenorman was drawing breath for another blast - Chinese chords, shuddering the piano in every timber, chink, and wire, boing! The tenorman jumped down from the platform and stood in the crowd, blowing around; his hat was over his eyes; somebody pushed it back for him. He just hauled back and stamped his foot and blew down a hoarse, laughing blast, and drew breath, and raised the horn and blew high, wide, and screaming in the air. Dean was directly in front of him with his face lowered to the bell of the horn, clapping his hands, pouring sweat on the man’s keys, and the man noticed and laughed in his horn a long quivering crazy laugh, and everybody else laughed and they rocked and rocked; and finally the tenorman decided to blow his top and crouched down and held a note in high C for a long time as everything else crashed along and the cries increased and I thought the cops would come swarming from the nearest precinct. Dean was in a trance. The tenorman’s eyes were fixed straight on him; he had a madman who not only understood but cared and wanted to understand more and much more than there was, and they began dueling for this; everything came out of the horn, no more phrases, just cries, cries, "Baugh" and down to "Beep!" and up to "EEEEE!" and down to clinkers and over to sideways-echoing horn-sounds. He tried everything, up, down, sideways, upside down, horizontal, thirty degrees, forty degrees, and finally he fell back in somebody’s arms and gave up and everybody pushed around and yelled, "Yes! Yes! He blowed that one!" Dean wiped himself with his handkerchief. (III.3.29)

    Dean is drawn into a fervor from music that is portrayed as that of religious ecstasy.

    Holy flowers floating in the air, were all these tired faces in the dawn of Jazz America. (III.3.42)

    Sal uses jazz as a lens through which to view people and America.

    Dean and I sat alone in the back seat and left it up to them and talked. "Now, man, that alto man last night had IT - he held it once he found it; I’ve never seen a guy who could hold so long." I wanted to know what "IT" meant. "Ah well" - Dean laughed - "now you’re asking me impon-de-rables - ahem! Here’s a guy and everybody’s there, right? Up to him to put down what’s on everybody’s mind. He starts the first chorus, then lines up his ideas, people, yeah, yeah, but get it, and then he rises to his fate and has to blow equal to it. All of a sudden somewhere in the middle of the chorus he gets it - everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He’s filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows it’s not the tune that counts but IT -" Dean could go no further; he was sweating telling about it. (III.5.1)

    The mysterious IT to which Dean repeatedly refers seems to have its root in music, time, and melody.

    Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and logic and subtlety - leaning to it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world. Then had come Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother’s woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest - Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonious Monk and madder Gillespie - Charlie Parker in his early days when he was nipped and walked around in a circle while playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can’t feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night.

    Stranger flowers yet - for as the N**** alto mused over everyone’s head with dignity, the young, tall, slender, blond kid from Curtis Street, Denver, jeans and studded belt, sucked on his mouthpiece while waiting for the others to finish; and when they did he started, and you had to look around to see where the solo was coming from, for it came from angelical smiling lips upon the mouthpiece and it was a soft, sweet, fairy-tale solo on an alto. Lonely as America, a throatpierced sound in the night. (III.10.4, III.10.5)

    Sal uses jazz as a lens through which to view people and America.

    What of the others and all the soundmaking? There was the bass-player, wiry redhead with wild eyes, jabbing his hips at the fiddle with every driving slap, at hot moments his mouth hanging open trancelike. "Man, there’s a cat who can really bend his girl!" The sad drummer, like our white hipster in Frisco Folsom Street, completely goofed, staring into space, chewing gum, wide-eyed, rocking the neck with Reich kick and complacent ecstasy. The piano - a big husky Italian truck- driving kid with meaty hands, a burly and thoughtful joy. They played an hour. Nobody was listening. Old North Clark bums lolled at the bar, whores screeched in anger. Secret Chinamen went by. Noises of hootchy-kootchy interfered. They went right on. Out on the sidewalk came an apparition - a sixteen-year-old kid with a goatee and a trombone case. Thin as rickets, mad-faced, he wanted to join this group and blow with them. They knew him and didn’t want to bother with him. He crept into the bar and surreptitiously undid his trombone and raised it to his lips. No opening. Nobody looked at him. They finished, packed up, and left for another bar. He wanted to jump, skinny Chicago kid. He slapped on his dark glasses, raised the trombone to his lips alone in the bar, and went "Baugh!" Then he rushed out after them. They wouldn’t let him play with them, just like the sandlot football team in back of the gas tank. "All these guys live with their grandmothers just like Tom Snark and our Carlo Marx alto," said Dean. We rushed after the whole gang. They went into Anita O’Day’s club and there unpacked and played till nine o’clock in the morning. Dean and I were there with beers. (III.10.6)

    Dean recognizes visions of their friends in musicians; the attributes of musicians (the intensity, the fervor, the artistic brilliance) are what he seeks in his other, non-musical companions (like Carlo Marx).

    Suddenly Dean stared into the darkness of a corner beyond the bandstand and said, "Sal, God has arrived."

    I looked. George Shearing. And as always he leaned his blind head on his pale hand, all ears opened like the ears of an elephant, listening to the American sounds and mastering them for his own English summer’s-night use. Then they urged him to get up and play. He did. He played innumerable choruses with amazing chords that mounted higher and higher till the sweat splashed all over the piano and everybody listened in awe and fright. They led him off the stand after an hour. He went back to his dark corner, old God Shearing, and the boys said, "There ain’t nothin left after that." (III.10.8, III.10.9)

    Dean again refers to Shearing as God, this time with an awe and almost reverent fear.

    They led him off the stand after an hour. He went back to his dark corner, old God Shearing, and the boys said, "There ain’t nothin left after that."

    But the slender leader frowned. "Let’s blow anyway."

    Something would come of it yet. There’s always more, a little further - it never ends. They sought to find new phrases after Shearing’s explorations; they tried hard. They writhed and twisted and blew. Every now and then a clear harmonic cry gave new suggestions of a tune that would someday be the only tune in the world and would raise men’) souls to joy. They found it, they lost, they wrestled for it, they found it again, they laughed, they moaned - and Dean sweated at the table and told them to go, go, go. At nine o’clock in the morning everybody - musicians, girls in slacks, bartenders, and the one little skinny, unhappy trombonist - staggered out of the club into the great roar of Chicago day to sleep until the wild bop night again. (III.10.9-III.10.11)

    Sal refers to the very same "it" that Dean did, and struggles with its definition. We are left with the questions, what is this "it" in the world of music, and what is "it" outside of music?

    In an instant all the city of Gregoria could hear the good times going on at the Sala de Baile. In the hall itself the din of the music - for this is the real way to play a jukebox and what it was originally for - was so tremendous that it shattered Dean and Stan and me for a moment in the realization that we had never dared to play music as loud as we wanted, and this was how loud we wanted. It blew and shuddered directly at us. In a few minutes half that portion of town was at the windows, watching the Americanos dance with the gals. They all stood, side by side with the cops, on the dirt sidewalk, leaning in with indifference and casualness. "More Mambo Jambo," "Chattanooga de Mambo," "Mambo Numero Ocho" - all these tremendous numbers resounded and flared in the golden, mysterious afternoon like the sounds you expect to hear on the last day of the world and the Second Coming. The trumpets seemed so loud I thought they could hear them clear out in the desert, where the trumpets had originated anyway. The drums were mad. The mambo beat is the conga beat from Congo, the river of Africa and the world; it’s really the world beat. Oom-ta, ta-poo-poom - oom- ta, ta-poo-poom. The piano montunos showered down on us from the speaker. The cries of the leader were like great gasps in the air. The final trumpet choruses that came with drum climaxes on conga and bongo drums, on the great mad Chattanooga record, froze Dean in his tracks for a moment till he shuddered and sweated; then when the trumpets bit the drowsy air with their quivering echoes, like a cavern’s or a cave’s, his eyes grew large and round as though seeing the devil, and he closed them tight. I myself was shaken like a puppet by it; I heard the trumpets flail the light I had seen and trembled in my boots. (IV.5.45)

    Music is different in Mexico. It's louder, more intense, and less inhibited, paralleling the other unbridled characteristics of their journey to "magic" South.

  • Visions of America

    But Dean’s intelligence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, without the tedious intellectualness. And his "criminality" was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea- saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). (1.1.16)

    Interestingly, Sal connects criminality with Americanism.

    At this time, 1947, bop was going like mad all over America. The fellows at the Loop blew, but with a tired air, because bop was somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis. And as I sat there listening to that sound of the light which bop has come to represent for all of us, I thought of all my friends from one end of the country to the other and how they were really all in the same vast backyard doing something so frantic and rushing-about. (I.3.2)

    Sal uses jazz to characterize America; American jazz connects him and his friends, because it is the same jazz in Chicago as it is in San Francisco.

    And here for the first time in my life I saw my beloved Mississippi River, dry in the summer haze, low water, with its big rank smell that smells like the raw body of America itself because it washes it up. Rock Island - railroad tracks, shacks, small downtown section; and over the bridge to Davenport, same kind of town, all smelling of sawdust in the warm midwest sun. (I.3.3)

    Despite his restlessness and dissatisfaction, Sal still feels a devotion to his "beloved" America. Here, again, is the problem of the Beat Generation – reconciling their patriotism with what they see to be an inadequate post World War II America.

    He’d just written a story about a guy who comes to Denver for the first time. His name is Phil. His traveling companion is a mysterious and quiet fellow called Sam. Phil goes out to dig Denver and gets hung-up with arty types. He comes back to the hotel room. Lugubriously he says, "Sam, they’re here too." And Sam is just looking out the window sadly. "Yes," says Sam, "I know." And the point was that Sam didn’t have to go and look to know this. The arty types were all over America, sucking up its blood. (I.7.1)

    Part of what the Beats identify as the "problem" with America is the false intellectualism of its young people. Sal appreciates the genuineness of Dean in contrast.

    Great laughter rang from all sides. I wondered what the Spirit of the Mountain was thinking, and looked up and saw jackpines in the moon, and saw ghosts of old miners, and wondered about it. In the whole eastern dark wall of the Divide this night there was silence and the whisper of the wind, except in the ravine where we roared; and on the other side of the Divide was the great Western Slope, and the big plateau that went to Steamboat Springs, and dropped, and led you to the western Colorado desert and the Utah desert; all in darkness now as we fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land. We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess - across the night, eastward over the Plains, where somewhere an old man with white hair was probably walking toward us with the Word, and would arrive any minute and make us silent. (I.9.18)

    Sal sees ignorance in America, and the need for a prophet. He chooses Dean to fill this role, later calling him by that very title.

    "No, sir, I never gave a man more than two chances." I sighed. Here we go. We went to the offending room, and Sledge opened the door and told everybody to file out. It was embarrassing. Every single one of us was blushing. This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do. So what if a bunch of men talk in loud voices and drink the night? But Sledge wanted to prove something. He made sure to bring me along in case they jumped him. They might have. They were all brothers, all from Alabama. We strolled back to the station, Sledge in front and me in back. (I.11.45)

    Sal sees in America a lack of proper reasoning. People are acting blindly, he says. In contrast, Sal and Dean spend their time reasoning and debating – thinking instead of merely acting. Or so they believe. It is an interesting debate whether or not Sal and Dean are guilty of merely "doing what they think they’re supposed to do."

    I spun around till I was dizzy; I thought I’d fall down as in a dream, clear off the precipice. Oh where is the girl I love? I thought, and looked everywhere, as I had looked everywhere in the little world below. And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded - at least that’s what I thought then. (I.11.102)

    Sal is overwhelmed by the vastness of America, whereas Dean is excited by it.

    The bus arrived in Hollywood. In the gray, dirty dawn, like the dawn when Joel McCrea met Veronica Lake in a diner, in the picture Sullivan’s Travels, she slept in my lap. I looked greedily out tine window: stucco houses and palms and drive-ins, the whole mad thing, the ragged promised land, the fantastic end of America. We got off the bus at Main Street, which was no different from where you get off a bus in Kansas City or Chicago or Boston - red brick, dirty, characters drifting by, trolleys grating in the hopeless dawn, the whorey smell of a big city. (I.12.14)

    Although he sees differences in American throughout his travels (particularly between the East and the West), Sal identifies certain consistent elements. For him, the act of traveling, the restlessness, and the need for motion, is the same in all states. It is interesting to compare this feeling to his travels in Mexico.

    We were very happy in our little hotel room. In the middle of the night I got up because I couldn’t sleep, pulled the cover over baby’s bare brown shoulder, and examined the LA night. What brutal, hot, siren-whining nights they are! Right across the street there was trouble. An old rickety rundown rooming house was the scene of some kind of tragedy. The cruiser was pulled up below and the cops were questioning an old man with gray hair. Sobbings came from within. I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon. I never felt sadder in my life. LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets god-awful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. LA is a jungle. (I.13.1)

    Sal identifies something negative and sad about every city he visits in America. The only conclusion, it seems, is that America itself is sad.

    South Main Street, where Terry and I took strolls with hot dogs, was a fantastic carnival of lights and wildness. Booted cops frisked people on practically every corner. The beatest characters in the country swarmed on the sidewalks - all of it under those soft Southern California stars that are lost in the brown halo of the huge desert encampment LA really is. You could smell tea, weed, I mean marijuana, floating in the air, together with the chili beans and beer. That grand wild sound of bop floated from beer parlors; it mixed medleys with every kind of cowboy and boogie-woogie in the American night. Everybody looked like Hassel. Wild N****es with bop caps and goatees came laughing by; then long-haired brokendown hipsters straight off Route 66 from New York; then old desert rats, carrying packs and heading for a park bench at the Plaza; then Methodist ministers with raveled sleeves, and an occasional Nature Boy saint in beard and sandals. I wanted to meet them all, talk to everybody, but Terry and I were too busy trying to get a buck together. (I.13.2)

    Sal examines not only the physical surroundings as he travels, but the people, seeking to define America by what he sees in its inhabitants: the jazz, the drugs, the poverty, and the raggedness.

    "What we need is a drink!" yelled Rickey, and off we went to a crossroads saloon. Americans are always drinking in crossroads saloons on Sunday afternoon; they bring their kids; they gabble and brawl over brews; everything’s fine. Come nightfall the kids start crying and the parents are drunk. They go weaving back to the house. Everywhere in America I’ve been in crossroads saloons drinking with dull; whole families. The kids eat popcorn and chips and play in back. This we did. (I.13.19)

    Sal repeatedly refers to alcohol in his descriptions of America and Americans.

    I crept to the end of a row and knelt in the warm dirt. Her five brothers were singing melodious songs in Spanish. The stars bent over the little roof; smoke poked from the stovepipe chimney. I smelled mashed beans and chili. The old man growled. The brothers kept right on yodeling. The mother was silent. Johnny and the kids were giggling in the bedroom. A California home; I hid in the grapevines, digging it all. I felt like a million dollars; I was adventuring in the crazy American night. (I.13.49)

    Amazingly, Sal is happiest not in cities or at jazz clubs, but in the grapevines of California. It is here that he feels Dean’s kind of ecstasy.

    Suddenly I found myself on Times Square. I had traveled eight thousand miles around the American continent and I was back on Times Square; and right in the middle of a rush hour, too, seeing with my innocent road-eyes the absolute madness and fantastic hoorair of New York with its millions and millions hustling forever for a buck among themselves, the mad dream - grabbing, taking, giving, sighing, dying, just so they could be buried in those awful cemetery cities beyond Long Island City. The high towers of the land - the other end of the land, the place where Paper America is born. (I.14.9)

    The sadness Sal sees when he looks over America seems to have something to do with the inevitability of death. This is where his franticness and worry over time come into the picture. This is the inevitability of the Shrouded Traveler, chasing Sal and every other American to their death.

    "What is the meaning of this voyage to New York? What kind of sordid business are you on now? I mean, man, whither goest thou? Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" (II.3.8)

    Carlo begins by asking Sal and Dean a question, but ends up addressing America as a whole. This is an interesting notion: do Sal and Dean represent Americans? Are their struggles, in some way, the struggles of the country? Carlo certainly raises the stakes with his question.

    "Furthermore we know America, we’re at home; I can go anywhere in America and get what I want because it’s the same in every corner, I know the people, I know what they do. We give and take and go in the incredibly complicated sweetness zigzagging every side." (II.3.10)

    Dean thinks America is "the same in every corner," while Sal is able to recognize the differences as he travels across the country. In a way, Dean’s view is too simplistic, and so are his solutions to the greater problems of time and death.

    We drove off silently. It was just like an invitation to steal to take our trip-money away from us. They knew we were broke and had no relatives on the road or to wire to for money. The American police are involved in psychological warfare against those Americans who don’t frighten them with imposing papers and threats. It’s a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to inquire about everything, and can make crimes if the crimes don’t exist to its satisfaction. "Nine lines of crime, one of boredom," said Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Dean was so mad he wanted to come back to Virginia and shoot the cop as soon as he had a gun. (II.6.11)

    Sal views America through the lens of criminality and law enforcement.

    "The ideal bar doesn’t exist in America. An ideal bar is something that’s gone beyond our ken. In nineteen ten a bar was a place where men went to meet during or after work, and all there was a long counter, brass rails, spittoons, player piano for music, a few mirrors, and barrels of whisky at ten cents a shot together with barrels of beer at five cents a mug. Now all you get is chromium, drunken women, fags, hostile bartenders, anxious owners who hover around the door, worried about their leather seats and the law; just a lot of screaming at the wrong time and deadly silence when a stranger walks in." (II.6.44)

    Bull Lee describes a type of decay in America, but interestingly, he does it through the progress of bars and alcohol.

    Finally I took a walk alone to the levee. I wanted to sit on the muddy bank and dig the Mississippi River; instead of that I had to look at it with my nose against a wire fence. When you start separating the people from their rivers what have you got? "Bureaucracy!" says Old Bull; he sits with Kafka on his lap, the lamp burns above him, he snuffs, thfump. His old house creaks. And the Montana log rolls by in the big black river of the night. "Tain’t nothin but bureaucracy. And unions! Especially unions!" (II.6.69)

    Sal, too, sees Bull Lee’s American decay, but in nature, by looking at rivers and artificial boundaries.

    Holy flowers floating in the air, were all these tired faces in the dawn of Jazz America. (III.3.42)

    Sal repeatedly uses jazz to characterize the America in his time.

    Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and logic and subtlety - leaning to it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world. Then had come Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother’s woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest - Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonious Monk and madder Gillespie - Charlie Parker in his early days when he was nipped and walked around in a circle while playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can’t feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night.

    Stranger flowers yet - for as the N**** alto mused over everyone’s head with dignity, the young, tall, slender, blond kid from Curtis Street, Denver, jeans and studded belt, sucked on his mouthpiece while waiting for the others to finish; and when they did he started, and you had to look around to see where the solo was coming from, for it came from angelical smiling lips upon the mouthpiece and it was a soft, sweet, fairy-tale solo on an alto. Lonely as America, a throatpierced sound in the night. (III.10.4, III.10.5)

    Sal traces a hereditary jazz tradition through two generations of musicians. The passing on of tradition, too, is part of America, but Sal examines it in his own counter-culture way, through the underground musicians of the night.

    We passed Walsenburg; suddenly we passed Trinidad, where Chad King was somewhere off the road in front of a campfire with perhaps a handful of anthropologists and as of yore he too was telling his life story and never dreamed we were passing at that exact moment on the highway, headed for Mexico, telling our own stories. O sad American night! Then we were in New Mexico and passed the rounded rocks of Raton and stopped at a diner, ravingly hungry for hamburgers, some of which we wrapped in a napkin to eat over the border below. (IV.4.4)

    Sal sees sadness in America because of his inability to connect with so many of the Americans he passes. For every connection, there are a million missed ones.

    We came into the dizzying heights of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The banana trees gleamed golden in the haze. Great fogs yawned beyond stone walls along the precipice. Below, the Moctezuma was a thin golden thread in a green jungle mat. Strange crossroad towns on top of the world rolled by, with shawled Indians watching us from under hatbrims and rebozos. Life was dense, dark, ancient. They watched Dean, serious and insane at his raving wheel, with eyes of hawks. All had their hands outstretched. They had come down from the back mountains and higher places to hold forth their hands for something they thought civilization could offer, and they never dreamed the sadness and the poor broken delusion of it. They didn’t know that a bomb had come that could crack all our bridges and roads and reduce them to jumbles, and we would be as poor as they someday, and stretching out our hands in the same, same way. Our broken Ford, old thirties upgoing America Ford, rattled through them and vanished in dust. (IV.6.17)

    By seeing the purity of the Indians in Mexico, Sal looks back at America with trepidation.

  • Contrasting Regions

    With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off. (I.1.1)

    Part of Dean’s appeal to Sal surely arises from his origin; Sal is interested in the adventures of the West, and Dean arrives as the embodiment of that region.

    My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry - trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent - a side burned hero of the snowy West. In fact he’d just been working on a ranch, Ed Wall’s in Colorado, before marrying Marylou and coming East. (I.1.4)

    Sal’s description of Dean as a "hero" is necessarily tied to his conceptions of the West. For Sal, heroes exist only in the West, not in the East.

    But Dean’s intelligence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, without the tedious intellectualness. And his "criminality" was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea- saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). (1.1.16)

    Sal identifies "American joy" as a Western element, but is soon disillusioned to find American sadness there instead.

    A western kinsman of the sun, Dean. (I.1.17)

    Sal repeatedly describes Dean in terms of his Western origins, suggesting that he is unable to ever separate in his mind his notions of the West and his conception of Dean.

    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 used geography to describe Dean, and now he does the same to describe himself. His vision of the East as past and the West as future illustrates the simplicity of his view of time when the novel begins. Matters are soon complicated as Sal travels west, back east, west again, east, and eventually south.

    We arrived at Council Bluffs at dawn; I looked out. All winter I’d been reading of the great wagon parties that held council there before hitting the Oregon and Santa Fe trails; and of course now it was only cute suburban cottages of one damn kind and another, all laid out in the dismal gray dawn. Then Omaha, and, by God, the first cowboy I saw, walking along the bleak walls of the wholesale meat warehouses in a ten-gallon hat and Texas boots, looked like any beat character of the brickwall dawns of the East except for the getup. (I.3.9)

    Sal’s vision of the West is rooted in the past – illustrating his initial confusion and misunderstanding of time. He has difficulty reconciling this historical vision with the reality of the present.

    We stopped along the road for a bite to eat. The cowboy went off to have a spare tire patched, and Eddie and I sat down in a kind of homemade diner. I heard a great laugh, the greatest laugh in the world, and here came this rawhide old-timer Nebraska farmer with a bunch of other boys into the diner; you could hear his raspy cries clear across the plains, across the whole gray world of them that day. Everybody else laughed with him. He didn’t have a care in the world and had the hugest regard for everybody. I said to myself, Wham, listen to that man laugh. That’s the West, here I am in the West. He came booming into the diner, calling Maw’s name, and she made the sweetest cherry pie in Nebraska, and I had some with a mountainous scoop of ice cream on top. "Maw, rustle me up some grub afore I have to start eatin myself raw or some damn silly idee like that." And he threw himself on a stool and went hyaw hyaw hyaw hyaw. "And throw some beans in it." It was the spirit of the West sitting right next to me. I wished I knew his whole raw life and what the hell he’d been doing all these years besides laughing and yelling like that. Whooee, I told my soul, and the cowboy came back and off we went to Grand Island. (I.3.15)

    As he travels across the country, Sal chooses certain people to assign specific roles. Yet he never actually connects with these characters in any concrete way, just views them with awe from a distance.

    As the truck reached the outskirts of Cheyenne, we saw the high red lights of the local radio station, and suddenly we were bucking through a great crowd of people that poured along both sidewalks. "Hell’s bells, it’s Wild West Week," said Slim. Big crowds of businessmen, fat businessmen in boots and ten-gallon hats, with their hefty wives in cowgirl attire, bustled and whoopeed on the wooden sidewalks of old Cheyenne; farther down were the long stringy boulevard lights of new downtown Cheyenne, but the celebration was focusing on Oldtown. Blank guns went off. The saloons were crowded to the sidewalk. I was amazed, and at the same time I felt it was ridiculous: in my first shot at the West I was seeing to what absurd devices it had fallen to keep its proud tradition. (I.4.10)

    Sal experiences sadness at his discovery of the real West. It seems that it isn’t the ideal and hero-ridden West of his imagination. It fails to live up to Sal’s expectations just as Dean, his Western hero, later does.

    It was beautiful in Longmont. Under a tremendous old tree was a bed of green lawn-grass belonging to a gas station. I asked the attendant if I could sleep there, and he said sure; so I stretched out a wool shirt, laid my face flat on it, with an elbow out, and with one eye cocked at the snowy Rockies in the hot sun for just a moment. I fell asleep for two delicious hours, the only discomfort being an occasional Colorado ant. And here I am in Colorado! I kept thinking gleefully. Damn! damn! damn! I’m making it! And after a refreshing sleep filled with cobwebby dreams of my past life in the East I got up, washed in the station men’s room, and strode off, fit and slick as a fiddle, and got me a rich thick milkshake at the road-house to put some freeze in my hot, tormented stomach. (I.5.14)

    Sal uses the West as a tool for moving on from his past in the East.

    I saw the little midget newspaper-selling woman with the short legs, on the corner of Curtis and 15th. I walked around the sad honkytonks of Curtis Street; young kids in jeans and red shirts; peanut shells, movie marquees, shooting parlors. Beyond the glittering street was darkness, and beyond the darkness the West. I had to go. (I.10.13)

    Sal treats the West as his own religious icon, a personal Mecca. When it fails this role, the South (Mexico) becomes he and Dean’s new destination.

    With the flashlight to illuminate my way, I climbed the steep walls of the south canyon, got up on the highway streaming with cars Frisco-bound in the night, scrambled down the other side, almost falling, and came to the bottom of a ravine where a little farmhouse stood near a creek and where every blessed night the same dog barked at me. Then it was a fast walk along a silvery, dusty road beneath inky trees of California - a road like in The Mark of Zorro and a road like all the roads you see in Western B movies. I used to take out my gun and] play cowboys in the dark. (I.11.17)

    Sal identifies parts of the West with the West of his childhood imagination, but is unable to find the Western heroes he hoped for.

    I spun around till I was dizzy; I thought I’d fall down as in a dream, clear off the precipice. Oh where is the girl I love? I thought, and looked everywhere, as I had looked everywhere in the little world below. And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded - at least that’s what I thought then. (I.11.102)

    Sal comes to a sobering conclusion about the West; it is a far cry from what he hoped to find.

    "LA." I loved the way she said "LA"; I love the way everybody says "LA" on the Coast; it’s their one and only golden town when all is said and done. (I.12.11)

    Sal learns about the West in the time he spends there.

    I thought all the wilderness of America was in the West till the Ghost of the Susquehanna showed me different. No, there is a wilderness in the East; it’s the same wilderness Ben Franklin plodded in the oxcart days when he was postmaster, the same as it was when George Washington was a wild-buck Indian-fighter, when Daniel Boone told stories by Pennsylvania lamps and promised to find the Gap, when Bradford built his road and men whooped her up in log cabins. There were not great Arizona spaces for the little man, just the bushy wilderness of eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, the backroads, the black-tar roads that curve among the mournful rivers like Susquehanna, Monongahela, old Potomac and Monocacy. (I.14.7)

    Sal is able to look back in his first trip west with a certain amount of knowledge and insight. Both Sal and Dean, it seems, are learning and evolving on their journeys, just in very different ways.

    "Sal, where did you find these absolutely wonderful people? I’ve never seen anyone like them."

    "I found them in the West." (II.4.8, II.4.9)

    Sal still uses the renown of the West to explain Dean to friends in the East.

    "Yes," I said, "let’s go to Italy." And so we picked up our bags, he the trunk with his one good arm and I the rest, and staggered to the cable-car stop; in a moment rolled down the hill with our legs dangling to the sidewalk from the jiggling shelf, two broken-down heroes of the Western night. (III.2.26)

    It is interesting that, having traveled to the West, Sal now describes himself as a Western hero, a title he once used only for Dean.

    At night in this part of the West the stars, as I had seen them in Wyoming, are big as roman candles and as lonely as the Prince of the Dharma who’s lost his ancestral grove and journeys across the spaces between points in the handle of the Big Dipper, trying to find it again. So they slowly wheeled the night, and then long before actual sunrise the great red light appeared far over the dun bleak land toward West Kansas and the birds took up their trill above Denver. (III.7.18)

    For Sal, everything is different in the West, all the way up to the movement of the stars.

    The Jesuit boys giggled. They were full of corny quips and Eastern college talk and had nothing on their bird-beans except a lot of ill-understood Aquinas for stuffing for their pepper. Dean and I paid absolutely no attention to them. As we crossed the muddy plains he told stories about his cowboy days. (III.8.18)

    Sal has converted to a man of the West, looking at academics from the East (which he once was) as silly and useless.

    The kind of utter darkness that falls on a prairie like that is Inconceivable to an Easterner. There were no stars, no moon, no light whatever except the light of Mrs. Wall’s kitchen. What lay beyond the shadows of the yard was an endless view of the world that you wouldn’t be able to see till dawn. (III.8.19)

    For Sal, everything is different in the West, all the way up to the movement of the stars.

    The picture was Singing Cowboy Eddie Dean and his gallant white horse Bloop, that was number one; number two double-feature film was George Raft, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre in a picture about Istanbul. We saw both of these things six times each during the night. We saw them waking, we heard them sleeping, we sensed them dreaming, we were permeated completely with the strange Gray Myth of the West and the weird dark Myth of the East when morning came. (III.11.2)

    Sal continues to struggle to reconcile his visions of the East and the West.

    Not five nights later we went to a party in New York and I saw a girl called Inez and told her I had a friend with me that she ought to meet sometime. I was drunk and told her he was a cowboy. "Oh, I’ve always wanted to meet a cowboy." (III.11.7)

    Dean’s appeal as a cowboy of the West extends not only to Sal, but to Easterners in general.

    "We’ll all watch over each other," I said. Stan and his mother strolled on ahead, and I walked in back with crazy Dean; he was telling me about the inscriptions carved on toilet walls in the East and in the West.

    "They’re entirely different; in the East they make cracks and corny jokes and obvious references, scatological bits of data and drawings; in the West they just write their names, Red O’Hara, Blufftown Montana, came by here, date, real solemn, like, say, Ed Dunkel, the reason being the enormous loneliness that differs just a shade and cut hair as you move across the Mississippi." (IV.3.33, IV.3.34)

    Dean finds his own way to understand the differences between the East and the West.

    So Dean couldn’t ride uptown with us and the only thing I could do was sit in the back of the Cadillac and wave at him. The bookie at the wheel also wanted nothing to do with Dean. Dean, ragged in a moth-eaten overcoat he brought specially for the freezing temperatures of the East, walked off alone, and the last I saw of him he rounded the corner of Seventh Avenue, eyes on the street ahead, and bent to it again. Poor little Laura, my baby, to whom I’d told everything about Dean, began almost to cry.

    "Oh, we shouldn’t let him go like this. What’ll we do?" Old Dean’s gone, I thought, and out loud I said, "He’ll be all right." And off we went to the sad and disinclined concert for which I had no stomach whatever and all the time I was thinking of Dean and how he got back on the train and rode over three thousand miles over that awful land and never knew why he had come anyway, except to see me. (V.1.17, V.1.18)

    At the end of On the Road, Dean travels east to see Sal, just as Sal once went west to see Dean. But Dean’s expectations are ill-defined, and in his confusion he leaves the East with the same failure of purpose as Sal once left the West.

  • Criminality

    "That’s right, man, now you’re talking." And a kind of holy lightning I saw flashing from his excitement and his visions, which he described so torrentially that people in buses looked around to see the "overexcited nut." In the West he’d spent a third of his time in the poolhall, a third in jail, and a third in the public library. They’d seen him rushing eagerly down the winter streets, bareheaded, carrying books to the poolhall, or climbing trees to get into the attics of buddies where he spent days reading or hiding from the law. (I.1.10)

    Part of Dean’s madness and appeal lies in his criminal past.

    But Dean’s intelligence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, without the tedious intellectualness. And his "criminality" was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea- saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). (1.1.16)

    Sal sees America in Dean’s criminality, an observation that lets Dean off the moral hook for his crimes. He’s only a playful cowboy, we are told, not a real, hardened criminal.

    The wind from Lake Michigan, bop at the Loop, long walks around South Halsted and North Clark, and one long walk after midnight into the jungles, where a cruising car followed me as a suspicious character. (I.3.2)

    Sal spends much of the text pursued or suspected by law enforcement. This, we are told at several points, is the result of his friendship with Dean.

    The guy just yelled above the roar, and all I had to do was yell back, and we relaxed. And he balled that thing clear to Iowa City and yelled me the funniest stories about how he got around the law in every town that had an unfair speed limit, saying over and over again, "Them goddam cops can’t put no flies on my ass!" (I.3.5)

    Sal and Dean’s sentiments about the police are shared by many others they meet on the road.

    In this town, under a big elm tree near a gas station, I made the acquaintance of another hitchhiker, a typical New Yorker, an Irishman who’d been driving a truck for the post office most of his work years and was now headed for a girl in Denver and a new life. I think he was running away from something in New York, the law most likely. He was a real red- nose young drunk of thirty and would have bored me ordinarily, except that my senses were sharp for any kind of human friendship. He wore a beat sweater and baggy pants and had nothing with him in the way of a bag - just a toothbrush and handkerchiefs. He said we ought to hitch together. I should have said no, because he looked pretty awful on the road. But we stuck together and got a ride with a taciturn man to Stuart, Iowa, a town in which we were really stranded. (I.3.8)

    Sal simply assumes a criminal past of the impoverished men he meets on the road.

    A tall, lanky fellow in a gallon hat stopped his car on the wrong side of the road and came over to us; he looked like a sheriff. We prepared our stories secretly. He took his time coming over. "You boys going to get somewhere, or just going?" We didn’t understand his question, and it was a damned good question. (I.3.18)

    Sal has an unreasonable fear of law enforcement, suspecting that any man approaching him is a policeman.

    His language was melodious and slow. He was patient. His charge was a sixteen-year-old tall blond kid, also in hobo rags; that is to say, they wore old clothes that had been turned black by the soot of railroads and the dirt of boxcars and sleeping on the ground. The blond kid was also quiet and he seemed to be running away from something, and it figured to be the law the way he looked straight ahead and wet his lips in worried thought. (I.4.9)

    Sal simply assumes a criminal past of the impoverished men he meets on the road.

    "You got any money?" he said to me.

    "Hell no, maybe enough for a pint of whisky till I get to Denver. What about you?"

    "I know where I can get some."

    "Where?"

    "Anywhere. You can always folly a man down an alley, can’t you?" (I.4.10-I.4.14)

    Criminal acts seem to be the only option for the impoverished men on the road.

    These barracks were for the temporary quartering of overseas construction workers. The men who came through stayed there, waiting for their ship. Most of them were bound for Okinawa. Most of them were running | away from something - usually the law. There were tough groups from Alabama, shifty men from New York, all kinds from all over. And, knowing full well how horrible it would be to work a full year in Okinawa, they drank. The job of the special guards was to see that they didn’t tear the barracks’ down. We had our headquarters in the main building, just a wooden contraption with panel-walled offices. Here at a rolltop desk we sat around, shifting our guns off our hips and! yawning, and the old cops told stories.

    It was a horrible crew of men, men with cop-souls, all except Remi and myself. Remi was only trying to make a living, and so was I, but these men wanted to make arrests and compliments from the chief of police in town. They even said that if you didn’t make at least one a month you’d be fired. I gulped at the prospect of making an arrest. What actually happened was that I was as drunk as anybody in the barracks -the night all hell broke loose. (I.11.17, I.17.18)

    Sal fails pitifully in the role of law-enforcer, preferring the company of the drunk and rowdy men to his fellow watchmen. This suggests that he is more of a criminal than he originally suspected.

    The cop who had been an Alcatraz guard was potbellied and about sixty, retired but unable to keep away from the atmospheres that had nourished his dry soul all his life. Every night he drove to work in his ‘35 Ford, punched the clock exactly on time, and sat down at the rolltop desk. He labored painfully over the simple form we all had to fill out every night - rounds, time, what happened, and so on. Then he leaned back and told stories. "You should have been here about two months ago when me and Sledge" (that was another cop, a youngster who wanted to be a Texas Ranger and had to be satisfied with his present lot) "arrested a drunk in Barrack G. Boy, you should have seen the blood fly. I’ll take you over there tonight and show you the stains on the wall. We had him bouncing from one wall to another. First Sledge hit him, and then me, and then he subsided andwent quietly. That fellow swore to kill us when he got out of jail - got thirty days. Here it is sixty days, and he ain’t showed up." And this was the big point of the story. They’d put such a fear in him that he was too yellow to come back and try to kill them.

    The old cop went on, sweetly reminiscing about the horrors of Alcatraz. "We used to march ‘em like an Army platoon to breakfast. Wasn’t one man out of step. Everything went like clockwork. You should have seen it. I was a guard there for twenty-two years. Never had any trouble. Those boys knew we meant business. A lot of fellows get soft guarding prisoners, and they’re the ones that usually get in trouble. Now you take you - from what I’ve been observing about you, you seem to me a little bit too leenent with the men." He raised his pipe and looked at me sharp. "They take advantage of that, you know.»"

    I knew that. I told him I wasn’t cut out to be a cop.

    "Yes, but that’s the job that you applied for. Now you got to make up your mind one way or the other, or you’ll never get anywhere. It’s your duty. You’re sworn in. You can’t compromise with things like this. Law and order’s got to be kept."(I.11.37-I.11.40)

    Police are portrayed in the most negative light possible in On the Road.

    "I told some boys in there to keep quiet and they’re still making noise. I told them twice. I always give a man two chances. Not three. You come with me and I’m going back there and arrest them."

    "Well, let me give them a third chance," I said. "I’ll talk to them."

    "No, sir, I never gave a man more than two chances." I sighed. Here we go. We went to the offending room, and Sledge opened the door and told everybody to file out. It was embarrassing. Every single one of us was blushing. This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do. So what if a bunch of men talk in loud voices and drink the night? But Sledge wanted to prove something. He made sure to bring me along in case they jumped him. They might have. They were all brothers, all from Alabama. We strolled back to the station, Sledge in front and me in back. (I.11.43-I.11.45)

    Sal’s empathetic nature emerges when he becomes a guard; he sympathizes with the plight of the drunken men, just as he later refuses to pass judgment on Dean.

    But Remi Boncœur and I were on duty alone many a night, and that’s when everything jumped. We made our first round of the evening in a leisurely way, Remi trying all the doors to see if they were locked and hoping to find one unlocked. He’d say, "For years I’ve an idea to develop a dog into a super thief who’d go into these guys’ rooms and take dollars out of their pockets. I’d train him to take nothing but green money; I’d make him smell it all day long. If there was any humanly possible way, I’d train him to take only twenties." (I.11.50).

    Remi’s criminality is what gets Sal thinking about theft. Why not Dean’s?

    I said, "Goddammit, Remi, you’re always getting us into trouble. Why don’t you lay off? Why do you have to steal all the time?"

    "The world owes me a few things, that’s all. You can’t teach the old maestro a new tune." (I.11.59, I.11.60)

    Remi’s character serves to justify stealing – or at least to attempt such a justification. His repeated phrase "you can’t teach an old maestro a new tune" is an interesting statement to apply to Dean.

    The barracks cafeteria was our meat. We looked around to make sure nobody was watching, and especially to see if any of our cop friends were lurking about to check on us; then I squatted down, and Remi put a foot on each shoulder and up he went. He opened the window, which was never locked since he saw to it in the evenings, scrambled through, and came down on the flour table. I was a little more agile and just jumped and crawled in. Then we went to the soda fountain. Here, realizing a dream of mine from infancy, I took the cover off the chocolate ice cream and stuck my hand in wrist-deep and hauled me up a skewer of ice cream and licked at it. Then we got ice- cream boxes and stuffed them, poured chocolate syrup over and sometimes strawberries too, then walked around in the kitchens, opened iceboxes, to see what we could take home in our pockets. I often tore off a piece of roast beef and wrapped it in a napkin. "You know what President Truman said," Remi would say. "We must cut down on the cost of living." ((I.11.62)

    Remi’s thievery becomes a commentary on American – a mockery of the President and a satire of his intended goals.

    "You know what President Truman said?" She was delighted. I suddenly began to realize that everybody in America is a natural-born thief. I was getting the bug myself. I even began to try to see if doors were locked. The other cops were getting suspicious of us; they saw it in our eyes; they understood with unfailing instinct what was on our minds. Years of experience had taught them the likes of Remi and me. (I.11.69)

    Sal likens himself to Remi through thievery, yet he later refuses to take part in Dean’s (when Dean steals cars in Denver). Granted, there is a difference between bags of food and cars, but for some reason Dean is on a pedestal an Remi is relatable.

    "Since Denver, Sal, a lot of things - Oh, the things - I’ve thought and thought. I used to be in reform school all the time, I was a young punk, asserting myself - stealing cars a psychological expression of my position, hincty to show. All my jail-problems are pretty straight now. As far as I know I shall never be in jail again. The rest is not my fault." (II.3.10)

    Dean discusses his own criminal past as the result of his upbringing. He doesn’t take personal responsibility for it.

    Shortly after this, as we pulled out of Washington, a cruising car overtook us with siren going and we had a speeding ticket in spite of the fact that we were going about thirty. It was the California license plate that did it. "You guys think you can rush through here as fast as you want just because you come from California?" said the cop. (II.3.11)

    On the Road portrays cops as vindictive and abusive of their power.

    I could hear Dean, blissful and blabbering and frantically rocking. Only a guy who’s spent five years in jail can go to such maniacal helpless extremes; beseeching at the portals of the soft source, mad with a completely physical realization of the origins of life-bliss; blindly seeking to return the way he came. This is the result of years looking at sexy pictures behind bars; looking at the legs and breasts of women in popular magazines; evaluating the hardness of the steel halls and the softness of the woman who is not there. Prison is where you promise yourself the right to live. Dean had never seen his mother’s face. Every new girl, every new wife, every new child was an addition to his bleak impoverishment. (II.5.14)

    Just as Dean blamed his criminal past on his upbringing, Sal uses Dean’s criminal past as an explanation for Dean’s madness and lust.

    Dean went to sleep in the back seat and Dunkel drove. We gave him specific instructions to take it easy. No sooner were we snoring than he gunned the car up to eighty, bad bearings and all, and not only that but he made a triple pass at a spot where a cop was arguing with a motorist - he was in the fourth lane of a four-lane highway, going the wrong way. Naturally the cop took after us with his siren whining. We were stopped. He told us to follow him to the station house. There was a mean cop in there who took an immediate dislike to Dean; he could smell jail all over him. He sent his cohort outdoors to question Marylou and me privately. They wanted to know how old Marylou was, they were trying to whip up a Mann Act idea. But she had her marriage certificate. Then they took me aside alone and wanted to know who was sleeping with Marylou. "Her husband," I said quite simply. They were curious. Something was fishy. They tried some amateur Sherlocking by asking the same questions twice, expecting us to make a slip. (II.6.6)

    Dean and Sal always one-up the police, a fact which may be attributed to the story’s point of view.

    We had to give them the twenty-five. But first Ed Dunkel, that culprit, offered to go to jail. Dean considered it. The cop was infuriated; he said, "If you let your partner go to jail I’m taking you back to Pennsylvania right now. You hear that?" All we wanted to do was go. "Another speeding ticket in Virginia and you lose your car," said the mean cop as a parting volley. Dean was red in the face. We drove off silently. It was just like an invitation to steal to take our trip-money away from us. They knew we were broke and had no relatives on the road or to wire to for money. The American police are involved in psychological warfare against those Americans who don’t frighten them with imposing papers and threats. It’s a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to inquire about everything, and can make crimes if the crimes don’t exist to its satisfaction. "Nine lines of crime, one of boredom," said Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Dean was so mad he wanted to come back to Virginia and shoot the cop as soon as he had a gun. (II.6.11)

    Dean uses criminality and law enforcement as a lens through which to examine America.

    In Old Opelousas I went into a grocery store to buy bread and cheese while Dean saw to gas and oil. It was just a shack; I could hear the family eating supper in the back. I waited a minute; they went on talking. I took bread and cheese and slipped out the door. We had barely enough money to make Frisco. Meanwhile Dean took a carton of cigarettes from the gas station and we were stocked for the voyage - gas, oil, cigarettes, and food. Crooks don’t know. He pointed the car straight down the road. (II.8.3)

    Sal and Dean see stealing as a matter of necessity and is an amoral act, not an immoral one.

    But suddenly a big pistol-packing trooper appeared, just as I was ready to pull out, and asked to see my driver’s license. "The fella in the back seat has the license," I said. Dean and Marylou were sleeping together under the blanket. The cop told Dean to come out. Suddenly he whipped out his gun and yelled, "Keep your hands up!"

    "Offisah," I heard Dean say in the most unctious and ridiculous tones, "offisah, I was only buttoning my flah." Even the cop almost smiled. Dean came out, muddy, ragged, T-shirted, rubbing his belly, cursing, looking everywhere for his license and his car papers. The cop rummaged through our back trunk. All the papers were straight.

    "Only checking up," he said with a broad smile. "You can go on now. Benson ain’t a bad town actually; you might enjoy it if you had breakfast here."

    "Yes yes yes," said Dean, paying absolutely no attention to him, and drove off. We all sighed with relief. The police are suspicious when gangs of youngsters come by in new cars without a cent in their pockets and have to pawn watches. "Oh, they’re always interfering," said Dean, "but he was a much better cop than that rat in Virginia. They try to make headline arrests; they think every car going by is some big Chicago gang. They ain’t got nothin else to do." We drove on to Tucson. (II.8.35-II.8.38).

    Dean has a sophisticated understanding of police.

    Nothing happened that night; we went to sleep. Everything happened the next day. In the afternoon De and I went to downtown Denver for our various chores and see the travel bureau for a car to New York. On the way home in the late afternoon we started out for Okie Frankie’s up Broadway, where Dean suddenly sauntered into a sports goods store, calmly picked up a softball on the counter, came out, popping it up and down in his palm. Nobody noticed; nobody ever notices such things. It was a drowsy, afternoon. We played catch as we went along (III.7.1)

    Sal doesn’t hold Dean responsible for his acts of petty crime.

    We stumbled over one another to get out of the cab at the roadhouse, a hillbilly roadhouse near the hills, and went in and ordered beers. Everything was collapsing, and to make things inconceivably more frantic there was an ecstatic spastic fellow in the bar who threw his arms around Dean and moaned in his face, and Dean went mad again with sweats and insanity, and to add still more to the unbearable confusion Dean rushed out the next moment and stole a car right from the driveway and took a dash to downtown Denver and came back with a newer, better one. Suddenly in the bar I looked up and saw cops and people were milling around the driveway in the headlights of cruisers, talking about the stolen car. "Somebody’s been stealing cars left and right here!" the cop was saying. Dean stood right in back of him, listening and saying, "Ah yass, ah yass." The cops went off to check. Dean came in the bar and rocked back and forth with the poor spastic kid who had just gotten married that day and was having a tremendous drunk while his bride waited somewhere. "Oh, man, this guy is the greatest in the world!" yelled Dean. "Sal, Frankie, I’m going out and get a real good car this time and we’ll all go and with Tony too" (the spastic saint) "and have a big drive in the mountains." And he rushed out. Simultaneously a cop rushed in and said a car stolen from downtown Denver was parked in the driveway. People discussed it in knots. From the window I saw Dean jump into the nearest car and roar off, and not a soul noticed him. A few minutes later he was back in an entirely different car, a brand-new convertible. "This one is a beaut!" he whispered in my ear. "The other one coughed too much - I left it at the crossroads, saw that lovely parked in front of a farmhouse. Took a spin in Denver. Come on, man, let’s all go riding." All the bitterness and madness of his entire Denver life was blasting out of his system like daggers. His face was red and sweaty and mean.

    "No, I ain’t gonna have nothing to do with stolen cars." (III.7.14, III.7.15)

    Although Sal doesn’t hold Dean responsible for his small crimes, he, unlike Dean, draws a line somewhere, refusing to take part in Dean’s run of stolen cars.

    Horrible nauseas possessed us in the morning. First thing Dean did was go out across the cornfield to see if the car would carry us East. I told him no, but he went anyway. He came back pale. "Man, that’s a detective’s car and every precinct in town knows my fingerprints from the year that I stole five hundred cars. You see what I do with them, I just wanta ride, man! I gotta go! Listen, we’re going to wind up in jail if we don’t get out of here this very instant." (III.8.1)

    Dean consistently puts Sal in undeserved danger.

    I asked him the circumstances of his being in LA in 1944. "I was arrested in Arizona, the joint absolutely the worst joint I’ve ever been in. I had to escape and pulled the greatest escape in my life, speaking of escapes, you see, in a general way." (III.9.7)

    Dean raises an interesting point here about escapes – if one is speaking about escapes in the general way, then what might Dean and Sal actually be escaping from? Notions of the Shrouded Traveler come to mind.

    The cop came out. "Were you in an accident coming in"

    "Accident? We broke a guy’s waterbag at the junction."

    "He says he was hit and run by a bunch in a stolen car." This was one of the few instances Dean and I knew of a N****’s acting like a suspicious old fool. It so surprised us we laughed. We had to follow the patrolman to the station and there spent an hour waiting in the grass while they telephoned Chicago to get the owner of the Cadillac and verify our position as hired drivers. Mr. Baron said, according to the cop, "Yes, that is my car but I can’t vouch for anything else those boys might have done."

    "They were in a minor accident here in Des Moines."

    "Yes, you’ve already told me that - what I meant was, I can’t vouch for anything they might have done in the past." (III.9.18-III.9.22)

    Dean’s criminality is immediately evident to those around him.

    As we passed drowsy Illinois towns where the people are so conscious of Chicago gangs that pass like this in limousines every day, we were a strange sight: all of us unshaven, the driver barechested, two bums, myself in the back seat, holding on to a strap and my head leaned back on the cushion looking at the countryside with an imperious eye - just like a new California gang come to contest the spoils of Chicago, a band of desperados escaped from the prisons of the Utah moon.

    When we stopped for Cokes and gas at a small-town station people came out to stare at us but they never said a word and I think made mental notes of our descriptions and heights in case of future need. (III.9.25, III.9.26)

    Dean’s criminality is immediately evident to those around him.

    To make up lost money he pulled tricks in the lot, a change artist of the first order. I saw him wish a well-to-do man Merry Christmas so volubly a five-spot in change for twenty was never missed. (IV.1.3)

    Dean’s criminality doesn’t seem to change over the course of the novel.

    Henry Glass was riding the bus with me. He had got on at Terre Haute, Indiana, and now he said to me, "I’ve told you why I hate this suit I’m wearing, it’s lousy - but ain’t all." He showed me papers. He had just been released from Terre Haute federal pen; the rap was for stealing and selling cars in Cincinnati. A young, curly-haired kid of twenty. (IV.2.2)

    Henry Glass is particularly reminiscent of a younger Dean Moriarty.

    The Mexicans looked at our baggage in a desultory way. They weren’t like officials at all. They were lazy and tender. Dean couldn’t stop staring at them. He turned to me.

    "See how the cops are in this country. I can’t believe it!" He rubbed his eyes. "I’m dreaming." (IV.4.17, IV.4.19)

    Through the eyes of Dean and Sal, the reader is allowed to compare the law enforcement in American and in Mexico.

    "This road," I told him, "is also the route of old American outlaws who used to skip over the border and go down to old Monterrey, so if you’ll look out on that graying desert and picture the ghost of an old Tombstone hellcat making lonely exile gallop into the unknown, you’ll see further..." (IV.5.6)

    Sal is so attuned to criminality, he even recognizes the remnants of law-breakers from the past.

    Occasionally a dim light flashed in town, and this was the sheriff making his rounds with a weak flashlight and mumbling to himself in the jungle night. Then I saw his light jiggling toward us and heard his footfalls coming soft on the mats of sand and vegetation. He stopped and flashed the car. I sat up and looked at him. In a quivering, almost querulous, and extremely tender voice he said,

    "Dormiendo?" indicating Dean in the road. I knew this meant "sleep."

    "Si, dormiendo."

    "Bueno, bueno" he said to himself and with reluctance and sadness turned away and went back to his lonely rounds. Such lovely policemen God hath never wrought in America. No suspicions, no fuss, no bother: he was the guardian of the sleeping town, period. (IV.5.6-IV.5.8)

    Through the eyes of Dean and Sal, the reader is allowed to compare the law enforcement in American and in Mexico.

  • Poverty

    It was a warm and beautiful day for hitchhiking. To get out of the impossible complexities of Chicago traffic I took a bus to Joliet, Illinois, went by the Joliet pen, stationed myself just outside town after a walk through its leafy rickety streets behind, and pointed my way. All the way from New York to Joliet by bus, and I had spent more than half my money. (I.3.2)

    Right from the outset of the novel, Sal is unable to properly manage his money.

    "During the depression," said the cowboy to me, "I used to hop freights at least once a month. In those days you’d see hundreds of men riding a flatcar or in a boxcar, and they weren’t just bums, they were all kinds of men out of work and going from one place to another and some of them just wandering." (I.3.14)

    Poverty seems to be the one completely universal trait between all the characters that Sal meets on the road.

    His language was melodious and slow. He was patient. His charge was a sixteen-year-old tall blond kid, also in hobo rags; that is to say, they wore old clothes that had been turned black by the soot of railroads and the dirt of boxcars and sleeping on the ground. (I.4.9)

    There is a certain camaraderie that arises from mutual poverty.

    In my earlier days I’d been to sea with a tall rawboned fellow from Louisiana called Big Slim Hazard, William Holmes Hazard, who was hobo by choice. As a little boy he’d seen a hobo come up to ask his mother for a piece of pie, and she had given it to him, and when the hobo went off down the road the little boy had said, "Ma, what is that fellow?" "Why. that’s a ho-bo." "Ma, I want to be a ho-bo someday." "Shut your mouth, that’s not for the like of the Hazards." But he never forgot that day, and when he grew up, after a shortspell playing football at LSU, he did become a hobo. Big Slim and I spent many nights telling stories and spitting tobacco juice in paper containers. (I.4.39)

    Sal’s story of Big Slim Hazard presents the interesting view that poverty may actually be desired, forcing the readers to question their notion of the American Dream.

    I was with Montana Slim and we started hitting the bars. I had about seven dollars, five of which I foolishly squandered that night. (I.5.1)

    Many of Sal’s money difficulties arise from his use of alcohol.

    It was a war with social overtones. Dean was the son of a wino, one of the most tottering bums of Larimer Street, and Dean had in fact been brought up generally on Larimer Street and thereabouts. He used to plead in court at the age of six to have his father set free. He used to beg in front of Larimer alleys and sneak the money back to his father, who waited among the broken bottles with an old buddy. Then when Dean grew up he began hanging around the Glenarm pool-halls; he set a Denver record for stealing cars and went to the reformatory. From the age of eleven to seventeen he was usually in reform school. His specialty was stealing cars, gunning for girls coming out of high school in the afternoon, driving them out to the mountains, making them, and coming back to sleep in any available hotel bathtub in town. His father, once a respectable and hardworking tinsmith, had become a wine alcoholic, which is worse than a whisky alcoholic, and was reduced to riding freights to Texas in the winter and back to Denver in the summer. Dean had brothers on his dead mother’s side - she died when he was small - but they disliked him. Dean’s only buddies were the poolhall boys. Dean, who had the tremendous energy of a new kind of American saint, and Carlo were the underground monsters of that season in Denver, together with the poolhall gang, and, symbolizing this most beautifully, Carlo had a basement apartment on Grant Street and we all met there many a night that went to dawn - Carlo, Dean, myself, Tom Snark, Ed Dunkel, and Roy Johnson. More of these others later. (I.6.5)

    Alcohol becomes a means by which to classify people socially; here we see that alcoholism and poverty are connected, and both shunned by certain facets of society.

    "Tomorrow, Sal, I know where I can find you a job," said Dean, reverting to businesslike tones. "So I’ll call on you, soon as I have an hour off from Marylou, and cut right into that apartment of yours, say hello to Major, and take you on a trolley (damn, I’ve no car) to the Camargo markets, where you can begin working at once and collect a paycheck come Friday. We’re really all of us bottomry broke. I haven’t had time to work in weeks. Friday night beyond all doubt the three of us - the old threesome of Carlo, Dean, and Sal - must go to the midget auto races, and for that I can get us a ride from a guy downtown I know. . . ." And on and on into the night. (I.7.27)

    Dean’s claim that he hasn’t "had time to work in weeks" is an interesting one. Money seems to be a low priority on Dean’s list.

    "What?" we all shouted. There was confusion. Rawlins was rolling in the grass with one of the waitresses. Major wouldn’t let us in. We swore to call Tim Gray and confirm the party and also invite him. Instead we all rushed back to the Denver downtown hangouts. I suddenly found myself alone in the street with no money. My last dollar was gone. (I.7.30)

    Sal repeatedly finds himself broke and homeless, yet makes no attempts to change his ways.

    As for me, I was scheduled to be a guest at the opera that afternoon, escorting Babe on my arm. I wore a suit of Tim’s. Only a few days ago I’d come into Denver like a bum; now I was all racked up sharp in a suit, with a beautiful well-dressed blonde on my arm, bowing to dignitaries and chatting in the lobby under chandeliers. I wondered what Mississippi Gene would say if he could see me. (I.9.5)

    Sal is tempted by the money and stature of the "other" gang in Denver, the faction that opposes Carlo and Dean. He decides, however, to join the "sordid hipsters" rather than the moneyed elite.

    "Well, then, I’ll put it off." I had no money. I sent my aunt an airmail letter asking her for fifty dollars and said it would be the last money I’d ask; after that she would be getting money back from me, as soon as I got that ship. (I.10.8)

    Sal’s aunt becomes a barometer for his monetary situation, as we seem him either sending her or asking her for money. He seems not to be able to strike a balance in between. Like Dean, his activities begin taking the form of extremes.

    When I found him in Mill City that morning he had fallen on the beat and evil days that come to young guys in their middle twenties. He was hanging around waiting for a ship, and to earn his living he had a job as a special guard in the barracks across the canyon. His girl Lee Ann had a bad tongue and gave him a calldown every day. They spent all week saving pennies and went out Saturdays to spend fifty bucks in three hours. Remi wore shorts around the shack, with a crazy Army cap on his head. Lee Ann went around with her hair up in pincurls. Thus attired, they yelled at each other all week. 1 never saw so many snarls in all my born days. But on Saturday night, smiling graciously at each other, they took off like a pair of successful Hollywood characters and went on the town. (I.11.6)

    Inability to handle money quickly becomes apparent as a universal trait among Sal’s friends.

    I looked at Lee Ann. She was a fetching hunk, a honey-colored creature, but there was hate in her eyes for both of us. Her ambition was to marry a rich man. She came from a small town in Oregon. She rued the day she ever took up with Remi. On one of his big showoff weekends he spent a hundred dollars on her and she thought she’d found an heir. Instead she was hung-up in this shack, and for lack of anything else she had to stay there. She had a job in Frisco; she had to take the Greyhound bus at the crossroads and go in every day. She never forgave Remi for it. (I.11.11)

    The issue of money in a sexual relationship is interesting, as we see several women who try to use men for their money.

    The final topper was the racetrack. Remi saved all his money, about a hundred dollars, spruced me up in some of his clothes, put Lee Ann on his arm, and off we went to Golden Gate racetrack near Richmond across the bay. [...]

    We proceeded to the racetrack. He made incredible twenty-dollar bets to win, and before the seventh race he was broke. With our last two food dollars he placed still another bet and lost. We had to hitchhike back to San Francisco. I was on the road again. A gentleman gave us a ride in his snazzy car. I sat up front with him. Remi was trying to put a story down that he’d lost his wallet in back of the grandstand at the track. "The truth is," I said, "we lost all our money on the races, and to forestall any more hitching from racetracks, from now on we go to a bookie, hey, Remi?" Remi blushed all over. The man finally admitted he was an official of the Golden Gate track. He let us off at the elegant Palace Hotel; we watched him disappear among the chandeliers, his pockets full of money, his head held high. (I.11.78, I.11.79)

    Each of Sal’s friends seems to manifest madness in their own way – for Slim it is music and speech, for Carlo poetry, for Dean time, and for Remi, it is money.

    "I get so sick and tired of that sonofab****," snapped Lee Ann. She was on the go to start trouble. She began needling Remi. He was busy going through his little black book, in which were names of people, mostly seamen, who owed him money. Beside their names he wrote curses in red ink. I dreaded the day I’d ever find my way into that book. Lately I’d been sending so much money to my aunt that I only bought four or five dollars’ worth of groceries a week. In keeping with what President Truman said, I added a few more dollars’ worth. But Remi felt it wasn’t my proper share; so he’d taken to hanging the grocery slips, the long ribbon slips with itemized prices, on the wall of the bathroom for me to see and understand. Lee Ann was convinced Remi was hiding money from her, and that I was too, for that matter. She threatened to leave him. (I.11.82)

    Sal’s aunt becomes a barometer for his monetary situation, as we see him either sending her or asking her for money. He seems not to be able to strike a balance in between. Like Dean, his activities begin taking the form of extremes.

    For the next fifteen days we were together for better or for worse. When we woke up we decided to hitchhike to New York together; she was going to be my girl in town. I envisioned wild complexities with Dean and Marylou and everybody - a season, a new season. First we had to work to earn enough money for the trip. Terry was all for starting at once with the twenty dollars I had left. I didn’t like it. And, like a damn fool, I considered the problem for two days, as we read the want ads of wild LA papers I’d never seen before in my life, in cafeterias and bars, until my twenty dwindled to just over ten. (I.13.1)

    Sal only starts to work for money when he has a goal on which to spend it.

    A couple of N**** characters whispered in my ear about tea. One buck. I said okay, bring it. The connection came in and motioned me to the cellar toilet, where I stood around dumbly as he said, "Pick up, man, pick up."

    "Pick up what?" I said.

    He had my dollar already. He was afraid to point at the floor. It was no floor, just basement. There lay something that looked like a little brown turd. He was absurdly cautious. "Got to look out for myself, things ain’t cool this past week." I picked up the turd, which was a brown-paper cigarette, and went back to Terry, and off we went to the hotel room to get high. Nothing happened. It was Bull Durham tobacco. I wished I was wiser with my money. (I.13.5-I.13.7).

    Sal’s drug use is one of the contributing factors to his money problems.

    Terry and I had to decide absolutely and once and for all what to do. We decided to hitch to New York with our remaining money. She picked up five dollars from her sister that night. We had about thirteen or less. So before the daily room rent was due again we packed up and took off on a red car to Arcadia, California, where Santa Anita racetrack is located under snow-capped mountains. It was night. (I.13.8)

    Sal experiences poverty in its most extreme form when he is with Terry. This raises interesting questions about love and relationships, and their potentially detrimental effects.

    I whipped out my last shining five-dollar bill which stood between me and the New Jersey shore and paid for Terry and me. Now I had four bucks. Terry and I looked at each other.

    "Where we going to sleep tonight, baby?"

    "I don’t know."(I.13.21-I.13.23)

    Sal doesn’t recognize the responsibility of having a family that depends on him. For the short time that he plays the role of husband to Terry and father to her son, he becomes as poor a provider as Dean is to his families. He also abandoned his pseudo-family in the same way, and due to the same restlessness.

    I was through with my chores in the cottonfield. I could feel the pull of my own life calling me back. I shot my aunt a penny postcard across the land and asked for another fifty. (I.13.44)

    Sal’s aunt becomes a barometer for his monetary situation, as we see him either sending her or asking her for money. He seems not to be able to strike a balance in between. Like Dean, his activities begin taking the form of extremes.

    That night in Harrisburg I had to sleep in the railroad station on a bench; at dawn the station masters threw me out. Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life. I stumbled haggardly out of the station; I had no more control. All I could see of the morning was a whiteness like the whiteness of the tomb. I was starving to death. All I had left in the form of calories were the last of the cough drops I’d bought in Shelton, Nebraska, months ago; these I sucked for their sugar. I didn’t know how to panhandle. I stumbled out of town with barely enough strength to reach the city limits. (I.14.8)

    Sal identifies a feeling of disillusionment accompanying his own poverty. He believes that one does not understand hardship until experiencing it firsthand.

    "Ah now, man," said Dean, "I’ve been digging you for years about the home and marriage and all those fine wonderful things about your soul." It was a sad night; it was also a merry night. In Philadelphia we went into a lunchcart and ate hamburgers with our last food dollar. (II.2.3)

    Sal and Dean don’t seem to learn from their experiences when it comes to money; they repeatedly go broke together in the same way and with the same consequences.

    "We’ll just pick him up for kicks!" Dean laughed. The man was a ragged, bespectacled mad type, walking along reading a paperbacked muddy book he’d found in a culvert by the road. He got in the car and went right on reading; he was incredibly filthy and covered with scabs. He said his name was Hyman Solomon and that he walked all over the USA, knocking and sometimes kicking at Jewish doors and demanding money: "Give me money to eat, I am a Jew." (II.6.9)

    Sal allows us to see many different faces of poverty in the characters he meets on the road.

    Poor Bull came home in his Texas Chevy and found his house invaded by maniacs; but he greeted me with a nice warmth I hadn’t seen in him for a long time. He had bought this house in New Orleans with some money he had made growing black-eyed peas in Texas with an old college schoolmate whose father, a mad-paretic, had died and left a fortune. Bull himself only got fifty dollars a week from his own family, which wasn’t too bad except that he spent almost that much per week on his drug habit - and his wife was also expensive, gobbling up about ten dollars’ worth of benny tubes a week. Their food bill was the lowest in the country; they hardly ever ate; nor did the children - they didn’t seem to care. (II.6.32)

    It becomes apparent to Sal that poverty is linked with drug abuse.

    At Sonora I again helped myself to free bread and cheese while the proprietor chatted with a big rancher on the other side of the store. Dean huzzahed when he heard it; he was hungry. We couldn’t spend a cent on food. (II.8.18)

    To Sal and Dean, motion is so important that they are willing to go hungry in order to keep traveling.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    I went to see a rich girl I knew. In the morning she pulled a hundred-dollar bill out of her silk stocking and said, "You’ve been talking of a trip to Frisco; that being the case, take this and go and have your fun." So all my problems were solved and I got a travel-bureau car for eleven dollars’ gas-fare to Frisco and zoomed over the land. (III.1.6)

    Sal’s "rich girl" is an odd addition to the text, and seems a thinly veiled device to move the plot forward.

    Ed Wall sat just staring at his hands. Dean ate voraciously. He wanted me to go along with him in the fiction that I owned the Cadillac, that I was a very rich man and that he was my friend and chauffeur. It made no impression on Ed Wall.

    [...]

    "Well, I hope you boys make it to New York." Far from believing that tale about my owning the Cadillac, he was convinced Dean had stolen it. (III.8.22, III.8.24)

    Dean’s criminality and his poverty are immediately evident to those around them.

    In ten minutes he came loping into the bar with Stan Shephard. They’d both had a trip to France and were tremendously disappointed with their Denver lives. They loved Henry and bought him beers. He began spending all his penitentiary money left and right. Again I was back in the soft, dark Denver night with its holy alleys and crazy houses. We started hitting all the bars in town, roadhouses out on West Colfax, Five Points N**** bars, the works. (IV.2.12)

    We see a connection between criminality and poor money management in the character of Henry Glass.

    Then it was time to change our money. We saw great stacks of pesos on a table and learned that eight of them made an American buck, or thereabouts. We changed most of our money and stuffed the big rolls in our pockets with delight. (IV.4.18)

    Just as drugs, time, and music take on new meaning in Mexico, so does money.

    We bought three bottles of cold beer - cerveza was the name of beer - for about thirty Mexican cents»; or ten American cents each. We bought packs of Mexican cigarettes for six cents each. We gazed and gazed at our wonderful Mexican money that went so far, and played with it and looked around and smiled at everyone. Behind us lay the whole of America and everything Dean and I had previously known: about life, and life on the road. We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic. (IV.5.3)

    Part of the "magic" of Mexico is its lack of limitations – Dean and Sal can play music as loud as they want, they aren’t troubled by cops, they can take drugs with greater ease, and they are no longer limited by money.

    My girl charged thirty pesos, or about three dollars and a half, and begged for an extra ten pesos and gave a long story about something. I didn’t know the value of Mexican money; for all I knew I had a million pesos. I threw money at her. (IV.5.47)

    Money loses its value and meaning in Mexico.

    Now Victor suddenly clutched at our arms in the furor and made frantic signs.

    "What’s the matter?" He tried everything to make us understand. Then he ran to the bar and grabbed the check from the bartender, who scowled at him, and took it to us to see. The bill was over three hundred pesos, or thirty-six American dollars, which is a lot of money in any whorehouse. Still we couldn’t sober up and didn’t want to leave, and though we were all run out we still wanted to hang around with our lovely girls in this strange Arabian paradise we had finally found at the end of the hard, hard road. (IV.5.50, IV.5.51)

    Although much has changed in Mexico, Dean and Sal are still inadequate at managing their money.

    I wrote to Dean and told him. He wrote back a huge letter eighteen thousand words long, all about his young years in Denver, and said he was coming to get me and personally select the old truck himself and drive us home. We had six weeks to save up the money for the truck and began working and counting every cent. And suddenly Dean arrived anyway, five and a half weeks in advance, and nobody had any money to go through with the plan. (V.1.4)

    Dean’s inability to manage time translates into an issue of money management.

  • Versions of Reality

    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.

    Ed Dunkel said to me, "Last night I walked clear down to Times Square and just as I arrived I suddenly realized I was a ghost - it was my ghost walking on the sidewalk." He said these things to me without comment, nodding his head emphatically. Ten hours later, in the midst of someone else’s conversation, Ed said, "Yep, it was my ghost walking on the sidewalk." (II.5.4)

    Ed presents his visions in a matter-of-fact manner, as though he were announcing what he had for breakfast. This casual attitude makes his visions seem absurd – until we realize that our reliable narrator, Sal, has the same sort of visions.

    Big long Ed Dunkel sat looking out the window, talking to himself. "Yes sir, I thought I was a ghost that night." He was also wondering what Galatea Dunkel would say to him in New Orleans. (II.6.16)

    Ed faces the same problems as Dean: reconciling his madness with the woman (or women, in Dean’s case) in his life.

    "Damn!" said Bull. "I should have known better, I’ve had experience with this before. Oh, when will we ever learn?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "Big Pop is what I mean. You had a vision, boy, a vision. Only damn fools pay no attention to visions. How do you know your father, who was an old horseplayer, just didn’t momentarily communicate to you that Big Pop was going to win the race? The name brought the feeling up in you, he took advantage of the name to communicate. That’s what I was thinking about when you mentioned it. My cousin in Missouri once bet on a horse that had a name that reminded him of his mother, and it won and paid a big price. The same thing happened this afternoon." He shook his head. "Ah, let’s go. This is the last time I’ll ever play the horses with you around; all these visions drive me to distraction." In the car as we drove back to his old house he said, "Mankind will someday realize that we are actually in contact with the dead and with the other world, whatever it is; right now we could predict, if we only exerted enough mental will, what is going to happen within the next hundred years and be able to take steps to avoid all kinds of catastrophes. When a man dies he undergoes a mutation in his brain that we know nothing about now but which will be very clear someday if scientists get on the ball. The bastards right now are only interested in seeing if they can blow up the world." (II.7.12-II.7.14)

    Although he recognizes the fact afterwards, even Bull Lee, the wise sage among Sal’s friends, is unable to act according to visions.

    We also spent entire nights in bed and I told her my dreams. I told her about the big snake of the world that was coiled in the earth like a worm in an apple and would someday nudge up a hill to be thereafter known as Snake Hill and fold out upon the plain, a hundred miles long and devouring as it went along. I told her this snake was Satan. "What’s going to happen?" she squealed; meanwhile she held me tight.

    "A saint called Doctor Sax will destroy it with secret herbs which he is at this very moment cooking up in his underground shack somewhere in America. It may also be disclosed that the snake is just a husk of doves; when the snake dies great clouds of seminal-gray doves will flutter out and bring tidings of peace around the world." I was out of my mind with hunger and bitterness. (II.10.2, II.10.3)

    Sal’s vision is certainly open to multiple interpretations, but most interesting is the disparity between the two alternatives he proposes for the snake: either it must be destroyed, or it was harmless to begin with. One could examine this in the light of Dean’s madness.

    I walked on a few feet. It suddenly occurred to me this was my mother of about two hundred years ago in England, and that I was her footpad son, returning from gaol to haunt her honest labors in the hashery. I stopped, frozen with ecstasy on the sidewalk. I looked down Market Street. I didn’t know whether it was that or Canal Street in New Orleans: it led to water, ambiguous, universal water, just as 42nd Street, New York, leads to water, and you never know where you are. I thought of Ed Dunkel’s ghost on Times Square. I was delirious. I wanted to go back and leer at my strange Dickensian mother in the hash joint. I tingled all over from head to foot. It seemed I had a whole host of memories leading back to 1750 in England and that I was in San Francisco now only in another life and in another body. "No," that woman seemed to say with that terrified glance, "don’t come back and plague your honest, hard-working mother. You are no longer like a son to me - and like your father, my first husband. ‘Ere this kindly Greek took pity on me." (The proprietor was a Greek with hairy arms.) "You are no good, inclined to drunkenness and routs and final disgraceful robbery of the fruits of my ‘umble labors in the hashery. O son! did you not ever go on your knees and pray for deliverance for all your sins and scoundrel’s acts? Lost boy! Depart! Do not haunt my soul; I have done well forgetting you. Reopen no old wounds, be as if you had never returned and looked in to me - to see my laboring humilities, my few scrubbed pennies - hungry to grab, quick to deprive, sullen, unloved, mean- minded son of my flesh. Son! Son!" It made me think of the Big Pop vision in Graetna with Old Bull. (II.10.5)

    While Ed simply saw his mother in the street, Sal’s vision is enormously complex, riddled with the guilt he feels at not accomplishing what is expected of a man his age. This gets at the heart of the Beat Generation – the aimlessness, the wandering, the unchanneled energy, and the guilt and sadness that follow incessantly.

    Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is. Dean once had a dream that he was having a baby and his belly was all bloated up blue as he lay on the grass of a California hospital. Under a tree, with a group of colored men, sat Slim Gaillard. Dean turned despairing eyes of a mother to him. Slim said "There you go-orooni." Now Dean approached him, he approached his God; he thought Slim was God; he shuffled and bowed in front of him and asked him to join us ; "Right-orooni," says Slim; he’ll join anybody but he won’t guarantee to be there with you in spirit. Dean got a table, bought drinks, and sat stiffly in front of Slim. Slim dreamed over his head. Every time Slim said "Orooni," Dean said, "Yes!" I sat there with these two madmen. Nothing happened. To Slim Gaillard the whole world was just one big orooni. (II.11.9)

    Slim, in his simplicity of language, seems to provide something for Dean that few other characters can. Just as Dean speaks of "IT" to Sal without telling him what "it" really is, so Slim speaks in cryptic language ("orooni") without any explanation. It may be that Slim fulfills the hero role for Dean that Dean does for Sal.

    Finally he got hold of some bad green, as it’s called in the trade - green, uncured marijuana - quite by mistake, and smoked too much of it.

    "The first day, he said, "I lay rigid as a board in bed and couldn’t move or say a word; I just looked straight up with my eyes open wide. I could hear buzzing in my head and saw all kinds of wonderful Technicolor visions and felt wonderful. The second day everything came to me, EVERYTHING I’d ever done or known or read or heard of or conjectured came to me and rearranged itself in my mind in a brand-new logical way and because I could think of nothing else in the interior concerns of holding and catering to the amazement and gratitude I felt, I kept saying, ’Yes, yes, yes, yes.’ Not loud. Yes,’ real quiet, and these green tea visions lasted until the third day. I had understood everything by then, my life was decided, I knew I loved Marylou, I knew I had to find my father wherever he is and save him, I knew you were buddy et cetera, I knew how great Carlo is. I knew a thousand things about everybody everywhere. Then the third day began having a terrible series of waking nightmares, and the were so absolutely horrible and grisly and green that I lay there doubled up with my hands around my knees, saying, ’Oh, oh, oh, ah, oh . . .’ The neighbors heard me and sent for a doctor. Camille was away with the baby, visiting hot folks. The whole neighborhood was concerned. They came in and found me lying on the bed with my arms stretched out forever. Sal, I ran to Marylou with some of that tea. And do you know that the same thing happened to that dumb little box? - the same visions, the same logic, the same final decision about everything, the view of all truths in one painful In leading to nightmares and pain - ack! Then I knew I loved her so much I wanted to kill her. I ran home and beat my head on the wall [...] came back in an hour, I barged in, she was alone - and gave her the gun and told her to kill me. She held the gun in her hand the longest time. I asked her for a sweet dead pact. She didn’t want. I said one of us had to die. She said no. I beat my head on the wall. Man, I was out of my mind. She’ll tell you, she talked me out of it." (III.2.5, III.2.6)

    The intensity of Dean’s drug-induced vision is overwhelming but in fact matched by the intensity of his sober dreams. This suggests that Dean’s madness is innate, not the result of his lifestyle choices.

    "We’re going to Italy," I said, I washed my hands of the whole matter. Then, too, there was a strange sense of maternal satisfaction in the air, for the girls were really looking at Dean the way a mother looks at the dearest and most errant child, and he with his sad thumb and all his revelations knew it well, and that was why he was able, in tick-tocking silence, to walk out of the apartment without a word, to wait for us downstairs as soon as we’d made up our minds about time. This was what we sensed about the ghost on the sidewalk. I looked out the window. He was alone in the doorway, digging the street. Bitterness, recriminations, advice, morality, sadness - everything was behind him, and ahead of him was the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being. (III.3.21)

    Sal relates his visions of the ghost to Dean’s notions of time. The ghost on thee sidewalk is waiting, as Dean is, for the others to stop worrying about the details, and to abandon the strings of guilt and responsibility that still clinging to them.

    "It’s Carlo Marx!" screamed Dean above the fury. (III.3.38)

    Dean sees visions of his companions in the crowd, just as Sal did in his solitary days in Denver. But while Sal felt sadness and solitude, Dean feels ecstatic at his discovery.

    The tall white man furtively looked over his shoulder and counted his money. "It’s Old Bull Lee!" giggled Dean. "Counting his money and worried about everything, and all that other boy wants to do is talk about trucks and things he knows." We followed them awhile. (III.3.41)

    Unlike Sal, Dean doesn’t recognize any serious weight in his own visions.

    People slugged out of bottles and turned around and looked everywhere in the dark theater for something to do, somebody to talk to. In the head everybody was guiltily quiet, nobody talked. In the gray dawn that puffed ghostlike about the windows of the theater and hugged its eaves I was sleeping with my head on the wooden arm of a seat as six attendants of the theater converged with their night’s total of swept-up rubbish and created a huge dusty pile that reached to my nose as I snored head down - till they almost swept me away too. This was reported to me by Dean, who was watching from ten seats behind. All the cigarette butts, the bottles, the matchbooks, the come and the gone were swept up in this pile. Had they taken me with it, Dean would never have seen me again. He would have had to roam the entire United States and look in every garbage pail from coast to coast before he found me embryonically convoluted among the rubbishes of my life, his life, and the life of everybody concerned and not concerned. What would I have said to him from my rubbish womb? "Don’t bother me, man, I’m happy where I am. You lost me one night in Detroit in August nineteen forty-nine. What right have you to come and disturb my reverie in this pukish can?" [...] What difference does it make after all? - anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven? what’s earth? All in the mind." (III.11.2)

    While Dean is pleased with their having left behind morality and responsibility, Sal feels a dirtiness at their actions and sees himself covered in garbage, lost to everyone, and trying to convince himself of his own happiness.

    I was getting ready to go to Mexico when suddenly Denver Doll called me one night and said, "Well, Sal, guess who’s coming to Denver?" I had no idea. "He’s on his way already, I got this news from my grapevine. Dean bought a car and is coming out to join you." Suddenly I had a vision of Dean, a burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain, bearing down on me. I saw his huge face over the plains with the mad, bony purpose and the gleaming eyes; I saw his wings; I saw his old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparking flames shooting out from it; I saw the path it burned over the road; it even made its own road and went over the corn, through cities, destroying bridges, drying rivers. It came like wrath to the West. I knew Dean had gone mad again. There was no chance to send money to either wife if he took all his savings out of the bank and bought a car. Everything was up, the jig and all. Behind him charred ruins smoked. He rushed westward over the groaning and awful continent again, and soon he would arrive. We made hasty preparations for Dean. News was that he was going to drive me to Mexico. (IV.2.17)

    While Sal originally believed the Shrouded Traveler to be death, he now thinks it is Dean.

    We saw a vision of the entire Western Hemisphere rockribbing clear down to Tierra del Fuego and us flying down the curve of the world into other tropics and other worlds. "Man, this will finally take us to IT!" said Dean with definite faith. He tapped my arm. "Just wait and see. Hoo! Wheel" (IV.3.19)

    Sal’s dream-like view of Mexico serves to illustrate (if hyperbolically) their belief that Mexico is the solution to their restlessness. But is it?

    "This road," I told him, "is also the route of old American outlaws who used to skip over the border and go down to old Monterrey, so if you’ll look out on that graying desert and picture the ghost of an old Tombstone hellcat making lonely exile gallop into the unknown, you’ll see further..." (IV.5.6)

    Sal is interested in people and companionship, so where Dean sees landscape, Sal sees the people that used to traverse the land. This is what interests him about history.

    For a mad moment I thought Dean was understanding everything he said by sheer wild insight and sudden revelatory genius inconceivably inspired by his glowing happiness. In that moment, too, he looked so exactly like Franklin Delano Roosevelt - some delusion in my flaming eyes and floating brain - that I drew up in my seat and gasped with amazement. In myriad pricklings of heavenly radiation I had to struggle to see Dean’s figure, and he looked like God. I was so high I had to lean my head back on the seat; the bouncing of the car sent shivers of ecstasy through me. The mere thought of looking out the window at Mexico - which was now something else in my mind - was like recoiling from some gloriously riddled glittering treasure-box that you’re afraid to look at because of your eyes, they bend inward, the riches and the treasures are too much to take all at once. I gulped. I saw streams of gold pouring through the sky and right across the tattered roof of the poor old car, right across my eyeballs and indeed right inside them; it was everywhere. I looked out the window at the hot, sunny streets and saw a woman in a doorway and I thought she was listening to every word we said and nodding to herself - routine paranoiac visions due to tea. But the stream of gold continued. For a long time I lost consciousness in my lower mind of what we were doing and only came around sometime later when I looked up from fire and silence like waking from sleep to the world, or waking from void to a dream, and they told me we were parked outside Victor’s house and he was already at the door of the car with his little baby son in his arms, showing him to us. (IV.5.40)

    Only in the extremes of hunger or drug use do Sal’s visions approach the intensity of Dean’s.

    Dean thrust money at him. In this welter of madness I had an opportunity to see what Dean was up to. He was so out of his mind he didn’t know who I was when I peered at his face. "Yeah, yeah!" is all he said. It seemed it would never end. It was like a long, spectral Arabian dream in the afternoon in another life - Ali Baba and the alleys and the courtesans. (IV.5.48)

    Sal recognizes in Mexico a suspension of reality he never experienced in America.

    I stayed awake. Roosters began to crow the dawn across the brakes somewhere. Still no air, no breeze, no dew, but the same Tropic of Cancer heaviness held us all pinned to earth, where we belonged and tingled. There was no sign of dawn in the skies. Suddenly I heard the dogs barking furiously across the dark, and then I heard the faint clip-clop of a horse’s hooves. It came closer and closer. What kind of mad rider in the night would this be? Then I saw an apparition: a wild horse, white as a ghost, came trotting down the road directly toward Dean. Behind him the dogs yammered and contended. I couldn’t see them, they were dirty old jungle dogs, but the horse was white as snow and immense and almost phosphorescent and easy to see. I felt no panic for Dean. The horse saw him and trotted right by his head, passed the car like a ship, whinnied softly, and continued on through town, bedeviled by the dogs, and clip-clopped back to the jungle on the other side, and all I heard was the faint hoofbeat fading away in the woods. The dogs subsided and sat to lick themselves. What was this horse? What myth and ghost, what spirit? I told Dean about it when he woke up. He thought I’d been dreaming. Then he recalled faintly dreaming of a white horse, and I told him it had been no dream. (IV.5.9)

    This scene could be interpreted in different ways. One could argue that, since both Dean and Sal saw the white horse, it actually happened. This is fairly straightforward. If you were feeling adventurous, you could also say that, in Sal’s mind (in his presentation of the story), he and Dean have reached the point of shared consciousness – both have the same foggy vision of a white horse in sleep.

    Then I got fever and became delirious and unconscious. Dysentery. I looked up out of the dark swirl of my mind and I knew I was on a bed eight thousand feet above sea level, on a roof of the world, and I knew that I had lived a whole life and many others in the poor atomistic husk of my flesh, and I had all the dreams. And I saw Dean bending over the kitchen table. It was several nights later and he was leaving Mexico City already. "What you doin, man?" I moaned. (IV.6.27)

    While Dean has reached a state of sober spirituality, it is only in feverish dreams that Sal contemplates such matters as "the poor atomic husk" of his body.

    In the fall I myself started back home from Mexico City and one night just over Laredo border in Dilley, Texas, I was standing on the hot road underneath an arc-lamp with the summer moths smashing into it when I heard the sound of footsteps from the darkness beyond, and lo, a tall old man with flowing white hair came clomping by with a pack on his back, and when he saw me as he passed, he said, "Go moan for man," and clomped on back to his dark. Did this mean that I should at last go on my pilgrimage on foot on the dark roads around America? I struggled and hurried to New York (V.1.2)

    The line "Go moan for man" is certainly cryptic, but this is the second time we’ve seen the old man with white hair. Something is up. Sal, too, struggles with meaning, but the line reeks of existential dread, of Sal’s sadness, and his literal need to moan and grieve over his own state and the state of America.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    First reports of him came to me through Chad King, who’d shown me a few letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one point Carlo and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Moriarty. (I.1.1)

    One of Sal’s first characterizations of Dean is in regards to his desire to learn – Sal finds it an important part of Dean’s persona.

    During the following week he confided in Chad King that he absolutely had to learn how to write from him; Chad said I was a writer and he should come to me for advice...He came right out to Paterson, New Jersey, where I was living with my aunt, and one night while I was studying there was a knock on the door, and there was Dean, bowing, shuffling obsequiously in the dark of the hall, and saying, "Hello, you remember me - Dean Moriarty? I’ve come to ask you to show me how to write." (I.1.5)

    If Sal’s interest in Dean is one of awe and idolatry, then Dean places Sal on a similar pedestal – but one of learning.

    In those days he really didn’t know what he was talking about; that is to say, he was a young jailkid all hung-up on the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a jumbled way, that he had heard from "real intellectuals" - although, mind you, he wasn’t so naive as that in all other things, and it took him just a few months with Carlo Marx to become completely in there with all the terms and jargon. Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of madness, and I agreed that he could stay at my house till he found a job and furthermore we agreed to go out West sometime. That was the winter of 1947. (I.1.7)

    Sal finds Dean’s thirst for knowledge to be more genuine than that of his "intellectual" friends – his initial draw to Dean is his vision of a purity in Dean’s character.

    I wondered how he could live with her like this. He had more books than I’ve ever seen in all my life - two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls, and such books as the Apocryphal Something-or-Other in ten volumes. He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn’t give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life. (II.4.15)

    Dean is fascinated by Rollo Greb because they share the same thirst for knowledge.

    It would take all night to tell about Old Bull Lee; let’s just say now, he was a teacher, and it may be said that he had every right to teach because he spent all his time learning; and the things he learned were what he considered to be and called «the facts of life,» which he learned not only out of necessity but because he wanted to [...] He did all these things merely for the experience. Now the final study was the drug habit. He was now in New Orleans, slipping along the streets with shady characters and haunting connection bars. (II.6.33).

    Bull Lee, the most prominent drug user of Sal’s friends, is also the guru, suggesting a connection in Sal’s mind between drugs and wisdom.

    He also experimented in boiling codeine cough syrup down to a black mash - that didn’t work too well. He spent long hours with Shakespeare - the "Immortal Bard," he called him - on his lap. In New Orleans he had begun to spend long hours with the Mayan Codices on his lap, and, although he went on talking, the book lay open all the time. I said once, "What’s going to happen to us when we die?" and he said, "When you die you’re just dead, that’s all." He had a set of chains in his room that he said he used with his psychoanalyst; they were experimenting with narcoanalysis and found that Old Bull had seven separate personalities, each growing worse and worse on the way down, till finally he was a raving idiot and had to be restrained with chains. The top personality was an English lord, the bottom the idiot. Halfway he was an old N**** who stood in line, waiting with everyone else, and said, "Some’s bastards, some’s ain’t, that’s the score." (II.6.34)

    Bull Lee’s wisdom is not only of the world around him, but also of himself. This makes him different from the other "intellectuals" Sal has encountered.

    He spent all his time talking and teaching others. Jane sat at his feet; so did I; so did Dean; and so had Carlo Marx. We’d all learned from him. He was a gray, nondescript-looking fellow you wouldn’t notice on the street, unless you looked closer and saw his mad, bony skull with its strange youthfulness - a Kansas minister with exotic, phenomenal fires and mysteries. He had studied medicine in Vienna; had studied anthropology, read everything; and now he was settling to his life’s work, which was the study of things them-selves.-in the streets of life and the night. He sat in his chair; Jane brought drinks, martinis. The shades by his chair were always drawn, day and night; it was his corner of the house. On his lap were the Mayan Codices and an air gun which he occasionally raised to pop Benzedrine tubes across the room. (II.6.35).

    While Sal idolizes Dean, all of the gang puts Bull Lee on a pedestal, including Dean.

    "Damn!" said Bull. "I should have known better, I’ve had experience with this before. Oh, when will we ever learn?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "Big Pop is what I mean. You had a vision, boy, a vision. Only damn fools pay no attention to visions. How do you know your father, who was an old horseplayer, just didn’t momentarily communicate to you that Big Pop was going to win the race? The name brought the feeling up in you, he took advantage of the name to communicate. That’s what I was thinking about when you mentioned it. My cousin in Missouri once bet on a horse that had a name that reminded him of his mother, and it won and paid a big price. The same thing happened this afternoon." He shook his head. "Ah, let’s go. This is the last time I’ll ever play the horses with you around; all these visions drive me to distraction." In the car as we drove back to his old house he said, "Mankind will someday realize that we are actually in contact with the dead and with the other world, whatever it is; right now we could predict, if we only exerted enough mental will, what is going to happen within the next hundred years and be able to take steps to avoid all kinds of catastrophes. When a man dies he undergoes a mutation in his brain that we know nothing about now but which will be very clear someday if scientists get on the ball. The bastards right now are only interested in seeing if they can blow up the world." (II.7.12-II.7.14)

    Bull Lee, like Sal, comments at length on America. Bull Lee becomes yet another lens through which we see the country.

    They showed me the proper way to get off a moving car; the back foot first and let the train go away from you and come around and place the other foot down. They showed me the refrigerator cars, the ice compartments, good for a ride on any winter night in a string of empties. "Remember what I told you about New Mexico to LA?" cried Dean. "This was the way I hung on . . ." (II.7.18)

    Although Dean at first came to Sal to learn how to write, Sal becomes the student as Dean teaches him how to live.

    "You see, man, Prez has the technical anxieties of a money-making musician, he’s the only one who’s well dressed, see him grow worried when he blows a clinker, but the leader, that cool cat, tells him not to worry and just blow and blow - the mere sound and serious exuberance of the music is all he cares about. He’s an artist. He’s teaching young Prez the boxer. Now the others dig!!" The third sax was an alto, eighteen-year-old cool, contemplative young Charlie-Parker-type N**** from high school, with a broadgash mouth, taller than the rest, grave. He raised his horn and blew into it quietly and thoughtfully and elicited birdlike phrases and architectural Miles Davis logics. These were the children of the great bop innovators. (III.10.3)

    Sal and Dean’s student-teacher relationship is mirrored in the musical world.

    "Now, Sal, we’re leaving everything behind us and entering a new and unknown phase of things. All the years and troubles! and kicks - and now this! so that we can safely think of nothing else and just go on ahead with our faces stuck out like this you see, and understand the world as, really and genuinely speaking, other Americans haven’t done before us - they were here, weren’t they? The Mexican war. Cutting across here with cannon." (IV.5.5)

    For Dean, the journey into Mexico becomes a further search for knowledge.

    Dig all the foolish stories you read about Mexico and the sleeping gringo and all that crap - and crap about greasers and so on - and all it is, people here are straight and kind and don’t put down any bull. I’m so amazed by this." Schooled in the raw road night, Dean was come into the world to see it. He bent over the wheel and looked both ways and rolled along slowly. (IV.5.11)

    While Dean is comfortable teaching, he is most interested in learning, stopping his talking to absorb information from the world around him.