Jack Kerouac

On the Road (1957)


Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)

      Born in Massachusetts.

      Received a private Catholic education then joined Columbia University on a football scholarship. (meeting Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg)

      Quit school to join the Merchant Marine which started the travels on which the novel is based.


On the Road (1957)

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 common place thing, but burn burn burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.


      In a stream-of-consciousness style employing long sentences and paragraphs, the novel presents an account of a journey taken by Kerouac (Sal Paradise) and Cassady (Dean Moriarty).

      First draft of novel was written in 3 weeks on a fifty-foot-long roll of paper. But its actual writing took 7 years of traveling.

      Novel presents dissatisfied youth of late forties and early fifties (Between Great Depression and Civil Rights Movement)

      In 1947, Dean Moriarty, out of jail and newly married arrives to New York City where he meets Sal Paradise and they begin a 3 year journey around the country.

      Sal, fascinated with all that goes on around him, begins his journeys that are instigated by Sal and which presents reader with a colorful life or adventures, drama and characters.



      Sal Paradise -  The narrator, a young writer (based on Kerouac)

      Dean Moriarty -  The hero, a reckless, energetic, womanizing young man from Colorado who has been in and out of jail. (based on Neal Cassady)

      Carlo Marx -  A good friend of Sal and Dean's, a brooding poet who is sensual and energetic.  (based on Allen Ginsberg)


The Beat Generation:

      Term by Kerouac to describe a group of American writers of late 1950s, early 1960s.

      Representative works: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959).

      Beat used initially as tired but Kerouac adds the paradoxical meaning of upbeat.

      Spontaneous creativity, purposively chaotic style to highlight open emotion.

      Led to liberation in all its forms. (sexual and spiritual as well as that of censorship)

      Rhythm and blues lead to rock and roll considered as high culture.

      Spread of ecological concerns (such as seen in Gary Snyder of California), accompanied by respect for indigenous cultures and peoples.

      Led to the 1960s counterculture Beat transferred to beatnik then to hippie.