Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is recognized as one of the most prominent works of “the Beat Generation.”
Kerouac is a local for us Bostonians. He was born in Lowell Massachusetts in 1922 but his character Sal Paradise is from New York City. Paradise meets Dean Moriarty who is the epitome of the beat character. Born on the road, he never settles down or commits to one home or one woman.
Kerouac glorifies Moriarty’s life on the road, despite the chaos and violence. But it is the slightly calmer and less confident Paradise who tells the story. It is impossible to read the book without feeling the pull to get up and go in your bones.
The story line casually picks up and drops women along the way. Paradise is young, immature and self indulgent, but somehow the reader stays with him. The women are barely present, even if their names have made it from the beginning to the end.
Paradise puts down the book he is writing and acts on his desire to cross the continent. Though the writing seems to be put off indefinitely, we get the feeling that we are reading the final product as his story unfolds.
Despite a humorously slow start where Paradise goes the wrong way, barely makes it out of the city, and is mortified at the idea of possibly having to hitch back to his aunt’s home so soon; he makes it from the east to the west and home again. Of course, it is not long before he does whatever he can to get back out West again.
The book is over 300 pages of story that brings you back to those nights in college when you stayed up late enough to feel the temperature drop enough to make your teeth chatter but were too busy living to go to bed.
Just as we know that Wendy and the lost boys chose to grow up and leave Peter Pan and Wonderland behind, it is easy to believe that Paradise grew up after writing his book. He settled down and learned to change diapers and cut the crusts off of sandwiches, waiting to bore his children with stories of the open road. The end for Moriarty seems more vague and sad, as if he was left in Never Land alone with the memories of his lost generation.