Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Different forms of travels

''On the Road'' makes the reader travel in several ways : geographically, since the narrator Sal undertakes a travel to the West of the United States, temporarily, but also through other embedded narratives that reveal the personality of the people he meets. Story telling is a key element in this narrative and reminds us of Calvino’s idea which stresses the act of story telling because through this act, we show that we are humans.

''On the Road'' clearly reminds us of some books belonging to the American literary canon such as ''Nature'' by Emerson, ''Walden'' by Thoreau or ''Huckleberry Finn'' by Twain. They vividly depict the American Landscape and encourage readers to go to Nature to find out essential truths, to know oneself better and to free from social constraints. Nature is often exalted and idealized. Sal is optimistic about his travel and his expectations shape it beforehand. Page 8, Sal describes his excitment : ‘‘…I could hear a new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young age(…) Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything ; somewhere along the line, the pearl would be handed to me.’’ The narrator is filled with wonder before the ‘‘prairies’’, ‘‘great snowy tops of Rocky Mountain’’ or ‘‘his beloved Mississipi River.’’But at the same time, he is aware that natural elements can prevent his progress. The first time Sal travells to go to Denver, he is stopped by the rain. Nature is no longer agreable : ‘‘All I could see were smoky trees and dismal wilderness rising to the skies. What the hell am I doing up there ?’’There is an ambivalence in the American landscape : it can be pleasant or unpleasant.

Sal’s travel to the West is an obvious reference to the travel of the pioneers who went to the West in order to extend the frontier. In that sense, the narrator travels temporarily. For instance, as he goes to the West, he meets the descendants of Native Americans. The names of western cities also reminds us that a history prior to that of the first Europeans existed : Sal mentions Cheyenne, Ohama, the state of Nebraska…The life that exists in the West is more rural, in other words closer to the life led by the pioneers. In a more personal level, this travel makes him question his identity and life. Page 15, Sal wakes up in a hotel room and for fifteen seconds, he does not know who he is. He explains this feeling as followed : ‘‘ I was halfway accross 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 aftenoon.’’The same way the pioneers' travel to the West contributed to create and shape and an American identity, the same way Sal’s travel is also supposed to help him to shape his own identity as an American, as a writer and simply as a full individual.

Sal’s narrative is enriched by other bits of narratives related by himself when he tells the story of his friends, but also by people he meets when travelling. Those embedded narratives define travel as interacting with people, exchanging experience between individuals, forming multiple but transient bonds with others. Things are known through human contacts. For instance, when he travels with the Minnesota farmboys, he meets people with different histories in the truck. But he has to leave them to continue his travel : ‘‘It was sad to see them go, and I realized that I would never see any of them again, but that’s the way it was.’’

''On the Road'' explores several types of travels we have already studied in our previous readings. The narrator travels geographically, temporarily, but also through personal experiences he hears. It reminds us of Marco Polo whose narrative is also constituted of other narratives and anachronisms that makes the reader travel temporarily. Moreover, like Marco Polo, Sal enjoys of ''vantage point'' to depict a society.

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