Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Context, New Self?

Throughout Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, Sal Paradise takes us on a journey of self discovery. Kerouac introduces many characters and personalities into the novel, representing the diversity seen when traveling. The importance of the people Sal Paradise meets on his voyage doesn’t seem to affect Paradise at the moment, but with reflection and time Paradise realizes the sense of connection and transformation associated with the ‘strangers’ he encounters on his way to ‘Denver’.

We are all characters in each other’s travel stories. We need each other to complete our travel because communication is vital in reflecting and understanding the experiences we accomplish. The relationships we share with each other plays a major role on who we are and who we become.

An example of this essential aspect of growth and transformation can be seen when Sal Paradise states: “I didn’t know who I was… I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost” (15). This quote is taken from the beginning of his voyage ‘on the road’, where he is searching for sense of self. Paradise feels lost and vulnerable, this sense of emptiness is can be found among many travelers, emphasizing the human dependence on each other for a sense of identity. Without the normal people or ‘others’ in our life, we become vulnerable to the idea of forming a new ‘self’. With a new context, an individual may loose their old idea of identity, but with these new experiences comes a deeper understanding of what really makes someone unique.

Throughout the novel ‘strangers’ become friends and essential tools to understanding Paradise’s identity. Paradise’s travel goes past Rt-6, into a deep connection with his idea of ‘self’ to strangers and their stories. Paradise’s identity is then molded by the people he meets on his voyage, through their dialogue and stories of their pasts.

Travel helps question the idea of identity. As seen in On the Road, a person’s idea of self is constantly changing and adapting with the new experiences and new context. This constant change helps define a person’s unique identity by using experiences to clarify what makes each person different.

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