Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The pursuit of dreams is a theme that seems to be prevalent throughout Kerouac’s On the Road, as Sal Paradise longs to escape and experience the unknown. Traveling, as we know, is a way of broadening our own horizons, and as a writer, Paradise wants the experiences that only travel would be able to give him. Even minor characters like the girl Sal meets at the bus station in Cheyenne longs to go to New York because “Ain’t no place to go but Cheyenne and ain’t nothin in Cheyenne” (33). Everyone seems to want something out of life but the difficulties arise in actually achieving these dreams. Although Sal is eager to travel to the West, at times he is consumed with a profound sense of loneliness and questions his decisions: “What was I doing three thousand miles from home? Why had I come here?” (75) Because of the nature of being “on the road”, where nothing is permanent or familiar, Paradise is constantly lonesome. Despite his uncertainty though, Paradise continues to search for his promised land.

Community also seems to play a large part within this story. Hitchhikers are constantly picked up, people lend money to others, and there exists an overall sense of camaraderie because everyone is attempting the same journey. ‘“We’re all in this together!’ yelled Ponzo. I saw that was so—everywhere I went, everybody was in it together” (92). While travel can be an isolating experience, it also has the power to connect and unite people on the road. Many characters in the book lend money, lodging, and even food to their comrades because these people represent a collective group of individuals, all traveling in different directions but all understanding what it is like to struggle. Being on the road itself is a struggle because unlike travel that is mapped out and planned, Sal leaves everything up to fate; “all the golden land’s ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive” (135). Although Dean and Sal struggle on the road, ultimately their experiences are meaningful because they give these men something to live for, and a feeling of pure exhilaration. They travel to the West because it allows them to experience different kinds of people, places, and things, which is essentially what travel itself is all about. It is a journey of self discovery and questioning how far one will go and what they will endure to reach their dreams.

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