Jack Kerouac was born in 1922 in Massachusetts into a French-Canadian family.
He went to Columbia University on a scholarship, but he gave it up and joined the United States Merchant Marine. In New York he started to live a Bohemian life, making friends like Ginsberg and Borroughs.
Kerouac’s famous Beat novel, On the Road is the story of a friendship and four hitch-hiking trips across America, and almost everything in the book really happened.
Kerouac found the sudden celebrity it gave to him difficult to live and started drinking heavily and isolating himself from people. He died alone in San Francisco.
Kerouac’s novels expressed a sort of romantic anarchism, emphasizing instinct and spontaneity, friendship and love of nature. Kerouac is undoubtedly the living symbol of the Beat Generation.
On the road
It is the story of a journey through United States, as well as a celebration of the unconventional lifestyle of the Beat Generation. Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s pseudonym, started travelling with his friend Neal Cassidy.
In his attempt to write about these wild trips across the country he had begun experimenting with new, freer forms of writing which were partly inspired by the spontaneous, colloquial prose he found in Cassidy’s letters.
The story is narrated by Kerouac himself, under the pseudonym of Sal Paradise. He lives with his aunt in New Jersey but a college friend has invited Sal to live with him in San Francisco, and Sal also wants to visit Denver, where lives another friend of his, Dean.
He makes four trips across America, going to Denver, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago and even Mexico, having wild adventures and meeting a lot of peculiar characters.
Finally Sal goes back to New York, apparently choosing a different life style.
The protagonist feels free to roam everywhere in the country to discover the American landscape. He is directed only by his desires and by the possibility of meeting strange or interesting people.
The narrator, who is on his way to Los Angeles, gives us details of his trip from Oakland to Bakersfield.
He first gets a lift from a madman who has just had one toe amputated, then from a Texan who is in the trailer business. The last part of his trip will be done by bus because he can’t get a lift and it is at the bus station that he notices a Mexican girl who will be his companion on the bus.