On the Road
On the Road is the best-known prose of the Beats and became the manifesto of the movement. It is a novel based fairly closely on the lives of Kerouac and his friends. At the center of the prose there is:
- the image of the roads crossing the great American Continent.
- the sense of American's immensity as a dimension of existence
- a way to escape from the cities and one's own past.
The two central characters are Dean Moriarty (a fictional portrait of Neal Cassady), an almost heroic figure, and Sal Paradise (Kerouac), who follows in his footsteps and chronicles his activities and those of the group.
But Kerouac's sympathies go far beyond the small circle of his friends, although he has them in mind all the time: he also shows a fresh and sincere interest in the places he passes through and the people he meets. He communicates a feeling of the openess and friendliness of ordinary American men and women, their lack of reserve, their hospitality and interest in other people. He has a wonderful eye for the characteristic details of American life and landscape and speech. Everything is observed almost lovingly, with good humor and a sense of immediate refers to the book as a novel, it would be more accurate to say that it is very unusual kind of travelogue, an account of the travels and adventures of a naive, idealistic and open-minded young man.
The novel has no "plot" but there are three structural elements that give it coherence:
- the first is the theme of travel itself, the journeys across America from coast to coast and the people met on the way
- the second id the group of people, the friends with shared purposes and values, drifting around America and from time to time meeting up in different cities.
- The third unifying element is Kerouac/Sal Paradise himself, who provides us with a running commentary on people, places, and the thoughts inside his head. To a greater degree than is usual in a novel, Paradise represents Kerouac's own point of view.