Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 1 Chapters 2 3 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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Course Hero. "On the Road Study Guide." September 23, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/On-the-Road/.

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Course Hero, "On the Road Study Guide," September 23, 2016, accessed September 23, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/On-the-Road/.

On the Road | Part 1, Chapters 2–3 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 2

In July after saving $50 from his veteran benefits, Sal heads to San Francisco to stay with his friend Remi Boncoeur and his girlfriend, Lee Ann, but he first decides to visit the rest of his friends in Denver. Sal's plan is to hitchhike, but he makes a poor choice of routes, choosing to head west on Route 6 which he would pick up at Bear Mountain, New York. He takes a subway, trolley, and boat and hitchhikes to the road but is deeply disappointed to find that there is no traffic. It starts to rain and, disheartened, he spends a large part of his savings to buy a bus ticket to Chicago.

Chapter 3

Sal arrives in Chicago and quickly moves on across Illinois, hitchhiking and occasionally taking buses. At Rock Island, Illinois, he sees the Mississippi River for the first time and finds it impressive, smelling "like the raw body of America itself." After riding in a few cars, Sal is excited to start riding with semitrucks because they tend to drive longer distances. The closer he gets to Denver where all his friends are staying, the more excited he gets.

Along the way, Sal partners up with another hitchhiker, Eddie, who looks like he's running away from something (Sal thinks it's the law). The two hitch together for a while, with Sal buying all their restaurant meals, booze, and cigarettes. A cowboy picks them up because he needs someone to drive a second car he's taking to Grand Island. Eddie's fast driving makes everyone else uncomfortable. In Shelton, Nebraska, the pair turn down the opportunity to work with a traveling carnival, although Sal is tempted. A driver stops but he only has room for one. Eddie jumps into the passenger seat without a word and takes off, stealing Sal's shirt in the process.

Analysis

For Sal, travel is something to be planned and organized. Although he wants to embrace the "freedom" of hitchhiking, he has a specific plan for which roads to travel, which cities to visit, and what schedule he'll follow. He becomes discouraged when he can't get a ride in upper New York state and learns that Route 6 isn't good for hitchhiking, so he spends over half his money on a ticket to Chicago.

Another disappointment for Sal is the loneliness he feels on the road. He befriends almost anyone who will talk to him, including other hitchhikers, like Eddie, who take advantage of him. These one-sided friendships suggest Sal's naivety and help showcase his character's development throughout the novel. Eventually, he will become more streetwise, saving money, scraping by, and stealing when he has to.

Sal's experience isn't all bad, however. He is overwhelmed by America's vastness and the rich "American" experiences the land offers. Seeing the Mississippi River is a humbling, almost spiritual experience for him. He enjoys American cuisine—especially apple pie with ice cream—and remarks on the quaintness of the towns he visits. On the Road became a road map for disillusioned youth at the time of its publication, with many readers hitting the open road to experience America's beauty as Kerouac described it.

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