HomeLiterature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 1 Chapters 8 10 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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On the Road | Part 1, Chapters 8–10 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 8

Everyone begins planning a trip to the mountains, but they know they must first get jobs to fund the adventure. Out of nowhere, Eddie (Sal's old hitchhiking companion) calls and asks to meet. On their way to look for jobs, Sal and Dean stop at Eddie's hotel to pick up Sal's shirt. Dean barely acknowledges Eddie but agrees to help him find a job, too. Eddie and Sal both get jobs at the local market, but on their first day only Eddie shows up. Sal would much rather spend his time partying. Meanwhile, Dean decides to divorce Marylou and marry Camille. Sal decides it's time to leave Denver and continue to San Francisco to meet up with Remi Boncoeur. The chapter ends with Carlo and Dean getting into a fight about Camille, and Sal returning to his apartment.

Chapter 9

Sal, Tim, Major, and the Rawlins siblings set out for their mountain adventure. They decide to stay in an old opera town. Babe finds a filthy shack that the troupe is allowed to stay in as long as they clean it first. While the rest of the party cleans, Sal takes Babe to the opera, marveling at how different this life is from living as a hitchhiking hobo. After the opera, Sal invites everyone, but especially the "girls," to a party. They have a wild, raucous party, and Sal momentarily wishes Carlo and Dean could be there. Then he realizes that "they'd be out of place and unhappy." When they tire of the party they're hosting, Sal and his friends begin hitting nearby bars. Ray Rawlins quarrels with an opera singer and throws a highball in his face. They leave that bar and try another, where Rawlins calls a waitress a "whore." Sal realizes things are out of control: "Everything seemed to be collapsing," he said. He decides it's time to get moving.

Chapter 10

While Sal has been in the mountains, Carlo and Dean have continued drinking, partying, and stealing cars. Although Sal wants to leave for San Francisco that night, he learns that Dean has arranged for him to sleep with a pretty waitress named Rita, so he agrees to stay a bit longer. During his encounter with Rita, Sal attempts to sound deep and intellectual, but falls flat. Rita leaves, utterly unimpressed. Although he longs to find Rita again and "tell her a lot more things, and really make love to her this time," Sal finds his friends, swaps some poetry, and hits the road. As he leaves he realizes that he barely spent five minutes alone with Dean during his entire time in Denver.

Analysis

When Sal is offered the job at the market but fails to show up on the first day, he makes clear to the reader, and to himself, that he would rather cast his lot with Dean and Carlo than his more responsible friends. This is a turning point for his character—perhaps the first time he has knowingly made irresponsible choices. The Beat Movement was a somewhat selfish movement in which individuals sought to elevate their personal experiences (often through drugs) by fighting against cultural expectations. The movement prized the individual experience above all, while often ignoring consequences. By choosing to party over keeping a job, Sal begins to embrace that tenet. The reader already sees how Dean embraces this philosophy through his treatment of women. He flits back and forth between Marylou and Camille, not caring how his infidelity affects them, and doesn't think twice about divorcing Marylou so he can marry Camille. This indifference continues throughout the novel as Dean flip-flops between multiple women and is careless of the consequences, even when these dalliances begin producing children.

Sal's trip to the mountains represents two main themes of his journeys: exploring America and exploring himself. He visits a beautiful, old town in the vast mountainside, which presents new landscapes and experiences. The sights unleash a "fever" in his soul. He is struck by the beauty of his surroundings but doesn't think twice about trashing the cabin during a party. Faced with his newfound freedom, Sal is no longer sure how to define himself. He enjoys his respectable appearance at the opera, particularly when contrasted to his bum-like existence on the road, but also enjoys partying wildly. His friends, who are also experiencing youthful freedom, quickly get out of hand, start fights, and call locals names. Their behavior shows their immaturity and their disregard for consequences. The reader also sees Sal's desperate desire to define himself as a wise intellectual. When wooing Rita Bettencourt, he wants to "tell her a lot more things, and really make love to her this time," but his desires don't match his abilities. He's beginning to realize that he can't fake his way through life.

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