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Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 2 Chapters 1 3 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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Course Hero. "On the Road Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 Sep. 2016. Web. 7 June 2023. <>.

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Course Hero. "On the Road Study Guide." September 23, 2016. Accessed June 7, 2023.


Course Hero, "On the Road Study Guide," September 23, 2016, accessed June 7, 2023,

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



Chapter 1

It's over a year before Sal sees Dean again. During the past year, Sal has finished his novel and met a nice girl named Lucille, whom he plans to marry. Over Christmas, Sal travels to his brother's home in Virginia and enjoys the family time there. He had been writing letters to Dean, but it still surprises him when Dean pulls into his brother's driveway, Marylou and Ed Dunkel asleep in the backseat. Dean and the others haven't showered or eaten in days and are ravenous. Unsure how to react to this trio, Sal's family stands around nervously as Sal's friends take over the party. Even Sal is surprised by how much Dean has changed. He's wild and frenetic and has "bloomed into a weird flower." Sal and Dean agree to pack Sal's brother's furniture into Dean's large car and move it to New York. It will take two trips, but they are excited to hit the road together again.

Sal learns that in the past year, Dean settled into a comfortable life with Camille, with whom he had a daughter. He had been working as a brakeman for the rail company making $400 a week. Before long, however, he felt the itch to return to the road. Leaving Camille and his newborn daughter behind, Dean spent his entire savings on a new car, picked up Marylou, Ed, and Ed's new wife, Galatea, and started driving. Galatea, the only one of them who'd had any money, was funding the entire trip. When her money ran out, they "gave her the slip in a hotel lobby ... without a qualm."

Chapter 2

Driving on the snow-covered roads is terrible, but Dean doesn't mind. Sal muses that Dean's car was bought brand new a few days ago but "already it was broken." Dean talks wildly about his adventures the past year, with Marylou and Sal listening. Sal tells them a bit about Lucille, but it's difficult to hold their attention. They stop for hamburgers, and the restaurant owner feeds them for free when he hears money is tight.

Chapter 3

The trio arrives in New York with the first set of furniture. Sal receives a phone call from Old Bull Lee in New Orleans. Searching for Ed, Galatea arrives at his front door and now refuses to leave. Despite the abandonment, she is determined to get back together with Ed, whom she claims to love. Before they head to Bull Lee's, Sal and Dean call Carlo, whom they haven't seen in over a year. When he arrives, he is more serious than they remember and suspicious of their "madness." He questions their behaviors and motivations, questions that are largely ignored. On their second drive back down to Virginia, Sal and Dean discuss God and whether "He" is real. They have Sal's aunt in the car this time, who listens to the discussion with amused interest. Dean is pulled over for speeding but doesn't have the money to pay his ticket so Sal's aunt lends him the $15.


Away from Dean, Sal has settled into a comfortable, successful life. He has found a nice girl to marry, surrounded himself with family, and finished his first book. It appears that Sal would have happily slipped into traditional social expectations had Dean not come bursting back onto the scene. In the year they've been apart, Dean has changed, becoming more unpredictable and wilder than before. Although not stated outright, Dean's frantic energy, unfinished thoughts, inability to concentrate, and over-the-top reactions suggest drug addiction. When they first meet him. Sal's family is troubled by his friendship with Dean, especially because Dean bursts into their traditional Christmas celebrations with his counterculture attitude.

Since being away from Sal, Dean also temporarily settled into a semitraditional family role: he found a well-paying job, earned regular paychecks, and took care of his wife and daughter. But the traditional role becomes too much for him and, without a word, he leaves, abandoning his new family. Following Dean's example, Ed Dunkel and Sal quickly follow suit, abandoning the women they love in favor of adventure on the road. Ed's abandonment of Galatea while she's in a hotel lobby seems particularly heartless. The three men are more concerned about the next adventure than looking back to see how their decisions affect their loved ones—a particularly selfish characteristic of the Beat movement.

Dean's recklessness affects every aspect of his life, from his romantic relationships to his use of drugs and alcohol to the way he dangerously drives the car on icy roads. Dean is simply not concerned with consequences. During his conversation with Carlo before setting off on the next journey, it is suggested that this reckless restlessness embodies America as a whole: "Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" After being pulled over for speeding, Sal's aunt pays Dean's ticket. If the comparison is true, readers may wonder who will bail out America as it zips through the world like Dean: boldly and recklessly.

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