Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 2 Chapters 10 11 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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On the Road | Part 2, Chapters 10–11 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10

Marylou finds a motel that will let her and Sal stay on credit. They live together for a week, but a few days in, Sal realizes that Marylou doesn't have any interest in him. He tells her about a dream he had in which he was a giant snake and later realized that the snake was Satan. One night Marylou disappears. Sal sees her again with a wealthy nightclub owner and says he "saw what a whore she was." On his own, Sal wanders the streets at night, lonely and starving, hallucinating that he has died and been reborn and that a woman on the street is his "mother of about two hundred years ago in England." His delusions run together as flashes of images—some real and some imagined—blur his eyes. He collapses in his hotel room smelling "all the food of San Francisco."

Chapter 11

Dean arrives to "save" Sal from starvation. Sal rests a few days at Camille's house, a woman he claims to like much better than the "whore" Marylou. Dean has taken a job selling pressure cookers. He is a natural-born salesman but too unpredictable and unreliable to keep the job. Dean and Sal spend their evenings listening to jazz in different nightclubs. Sal is deeply moved by the music of Slim Gaillard. When his next GI check arrives he prepares to return to New York. On one of their last nights together, Sal and Dean run into Marylou at a club. They squabble about sandwiches, and when he leaves, Sal says, "We were all thinking we'd never see one another again and we didn't care."

Analysis

Once in San Francisco, Dean abandons Marylou, which surprises no one, and Sal is annoyed that Marylou doesn't want to become his girlfriend. Marylou agrees to live with Sal to keep Dean happy, or perhaps to make him jealous, but when neither plan works she withdraws completely. To Sal, Marylou isn't a freethinker like he and Dean. She is an object kept around for their entertainment. When she seeks out happiness with another man, Sal viciously refers to her as a whore. Modern readers will likely note the verbal irony in this outburst as Sal and Dean are the promiscuous characters while Marylou has generally remained faithful. The stress of living on the road has caught up with all three travelers, and they fight over something as trivial as sandwiches. Perhaps this stress can be attributed to Sal's angry diatribe against Marylou, or perhaps this is truly the way he views women.

This section returns to the theme of visions and hallucinations. First, Sal dreams of a giant snake and later, he descends into madness as he experiences a swirl of visions and hallucinations. While Kerouac has discussed how On the Road was meant to be a spiritual journey, it is unlikely that these dreams have symbolic or figurative meaning for the characters. It is more likely that Sal, delusional from starvation, dehydration, and drug use, is simply exhausted. In some ways, this is exactly the "heightened reality" Sal and Dean have been seeking on the road, but when Sal experiences it, he doesn't enjoy it.

Finally, this section continues to explore Dean's fascination with marginalized communities. He regularly praises black musicians and random members of the black community, saying he "digs" them. Like everyone else Dean encounters (women and children, for example), African Americans are viewed simply as entertainment on Dean's journey. He never pauses to think about the plight of black Americans living in a segregated society or the effects of marginalization on their lives. Dean simply "digs" their music for a while before moving on to the next shiny object to catch his attention.

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