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Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 3 Chapter 5 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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On the Road | Part 3, Chapter 5 | Summary



Sal and Dean's first ride is with a "tall thin fag" who drives an "effeminate" car. There are two other passengers, but Dean and Sal ignore them completely as they chatter and catch up. Dean rambles as he talks, almost incoherent, sweating and turning red. Unlike the last trip, when Sal talks this time, Dean listens. They talk on and on about finding IT, although they aren't sure what IT is. Dean recounts a story from his childhood in which he and his father sold homemade flyswatters door to door with another bum. The older men fought about their earnings and eventually drank them all, leaving the two men and Dean right back where they started. Both Sal and Dean recount visions they'd had involving white horses.

In Sacramento, the driver invites Sal and Dean to stay in his hotel room, clearly hoping something will happen with Dean. Dean hopes to rob or swindle the driver. Neither is successful. In the morning, Dean drives while the driver rests in back. Dean drives wildly, swerving all over the road, to everyone's horror. The passengers in back seem too afraid to confront him. When they reach Salt Lake City, Dean's birthplace, he becomes so overwhelmed with memories that he nearly cries. He stops the car in Denver, much to everyone's relief.


Dean continues to regale Sal with sad tales from his childhood, including a heartbreaking story of his father drinking away money that could have been used to buy the hungry young boy some food. When considering Dean's difficult upbringing, it is understandable why he would struggle to commit and form meaningful relationships. This is not the only side of the story, however. Many other characters experienced pain in their childhood. At some point Dean must face his flaws and overcome them or succumb to his pain and brokenness. Unfortunately, the Beat movement celebrates selfishness in the pursuit of enlightenment, so it is unlikely Dean will ever reform. His emotion at the end of the chapter, however, suggests he hasn't buried his childhood emotions completely.

Dean continues to say and do anything to get what he needs from others, including flirting with a homosexual man in the hope of robbing him. While on the road, Dean continues to disregard others' feelings, including the fear the riders feel about his reckless driving.

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