Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 3 Chapters 3 4 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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On the Road | Part 3, Chapters 3–4 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3

Roy Johnson agrees to chauffer Dean and Sal for a few nights of partying in San Francisco before they start their adventure east. They try to locate Remi Boncoeur in Mill City, but he's no longer there. They meet up with Galatea, whom Ed has left again. Despite the continual poor treatment, she still loves Ed. She parties with Sal and Dean that evening and even hooks Dean up with a friend, Marie. Before they hit the clubs, Galatea berates Dean for abandoning Camille and their young daughter. Dean giggles in response, which leads Sal to think, "Dean, by virtue of his enormous series of sins, was becoming the Idiot." The more Galatea berates Dean the more Sal wants to defend him. When Galatea suggests Dean should hurry up and die, Sal says that as long as Dean's alive everyone will want to be with him because "he's got the secret that we're all busting to find."

Chapter 4

Dean, Sal, Galatea, and Marie jump into their car and hit some of their favorite jazz clubs. The first club is a mass of wild, frenetic energy as the crowd dances, sways, and shouts with the electrifying music. Dean clambers close to the stage and stands entranced in front of the trumpet player who writhes around on stage and eventually collapses into the audience. When the set finishes, Dean grabs the trumpet player and drives him around town. They visit different clubs, drinking and smoking, while the music elevates them to another level of reality. People in the crowd remind them of old friends, like Carlo Marx and Old Bull Lee. When they start to come down from their high, they call Roy to pick them up and drive them to the last bar. Sal and Dean end the night in the tenements on the "colored" side of town, drinking beer with a musician named Howard. Dean admires Howard's wife, who simply smiles at the strange guests and never questions their late-hour presence in her house. Exhausted, they collapse at the home of one of Dean's old friends. They return to Galatea's in the afternoon to shower and shave, and then they hit the road.

Analysis

Dean's reckless behavior has affected his relationships with many friends, including Roy, who only agrees to chauffeur to get Dean out of town quicker, and Galatea. Galatea, who perhaps has more confidence than the other women in the novel, boldly stands up to Dean for his poor treatment of Camille. She chastises him in front of everyone and suggests that everyone's lives will be better once he dies. Because her husband has also repeatedly abandoned her, it's safe to assume some of Galatea's rage is being projected onto Dean, but even Sal cannot protect his friend from Galatea's truth. Dean giggles through the chastising, suggesting that he really doesn't care or is too drug addled to realize the significance of Galatea's outburst. When she realizes Dean isn't listening, Galatea relents and prepares for a night out. Sal, however, struggles with Dean's reaction for a bit longer. He is slowly beginning to realize that Dean's actions aren't heroic. Dean is wilting from his role as the iconic "Beat" hero to "the Idiot, the Imbecile, the Saint of the lot." Even in this realization, however, he calls Dean a "HOLY GOOF," suggesting an elevated status for his poor behavior.

In his defense of Dean, Sal suggests that Dean has IT, a secret zest for life that everyone wishes they had but can only witness in awe. Perhaps it is this "IT" that continues to draw chastising friends like Galatea and Roy back into Dean's flame. It may also explain why women like Marylou and Camille continue to forgive him. Throughout the novel Sal idolizes Dean and chases "IT" across the country.

Once again Sal and Dean romanticize the life of African American jazz musicians. Dean lusts after one musician's wife because she remains silent at home, never questioning or pestering her husband. This continues to highlight Sal and Dean's absurd expectations for women. Their views on women also reflect 1950s' society's expectations for women—that they maintain a beautiful home and live their lives in unquestioning service to their families. It is surprising that two such "Beat" men would adhere to the sexist restraints of social expectations for women while rebelling against the same expectations themselves.

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