Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 3 Chapters 6 8 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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On the Road | Part 3, Chapters 6–8 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 6

At a restaurant in Denver, Dean jokes about Sal being an old man, which offends Sal. An emotional Dean leaves the restaurant and when he returns says that he's been crying. Sal doesn't believe him and is still too upset to forgive him and instead lashes out, accusing Dean of lying. Dean insists he has, in fact, been crying. Eventually, Sal relents and begs Dean's forgiveness. Later, Sal and Dean crash with a woman Sal used to know, Frankie. Frankie is a hardworking woman who welcomes their company. They prepare to visit the bar that evening where Dean's cousin Sam is meeting them. Dean is excited to reminisce with his cousin. When Sam arrives, however, he makes clear that he and the family want nothing to do with Dean or his father: "I don't believe you anymore or anything you're going to try to tell me," he says. Dean is devastated but tries not to let it show. Eventually, Sam relents and shares some funny stories from their childhood, which cheers Dean. Afterward, Sal and Dean visit a carnival, where Sal "falls in love" with a Mexican midget, although he's too nervous to speak to her.

Chapter 7

The next day, a neighbor woman with a shotgun and a gang of angry high school boys confront Dean for harassing her daughter. "If he comes back ... I'm gonna shoot and shoot to kill," she says. Sal knew many of the people from before and tries to soothe them, telling them that Dean is his brother and he'll keep him away. Back at Frankie's, a "woman friend" phones Sal. She had been giving him money, but now she knows he's a con man and had been using her. Sal, Dean, and Frankie then head to a bar. Besides drinking, Dean spends the evening stealing cars from one bar, driving to another, and stealing one to drive home in. By the end of the night he has a brand-new convertible, which Frankie and Sal refuse to ride in. They take a taxi home while he follows in the convertible, harassing the cabbie. When they get home Sal and Frankie collapse, while Dean zooms off once more and comes home with yet another car, an old "battered coupe." Sal and Frankie drive it a short distance where it dies completely.

Chapter 8

In the morning, Dean learns that the convertible belonged to a detective. Frantically, he and Sal pack up their belongings and hit the road. They visit the nearest travel bureau to inquire about shared rides. They learn that a man in Chicago is looking for a responsible driver to transport his new Cadillac to Chicago. Sal and Dean leap at the opportunity. Two college boys from a Jesuit school are going along as passengers. They speed toward Chicago. Two miles outside of Denver the speedometer breaks as Sal pushes the car over 100 mph. At one point Sal asks Dean to slow down on the muddy roads, but Dean won't listen. Inevitably he skids off the road and crashes. Dean walks off and gets a farmer to pull the car from the mud with his tractor. Sal is "mad and disgusted" with Dean. That night they drive to Ed Wall's house. Ed's wife fixes them a delicious dinner, but Ed is suspicious of Dean and doesn't let them spend the night.

Analysis

Sal and Dean's revived friendship hits its first roadblock when Dean jokingly insults Sal's age. Sal wishes to be seen as Dean's equal, and the joke reminds him that he isn't. Sal overreacts to the joke and berates Dean, calling him a con man and liar. It's unclear whether Dean really was crying in the parking lot or is trying to manipulate Sal into forgiveness. If Dean really was crying, it is significant because he has never cared about anyone else's emotions, even the women he claims to love. It is more likely that Dean is manipulating Sal, a precursor to eventually abandoning him at the end of the novel. In the meantime, the pair continue their ruse of happiness by visiting a carnival where Sal "falls in love" with a Mexican "midget." Throughout the novel, Sal is attracted to young girls and women of small stature. If he chooses these women out of a pursuit of youth, his attraction to the Mexican "midget" is particularly timely because Dean has just mocked his age. Regardless, the women at the carnival represent something unique and adventurous, which Sal always desires.

Sal and Dean's disrespect of women continues when they stay with Frankie, an honest and hardworking woman struggling to raise her family as a single mother. Dean doesn't recognize the situational irony of staying with an abandoned woman after he himself abandoned his family, creating a scene where expectation contrasts with reality. When Frankie fails to buy the car Dean recommends, he irately calls her an idiot. Dean is so self-centered and arrogant that he cannot even abide a woman choosing how to spend her own money. Frankie's home provides another example of children suffering while their parents pursue a Beat lifestyle.

Dean continues to pay the price for his selfish behavior. He and Sal are confronted by neighbors after Dean tries to romance the young daughter of Frankie's neighbor. Again Dean's predilection for young girls leaves him teetering dangerously on the edge of becoming a full-scale villain, and all the while Sal continues to forgive and explain away Dean's terrible decisions. Later that night, however, Dean's behavior becomes increasingly reckless as he steals car after car, including one belonging to a detective. Although he won't admit it, Dean's behavior is likely fueled by anger with his family, which he is ill equipped to deal with. As always, Dean escapes the consequences of his actions by escaping to "the protective road."

After Sal and Dean stumble across the offer to drive a Cadillac to Chicago for its wealthy owner, Dean drives recklessly, speeding as fast as the Cadillac will go. He breaks the speedometer, which is symbolic of how Dean speeds through life, causing destruction but not caring about the consequences. Despite Sal's pleas to slow down, Dean continues to speed down a muddy road and crashes the car. Sal is frustrated by Dean's selfishness but continues to claim Dean is his brother. Despite all the disappointment and danger Dean has caused, Sal still believes they are as close as brothers. Dean's selfish behavior leaves readers questioning whether he would say the same.

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