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Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 4 Chapter 1 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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On the Road | Part 4, Chapter 1 | Summary



Sal sells his book. Feeling the itch to return to the road, Sal prepares to say goodbye to Dean. Since moving to New York, Dean has taken a job at a parking garage and is preparing to marry Inez. His life is quiet and he is "reduced to simple pleasures" like listening to the radio and smoking tea in a "hip-length Chinese silk jacket." Inez and Camille converse regularly about Dean, and Dean actually contributes to their support. He swindles extra tips from customers by giving improper change so he has money to party with. Dean is sad to say goodbye to Sal but has no desire to travel with him. When he says goodbye to Sal he says he hopes they become old bums together. Before they go, they play baseball in the park with some young boys, who easily beat them. Dean's father has written him a letter from jail in Texas, putting Dean's desire to find him to rest. Back at Sal's aunt's house, Dean surprises her by repaying the $15 from the speeding ticket years ago. Dean wishes he and Sal would live on the same street some day, raising their kids together (Dean has another on the way with Inez), and Dean shows Sal a picture of Camille and his baby daughter in San Francisco. Then they say goodbye.


For the second time in the novel, Sal makes great progress in his writing career without Dean's bad influence to distract him. Dean has settled down, having found a quiet balance among Inez, Camille, and his children. Without the wildness of the open road Dean is reduced to a somewhat sad character, addled by drugs and age. The basketball scene is genuinely heartbreaking as Dean, once a strong and virile specimen, literally falls "flat on his face on the concrete court." Although he may have outrun external consequences for his actions, he cannot escape the toll his lifestyle has taken on his body.

Before Sal departs, Dean shows him a photograph of Camille and their new baby daughter. Sal is immediately struck by how photographs will be the only information their children have to piece together their lives. The photos show an order and stability and nothing of the "madness and riot of our actual lives." In writing the novel, Kerouac/Sal preserves that other side of their lives that might otherwise be forgotten.

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