Literature Study GuidesOn The RoadPart 4 Chapter 6 Summary

On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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On the Road | Part 4, Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Outside of Gregoria the atmosphere changes. The lights go out on the car, forcing the trio to drive through the jungle in the dark. Still high, no one cares. They are elated, overwhelmed by the excitement of their journey. Stopping at a tiny jungle village to sleep, the trio tries to find somewhere cool to rest. Sal lays shirtless on top of the car, breathing in the jungle air: "I realized the jungle takes you over and you become it," he thinks. Showers of bugs splatter his skin and thousands of mosquitoes bite him, but he doesn't care. A sheriff stops to investigate the strangers but doesn't bother them when he sees they are simply sleeping. Sal sees a wild, white horse galloping toward him with dogs barking at its heels. In the morning, soaked with blood and dead bugs, they continue their journey. They drive through the mountains where they marvel at a little girl whom they theorize will never leave her village. Dean gives a "particularly soulful child" his wristwatch in exchange for a small crystal. The mountain villages are filled with shepherds and women carrying bundles of cut flax. They feel certain this is the land of Jesus. Overwhelmed with the beauty of his surroundings, Dean nearly weeps. They arrive in Mexico City, where the traffic is startling and immense. Dean thrives in the wild streets, darting through traffic like a local. They bypass thousands of prostitutes on the street to eat steaks and marvel at the locals. After the meal, Sal falls ill with dysentery. After a few days of dipping in and out of consciousness, Sal awakens to hear Dean saying goodbye. His divorce papers came through and he wants to hurry back to New York. With barely a goodbye Dean rushes out the door, leaving Sal and Stan behind.

Analysis

Literally living "off the path" Sal and Dean reach the Promised Land they have long searched for. Everything feels peaceful and perfect. For perhaps the first time in his life, Dean feels he has found where he belongs. Sal feels similar peace, at one with the world. In previous journeys, cotton picking in California, for example, Sal enjoyed being near the earth, but in the wild jungle, Sal breathes in nature and becomes one with it. They have spent the entire novel searching for this peace, and now that they have found it, it feels religious. The visions of the white horse reappears, suggesting that Sal and Dean have finally fully embraced their freedom.

Once again Sal and Dean over-romanticize the indigenous people they meet. They wonder what kind of "wild chief" these people must have. They see young girls with "the eyes of the Virgin Mother" and the "forgiving gaze of Jesus." These hard-living men seem overwhelmed by tenderness and experience almost a spiritual awakening as they view these natives scrabbling for a living.

At the end of the chapter, Sal's euphoric state collapses as he becomes sick. Unsurprisingly, Dean abandons him to return to his own life with Inez. Although Sal had been warned that Dean would leave him behind, he ignored it, foolishly believing that Dean valued their relationship more highly than he valued his romantic relationships. Dean's character remains constant throughout the novel; people continue to be let down by him because they hope he will change.

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