On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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Course Hero. (2016, September 23). On the Road Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved August 3, 2020, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/On-the-Road/

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Course Hero. "On the Road Study Guide." September 23, 2016. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/On-the-Road/.

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Course Hero, "On the Road Study Guide," September 23, 2016, accessed August 3, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/On-the-Road/.

On the Road | Part 5 | Summary

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Summary

Part 5 summarizes the next few months: Dean drives the car from Mexico City until it dies, then wires Inez for plane fare home. As soon as he lands, Dean and Inez get married. That night, however, Dean jumps on the bus to rejoin Camille and the girls in San Francisco. Sal stays in Mexico City until the fall, when he returns to New York. Soon after, he meets a woman named Laura who is "the girl ... I had always searched for and for so long." He writes Dean to say that he and Laura are going to get married and drive to San Francisco. Dean promises to come in six weeks, once enough money has been saved to buy a truck, to help them move their belongings. Dean arrives a few days later, incoherent and addled. He desperately wants to talk with Sal, but he doesn't make much sense anymore. Dean wants Inez to move to San Francisco as well so he can divide his time equally between her and Camille. The last time Sal sees Dean, Sal and Laura have plans to attend a concert with Remi Boncoeur and his girl. Dean asks if he can ride in the car with them, but Remi, suspicious of Dean, says no. Because Sal and Laura haven't saved up enough money to move to San Francisco yet, Dean returns home. Sal waves goodbye from the back of Remi's car.

Analysis

The final section of the novel has a distinctly different tone. It is written in straightforward prose, without the wild stream-of-consciousness passages that suggest altered realities. Perhaps this is because Sal has matured since his trip to Mexico. He has settled down; the "bug" to travel has been excised from his body. Just as he found the Promised Land in Mexico, Sal has also found the girl he has spent his entire life searching for. His life sharply contrasts with Dean's. Although Dean has the opportunity to embrace the same quiet life, he hasn't matured and still expects everyone, especially his women, to sacrifice for his happiness.

Despite Dean's many flaws, the final scene in the novel—when Sal drives away in Remi's car—is heartbreaking. The rest of the Beat characters who have populated the book have grown up, and there is no longer room for Dean's antics in their lives. The years of hard partying have caught up with Dean who is lonely, poor, and addled. He finally realizes his need for friends like Sal, but Sal no longer has time for him. Sal's admiration of Dean has transformed into pity.

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