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On the Road | Study Guide

Jack Kerouac

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Course Hero. "On the Road Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 Sep. 2016. Web. 5 Dec. 2022. <>.

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Course Hero. "On the Road Study Guide." September 23, 2016. Accessed December 5, 2022.


Course Hero, "On the Road Study Guide," September 23, 2016, accessed December 5, 2022,

On the Road | Quotes


Though ... a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live.

Sal, Part 1, Chapter 1

This statement summarizes Sal's first impressions of Dean. Although Dean is wild and dangerous, Sal admires him because he lives life fully. Sal spends the rest of the novel chasing IT, something that he realizes that Dean has by the bucketful. Despite Dean's flaws, which are immediately apparent, Sal follows him like an eager apostle.


The only people for me are the mad ones.

Sal, Part 1, Chapter 1

In his youth, Sal is most drawn to wild, eccentric characters like Dean and Carlo Marx, because their "mad" zest for life is contagious. By the end of the novel, however, Sal settles into a quiet life, showing just how much his character changes.


Along the line the pearl would be handed to me.

Sal, Part 1, Chapter 1

This statement summarizes Sal's primary motivation in traveling the open road. Looking at his well-traveled friends, Sal believes they are wiser and more experienced than he is. He hopes that through his travels, "pearls" of wisdom will be handed to him.


The sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining.

Sal, Part 1, Chapter 9

While Sal has always been "square" (following social expectations and norms), meeting Dean pushes him toward the Beats as he desires to embody IT, which Dean has in spades.


The one thing that we yearn for ... is the remembrance of some lost bliss.

Sal, Part 2, Chapter 4

Sal and Dean spend the entire novel searching for "bliss" as they crisscross the country. They use drugs, alcohol, and sex, and travel in pursuit of "kicks" but somehow are always left unsatisfied.


Only damn fools pay no attention to visions.

Old Bull Lee, Part 2, Chapter 7

Members of the Beat Generation attempted to live a heightened existence, blurring reality and fantasy through drugs and alcohol. Bull Lee chastises himself for ignoring a vision that would have paid handsomely on a bet.


It's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by.

Sal, Part 2, Chapter 8

Sal describes the feeling of leaving people he loves behind. For travelers like Sal and Dean, there's no option to stay behind and build relationships; the open road calls. As painful as it may be, exploring the world is more important than family or friends.


Dean will leave you out in the cold any time it's in his interest.

Galatea, Part 2, Chapter 9

Galatea is one of the only characters bold enough to stand up to Dean and chastise his antics. She warns Sal that Dean will abandon him, but Sal disregards her, saying he knows his "brother" better than anyone else. Of course Galatea is right, and Dean abandons Sal in Mexico.


With frantic Dean I was rushing through the world without a chance to see it.

Sal, Part 3, Chapter 4

Dean's frenetic energy, while attractive, never stops to soak in the moment. He is perpetually moving forward, always in search of the next adventure, hoping it will be bigger, better, and more beautiful than the last. Sal gets caught up in the whirlwind as well but realizes there should be more to the experience than the chase.


When I got better I realized what a rat he was.

Sal, Part 4, Chapter 6

When Dean abandons Sal in Mexico, Sal realizes how selfish Dean can be. Sal has remained faithful to his friendship with Dean, even calling Dean his brother, but Dean simply doesn't, or can't, feel the same way.

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