The ideas presented in the novel about life, beliefs, different feelings, and the kind of harassers depicted shaped America’s youth culture for decades and the book became a sort of icon for this generation. On the Road provoked a change in the consciousness of the country. As Kerouac friend, William Burroughs, wrote, “It sold a trillion Levies, a million espresso coffee machines, and also sent countless kids on the road” (Change, 2007). Moreover, Kerouac book was also used as a gulled for several people In their road trips.
In this essay, I will try to examine the way in which On the Road gives voice to the new social attitude which emerged after the publication of the book and it is known as the ‘beat’ generation. The novel seems to promote a series of revolutionary values against the official conventions of America. In this way, traditional family values of responsibility, morality, religious ideas and working hard -as the family portrayed in Capote’s In Cold Blood- are oppositely represented in the novel. Dean Mortality refuses to assume the social responsibilities that society imposes upon him.
He Is with two women at the same time, so he Is not faithful to his wife. Moreover, he leaves his wife and children and goes on the road without worrying about their welfare. He Is very Irresponsible and because of him many people suffer. An example to Illustrate this would be noon have absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and you damned kicks… ” (Kerouac, 1972: 182). Besides, both Dean and Sal are always short of money but they do not care about it and go on the road anyway. They do not have a permanent Job or work hard to keep the Jobs they get in some cities they arrive.
Although, Sal writes book and tries to sell them, he is always has to ask her generous aunt to send him money. Then, both Dean and Sal have another philosophy of live, they want to have fun without responsibility and they do not care about American rotational values. Therefore, the novel presents a detachment from the American conventional society. This detachment from American traditional values created a new social attitude, depicted in Kerouac novel, which showed restlessness and dissatisfaction.
The These people were idealistic and yearn for something more than the conformity of a prosperous society, which had became flourishing after the World War II to turn into one of the most powerful countries in the world. In the novel we can see how the characters go on the road because they are not satisfied with their lives and desire to get freedom. In that way, we can see the road as an open path which gives freedom as well as thrill of movement. With these Journeys, the characters also reflect the Joy of being young and alive, with no money in their pockets but no obligation either.
A part from traveling, characters seem to vindicate the use of drugs, drink, sex, and music since these are the most characteristic things of their trips. These also help them in the search of the release they are looking for. Moreover, crossing the country in that way was only possible because at that time there were many motorways due to the prosperity of the country and cars began to e accessible for more people. In the novel, we can see how the car represents the consumer society of the time and how the characters do not fit into it.
For instance, Sal made his first travel to the West by hitchhiking because he does not have money. Later, in another travel, Dean bought a new car -although he does it with all the money he had saved, leaving his wife without anything. This is something very important because for them the car is their dream of freedom. They can go wherever they want without depending on anybody, that is, without hitchhiking. However, when Dean picks up Sal for the first time with his new car, Sal realizes that it was already broken: “The radio was not working.
It was a brand-new car bought five days ago, and already it was broken” (Kerouac, 1972: 111). In addition, we can also see this consumption in other aspects such as when Sal goes to the opera and wears a friend’s suit. He feels on the top of the world (Kerouac, 1972: 51). Another aspect that we can see in the novel is that Dean and Sal go on the road since they yearn for new experiences which can contribute to their personal development as individuals. For them, life is a process and they want to find its meaning.
They do not stop moving because they feel the necessity to do so. Several examples to illustrate this can be “we were performing our one and noble function of the time, move” (Kerouac, 1972: 127); “the road must eventually lead to the whole world” (Kerouac, 1972: 216). Traveling on the road also gives the characters self- knowledge and even maturity. Then, moving seems to be a necessary tactic for survival. This is connected with the fact that the real Journeys turn to be inward journeys for each character. This is better seen in Sal Paradise.
He seems to be searching for something since his Journeys are like quest for values or beliefs. He mess to get it while he is on the move, but the moment he stops, he wants to come back. He does not find what he is looking for. For instance, the first time he arrives San Francisco, after having wished going to the west a lot, he feels lonely and he wants to come back. He does not find the ‘paradise’ he was looking for and so he has to keep moving. Society. He feels lonely, restless and depressed. He is also afraid of falling in love: “a girl like that scares me” (Kerouac, 1972: 214).
He described himself as “l like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop” (Kerouac, 1972: 120). It seems that Sal is disappointed about America. When he arrives at San Francisco he realizes that the continent is not big any more, there is a limit: “we can’t go any farther ’cause there anti no more land” (Kerouac, 1972: 161). Or when he tries to sit on the banks of the Mississippi River he cannot because the access is blocked with a fence (Kerouac, 1972: 141).
The freedom and well-being he is looking for at first is represented by the West, which is also a symbol for future, prosperity and renovation. It is also associated with the traditional idea of the American Dream. On the other hand, the East is considered old, stagnant, intellectual, and he does not want to belong to that. The more Sal is reaching west, the best he feels: ” it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa” (Kerouac, 1972: 20). Therefore, there are two sides of everything: American West which can either fill the spirit and be the epitome of loneliness.
It all depends on his emotional state. This view changed as long as Sal has grown as a character. He learns that East is also sweet (Kerouac, 1972: 222) and that there is wilderness in the East too. He becomes strong, confident and in love. On the contrary, we cannot see this self-development in Dean and maybe that is the season why towards the end of the novel there is a detachment between both characters. Their positions have changed. Dean is incoherent and lost. However, the character of Dean Mortality became a sort of hero for this generation.
Dean’s arrival put everything into motion. He is full of energy, very masculine; he has impulsive passion; he represents what Sal is not. He symbolizes the pioneering instinct, the spirit of the west, idea of moving west to get freedom. So he is the personification of Gal’s dream of the west. At the beginning he is seen as a sort of prophet (Kerouac, 1972: 38) but this is broken towards the end. As I said before, he is very irresponsible, even a con-man and almost a delinquent as he stole cars Just for fan.
Victor, the Mexican man, is the first man to refuse Dean’s attempt to follow him onto the road. His moral obligations to his wife and child are clear to him. He represents the morality Sal is in search of. Therefore, although the novel seems to celebrate the character of Dean Mortality, he is a questioned hero. To conclude, I have been talking about how Jack Kerouac On the Road inspired a new cultural phenomenon, which was known as the ‘beat’ generation. I have pointed UT what I think the most relevant evidences are to show the way the book presents this new social attitude.