On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Chosen by Becks

On the Road is an early example of the stream of consciousness style and chronicles Kerouac’s years traveling through North American with his friend Neal Cassidy.

➽ “I love stories about people’s travels and adventures so I was excited about reading this, especially because it is considered a classic American novel. However, this was completely different to anything I have ever read before. Kerouac apparently wrote this in 3 weeks on a continuous scroll of paper in a new writing style known as a stream of consciousness. This transposed as rambling at times and made for a challenging read. I did enjoy the glimpse into the Beat movement though. Sal & Dean embodied a carefree spirit, they rejected conformity and believed in spontaneity which are typical characteristics of the Beat generation. With these beliefs they travelled America on a drink and drug fuelled roadie always in search of the next big thrill. Their friendship was based on hero-worship, in which neither Sal nor Dean acted morally responsible for their actions. Their behaviour at times made me want to cringe but in the end their carefree attitude to life is something to admire.” – Jodie

➽ “Although On The Road is a renowned famous book written in just three weeks (which is amazing), to me it is essentially a long debaucherous rant. Sal’s various trips for ‘kicks’ begin to run into each other with all his and friends’ sordid tales of drunken drug taking and sleazy sexual encounters. Sal and Dean are thoroughly unlikeable and the story in general became tedious as it went on.” – Jo

➽ “Context is important when reading On The Road. Set in the 1950s, with post-war freedoms creating a distaste for rules and regulations, the story would be hard to fathom in the current social climate. Dean is reportedly the antagonist and Sal’s opposite, but really Sal was using Dean, going along for the ride, for ‘kicks’, to see what adventure might occur. No one pulls Dean up on his misbehaviour, rather they revel in the opportunity to rebel and take advantage of people and situations. I disliked Dean immensely during the book but ended up pitying him instead, and thus enjoying him as a character. (Though, disturbing to know he was a real person!) Representative of a time in history and with poetry like prose, On The Road is an important work, that I sometimes struggled with and sometimes loved, but which I am glad to have read.” – Rachel

Published 1957
Viking Press
307 pages


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