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Jack Kerouac On The Road and The American Dream

Jack Kerouac On The Road, Ginsberg’s Howl & The American Dream

Monday, August 27th, 2007

This essay critically analyses the representation of the American Dream in the Beat writing of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in On the Road and “Howl”.

The Collins English Dictionary defines the American Dream as

‘the notion that the American social, economic and political system makes success possible for every individual’ (Collins, 1985, “american dream”)

The online dictionary at, defines it as

‘1. the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American.

2. a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.’ (, “American dream”)

These definitions are broad and different, but what they have in common is that the American Dream is a concept, a collection of ideas, philosophy and laws. Much like the British constitution the American Dream is an unwritten ideal of equality and fairness. Like the British Constitution it is subject to pressure to change and to differing interpretations.

The Declaration of Independence of 1776 states that:

‘All men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights…Life,

Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

The American Dream became related not simply to these set of ideals but also to

America as a place. Both On the Road and “Howl” are autobiographical examinations of

America and the American Dream.

The Declaration of Independence specifically refers to a “Creator”; as such it has a religious or mystical aspect. The cultural climate in which Ginsberg and Kerouac functioned as writers and people was defined in religious terms. Whilst

America is officially a secular nation Christianity and its American incarnation is the dominant religion. A belief in a Christian Deity is fundamental to the value set that many Americans live by. Thus

America has historically been seen, at least by the rest of the world, to be a place where anything is possible, where men and women can fulfil their potential in an egalitarian utopia, a land of laws not men. It found greatest currency amongst immigrants who came to America seeking a new beginning, indeed in the sixteenth century

America was considered to be the new Garden of Eden.

In the nineteen forties and fifties the Cold War and fear of nuclear war and communist paranoia caused American society to become both spiritual and isolated. This spirituality was espoused by preachers like Billy Graham and others. This style is parodied in “Howl” in its performance by Allen Ginsberg.

For Ginsberg and Kerouac this prescriptive definition of spiritual and social ideology as being the ideals of the American Dream was not acceptable. Both use Neal Cassady as characters in the texts under consideration.

Ginsberg refers to Cassady obliquely by using his initials. He then goes on to describe Neal Cassady’s character and offers his opinion as to what a hero is, in direct contrast to the clean living all American ideal embodied in popular commercial mainstream American icons, such as the Marlboro Man: hard working, clean living, heterosexual a good father and faithful church-going husband. Cassady is, for Ginsberg, the city primitive, driven by the need for sexual self-gratification:

‘N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of

Denver – joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls

in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses’ rickety rows,

on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar

roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-

station solipsisms of johns and hometown alleys too,’ (62, 4)

The failure to name Cassady, in contrast to Solomon, suggests that Ginsberg wished to protect his identity, almost as if he is seeking to keep him anonymous and representative of a rebellious generation. Part one of the poem is a continuous reference to “the best minds of my generation” but also Neal Cassady the “secret hero of these poems”. Written in one continuous sentence, the structure of the poem allows this continuous reference to the “best minds”. The repeated use of the word “who” on new lines is accompanied by a comma at the end of each observation and gives the poem an evangelical quality; similar in form to a psalm.

The tone is one of anger at what the narrator sees as the appropriation of the American Dream. After the reference to Cassady the poem observes that the “best minds” were “faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams,” a direct reference to the change in their aspirations. The passage then refers to them waking in


“…hungover with heartless Tokay and horrors of

Third Avenue

iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,” (62, 13)

The subject of dreams is mentioned twice in close proximity to Cassady. The dreams of Americans, Cassady especially, are no more than moving pictures that can become the nightmare of unemployment in a big city. The dreams within which Cassady shifts, and to Ginsberg, as a hero, are the only way that Cassady will experience the American Dream. There is a direct connection between Cassady and the American Dream’s corruption; for Ginsberg Cassady has survived this corruption, living outside the parameters by which Marlboro Man was identified, but is no less iconic.

In On the Road Neal Cassady appears as the character Dean Moriarty. His sexual prowess and predatory attitude to women is a strong theme in the text as it is in “Howl”. Dean is married to three women viewing each as no more than a sex object. He represents freedom and self-gratification. Sal refers to him as “mad” and “crazy” repeatedly. He both admires and questions Dean’s anarchic way of life and his challenges to any official authori­ty. The most obvious example of Sal’s ambivalence towards Dean’s distrust and contempt for authority figures is when he becomes an authority figure himself by policing a military base. When Sal raises the American flag upside down he is told that it is an offence to do so. The national flag is the symbol of state authority that is questioned by Dean.

Mayer (1986) correctly observes that Carlo Marx, a pseudonym for Allen Ginsberg, makes a metaphoric connection between

America and Dean Moriarty, when asking Dean:

“What kind of sordid business are you on now? I mean, man, whither goest thou? Whither goest thou,

America, in thy shiny car in the night?” (Kerouac 1957 108; Mayer 1986 3).

For Mayer this confirms the personification of

America, and its celebration, in the person of Neal Cassady, which he believes for Kerouac is a self-gratifying entity. Mayer cites Vopat (1979) to justify his reading of the text:

“Dean Moriarty is himself America, or rather the dream of America, once innocent, young, full of promise and holi­ness, bursting with potential and vitality, now driven mad, crippled, impotent (‘“We’re all losing our fingers’”), ragged, dirty, lost, searching for a past of security and love that never existed, trailing frenzy and broken promises, unable to speak to anybody anymore” (Vopat 1979 47; Mayer 1986 3).

Mayer (1986) continues this connection between the American Dream and Moriarty/Cassady when analysing the scene in which William Burroughs, Old Bull Lee in the text, a mentor and drug addict, and friend from New York, who they visit on their second journey to New Orleans tells Sal that Dean,

‘seems to me headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psycho­pathic irresponsibility and violence’ (Kerouac 1957 147; Mayer 1986 2).

Mayer (1986) points out that:

‘From here on Sal looks with an increasingly critical eye at his friend at the steering wheel’ (Mayer, 1986, p.2)

Mayer is correct to point out that Dean Moriarty is a symbol of

America, Sal Paradise moves from an almost homoerotic fascination for Moriarty to one that is at best dismissive. For Ginsberg Cassady is a hero because of his sexual prowess. Moriarty represents the decline of

America, to a state of primitivism, with which Sal Paradise finds it increasingly difficult to identify. The tension between the two characters increases through the text as Sal Paradise realises that there is more to the American Dream than the road and self-gratification. The text gradually exposes Moriarty’s character, and American society, as shallow. For example in part three Dean is traduced by Galatea as having “absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and your damned kicks.” (Kerouac, 1957, 176) Sal comments after Galatea’s tirade: “That’s what Dean was, the HOLY GOOF.” (Kerouac 1957 p.176) Later in this scene Dean is lost for words “standing in front of everybody, ragged and broken and idiotic,” Sal sees this as a moment of revelation for Dean. This is a mystic experience that leads him to say that far from the HOLY GOOF “He was BEAT – the root, the soul of beatific.” For Sal Paradise and Jack Kerouac Dean Moriarty and Neal Cassady are martyrs; underlying the spiritual nature of their journey:

America is a Holy Goof that is concerned with commercial self-gratification but they wish to find more.

For Kerouac Beat, like

America and Moriarty, is not beat down but potentially beatific; Beat is the new American Dream. In the 1959 playboy article “The Origins of the Beat Generation” he argued that he was not attacking America but speaking out “for things,” and went on to say that he wanted to speak out

‘for the crucifix…for the Star of

Israel…for the divinest man who ever lived who was German (Bach)…for sweet Mohammed…for Buddha…’(Kerouac, 1959)

He saw the Beat movement as the alternative and inclusive spirituality of


‘The Beat Generation , that was a vision that we had, John Clellon Holmes and I, and Allen Ginsberg in an even wilder way, in the late Forties, of a generation of crazy illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, curious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way.’ (Kerouac, 1958, p. 47)

He argues that he can still be an American and embrace alternative cultural and spiritual ideas. In this context On the Road can be read as an experiment in this alternative American Dream, symbolised by Dean Moriarty and carefully chronicled by Sal Paradise. Dean Moriarty, like the dreams of a father never found and the American Dream itself, is an illusion:

‘Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found…’ (Kerouac, 1958, p. 281)

The values that Ginsberg asserts in “Howl”: homosexuality, Jazz, drugs, Buddhism and so on are, for him, legitimate “values” and should be accepted within the egalitarian Utopian vision that the Declaration of Independence anticipated. The spirituality of the American Dream and its adherence to “an

American Way

of Life” are directly challenged in both texts not by rejection but by arguing for inclusion of “the Beats” and others within it. (Prothero, 1991)

Prothero (1991) considers the American Dream to be about freedom but that it had been, for Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg and others appropriated and corrupted and that the Beats shared a “commitment to a spiritual search” (211) The Beats’ aim was to find the American Dream and

“not to arrive but to travel and, in the process to transform into sacred space every back alley through which they ambled and every tenement in which they lived.” (Prothero, 1991, p.211).

The Beats’ dream was to find meaning, it is for this that they were searching: by travel, experimenting with drugs, promiscuity, homosexuality and Easter religion. As William Burroughs says in Naked Lunch:

“since early youth I had been searching for some secret, some key with which I could gain access to basic knowledge, answer some of the fundamental questions.” (Burroughs, 1962, p.6)

For Neal Cassady, born on the road and with no real prospects, the American Dream was simply a dream. Both Kerouac and Ginsberg portray Cassady as outside the American Dream but for Ginsberg a hero rather than a “HOLY GOOF”.

Kerouac sought to explain his concept of the spiritual aspect of “Beat” in “The Origins of The Beat Generation”, arguing that the etymology, for him, of the word “Beat” has characteristics of beatitude and beatific. He does however also define it narrowly, suggesting that there are multiple meanings to “Beat”, as there are for the American Dream, saying:

“The word ‘beat’ originally meant poor, down and out, dead-beat, on the bum, sad, sleeping in subways. Now that the word is belonging officially it is being made to stretch to include people who do not sleep in subways but have a new gesture, or attitude, which I can only describe as a new more. ‘Beat Generation’ has simply become the slogan or label for a revolution in manners in

America” (Kerouac, The Origins of The Beat Generation, 1959)


Paradise, the narrator, is himself a writer experimenting with methods of writing, searching for spontaneity and deeper meaning within writing. This idea is explained by Kerouac in his article Essentials of Spontaneous Prose (Charters, 1992, p57). This quest for meaning is therefore evident in the text as a meta-fictional device and also in the creative process. Fuelled by Benzedrine Kerouac composed the novel on a continuous roll of paper: Kerouacs methodology, the Jazz like rhythm of the text, its erratic structure are all symbolic of a search for newness; an alternative lifestyle compatible with the inalienable rights of American citizens enshrined in the Constitution.

The symbolism of the writing itself as a new

America is given depth as the relationship develops between Dean and Sal early in the text. As writers learning from each other. They are both animated by writing and its possibilities:

“…without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears…’ (Kerouac 1957 6)

The quote above again identifies the art of writing and the American Dream as a continually evolving, expanding and, for the Beats, inclusive way of life. Having identified their own dream they resolve to find it on the road. In Belief and Technique for Modern Prose (Charters, 1992, p. 58) Kerouac gives thirty writing tips that he has used in On the Road.

Jazz plays a significant role in the text in form and as a cultural icon of suppressed African Americans who have no access to the American Dream. The music is a symbol of the alternative American Dream that Sal is searching for. Malcolm (1991) argues correctly that the form of Kerouac’s On the Road, has some similarities, at least superficially, with Jazz but maintains that:

‘while jazz does play a significant role in the novel, its impact lies in the music’s ideological, behavioural and semiotic implications – in particular their roots in African American culture – rather than in the direct application of its formal rules’. (Malcom, 1991, 90)

He rightly considers that Kerouac elevates Jazz to a state of sacralization and his reference to “negroes” is peripheral at best. He considers that Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty are in awe of the music as a sacrament to “Beat” but only loosely identify with African Americans as being as oppressed and as separate as they are. In Essentials of Spontaneous Prose (Charters, 1992, p. 57) Kerouac asks the writer to allow language to flow without regard to rules of grammar or syntax and thus allow a deeper meaning to emerge, similar to Jazz improvisation. The novel’s concern with form, self-consciously discussed in the meta-narrational conversation between Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty is in itself a symbol of the desire to be free of form and rules. The literary rules are being rejected as a metaphor for the rejection of the commodified and distorted American Dream.

The commodification of the Dream is symbolised at the beginning of the novel when Sal must save some money: “fifty dollars from old veteran benefits, I was ready to go to the West Coast.” The west, another iconic symbol of pioneering Americans, would be salvation from “the miserably weary split up” from his wife and a “serious illness”. Apart from this there is no back-story or development of the character of Sal Paradise who becomes the vehicle through which the reader is shown the corruption of the American Dream, and the ultimate rootless nature of Dean’s life, in the person of Neal Cassady. We are told that Sal “often dreamed of going West to see the country”. His relationship with Dean, and therefore the American Dream, is one of observation and often ambiguous in tone:

“My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry…a sideburned hero of the snowy West.”(Kerouac 1957 p.4)

After learning that Dean wants to write and comes to Sal for advice, Sal describes Dean as “a con-man”. But then makes plain the complexity that underlies their relationship, and thus Sal’s with what he believes to be a personification of the American Dream, when he says:

“He was conning me and I knew it (from room and board and ‘how-to-write,’ etc.), and I knew he knew (this has been the basis for our relationship)…”(Kerouac 1957 p.6)

At this point the reader is told that Dean, and the American Dream, has assumed a beatific status in the narrative and it is from Dean, and on the road in America, that Sal will attempt to find answers and meaning.

“‘That’s right man, now you’re talking.’ And a kind of holy lightning I saw flashing from his excitement and visions.” (Kerouac 1957 p.6)

Sal finds the answer to be nothing more than an abstarct “IT” (Kerouac 1957 115). Dean Moriarty wants to be like Rollo Greb, an explanation of the American Dream, who Dean sees as:

“‘the greatest, most wonderful of all. That’s what I was trying to tell you – that’s what I want to be. I want to be like him. He’s never hung up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth. Man he’s the end! You see, if you go like him all the time you’ll finally get it.’” (Kerouac 1957 115)

When asked by Sal what “IT”, and thus the American Dream, is Dean cannot rationalise it; the text tells us that the American Dream is in essence beyond definition simply replying:

“‘IT! IT! I’ll tell you – now no time, we have no time now.’”(Kerouac 1957 115)

The repeated journeys across

America do not find “IT” and the relationship between the two men deteriorate as Sal realises there is no “IT”. In the same way that Dean failed to define “IT” and the American Dream, Sal fails to find it. It is from this point in the text that Sal begins to regard Dean, like

America, as shallow and selfish and the American Dream as unattainable. Nonetheless Sal accepts Dean’s right to live his own American Dream which for Dean is as elusive as a definition of “IT”. The same themes, as well as the innovative use of form, are also to be found in “Howl”.

The influence of Kenneth Rexroth on Ginsberg’s style and form in “Howl” is substantial. Rexroth met Ginsberg in 1954 in

San Francisco and encouraged Ginsberg to reject form poetry. Ginsberg experimented with a technique similar to Kerouac’s spontaneous prose. He used a form of triadic verse utilised in the poetry of William Carlos Williams and extended the line out to his own breath. He utilised similar techniques to Kerouac’s improvised writing style, based on Jazz.

In “Howl” Ginsberg offers a bleak observation of contemporary American Society and the illusiveness of the American Dream. He does so by highlighting the plight of those who cannot aspire to it. Negroes are symbolic of a culturally and socially oppressed minority, like the “hipsters”. The music of the hipsters and Negroes is jazz and has a mystical quality for Ginsberg, shown when he refers in “Howl” to:

“the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down

here what might be left to say in time come after death,

and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz…..” (67, 34)

Ginsberg makes a direct link between a “madman bum” and “angel beat” and associates both with resurrection and rebirth. This juxtaposition of religion against those outside the American Dream is a recurring theme. The simple message being that everything can be Holy and therefore everyone should be included within the Aerican Dream. “Howl” considers homosexuality, which in the nineteen-fifties was a serious crime in many states and considered a sin within the Christian faith. Sodomy, even between consenting adult heterosexuals, was illegal in most states. So Ginsberg in eulogising sodomy is celebrating criminality and sin in the eyes of many of his contemporary Americans:

“who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and

screamed with joy,” (64, 19)

In part two of “Howl” there is a direct reference to dreams, which also feature in part one, supporting the argument that “Howl” is concerned with the American Dream. Towards the end of part two, which links

America to Moloch, the poem tells us:

“Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the

American river!

Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! The whole boatload of

Sensitive bullshit!” (68, 37)

The extract says that visions and dreams of

America have gone down the river. Part two makes the connection between American society and Moloch. But this is the America that has become subservient to Moloch,

America becomes a parent that is killing its own young. The young are “the best minds” mentioned at the start of the poem. It has been cast out by the worship of Moloch.

Whilst Kerouac utilises pseudonyms in “Howl” Ginsberg names people and uses real life characters to root the message in the here and now of contemporary American society. It also gives “Howl” a documentary quality. The self-conscious introspection manifests itself in immediate cathartic despair and irony in the first line:

“I saw the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” (62, 1)

“Howl” is dedicated to Carl Solomon a victim of then current psychiatric methods. Madness, for Ginsberg, is symptomatic of the American ideals and caused by the political imperative to conform to the new “American way of life”. It was also common parlance in the nineteen forties and fifties and exemplified in films such as Reefer Madness that taking (illegal) drugs caused madness. A theory once again in the political ascendancy and again, some professionals would argue, based on little or no scientific evidence. Ginsberg believed that drugs could expand consciousness and facilitate writing and, like Kerouac, used them as a tool.

Ginsberg included those labelled by Government as mad within the oppressed individuals he describes as “starving hysterical naked.” Like Sal Paradise starved of spiritual meaning and, like Carl Solomon, driven “hysterical” by the society they inhabit, and also in the language and music they use to express it. For both Kerouac and Ginsberg Jazz is the music of “beat”. The “best minds” are “floating across the tops of cities contemplating Jazz” as a mystic experience. They are “naked” to symbolise the rejection of sexual oppression. Nudity and innocence are associated, giving the beatific, inherent in the Beat’s spirituality, a sexual and homosexual context. In this way Ginsberg identifies with the disaffected youth of

America and the distortion of the American Dream. In “Howl” they are in search of drugs, from which they will gain a new spiritual insight, rather than be condemned and committed as insane. They are also seeking treatment of their own, through self medication:

“dragging themselves through the Negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” (62, 3)

They live in the permissive and thus separate space of “the negro streets” of

Harlem. For Ginsberg they are “Beat”, in the sense of crushed, by the corruption of the American Dream and its product that emerged from the Second World War. They exist in the dark, living at night and are:

“Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient connection to the starry dynamos in the machinery of night.” (62, 5)

The spiritual reference is obvious here. They seek enlightenment. They reject contemporary mainstream American culture and yearn for a simpler more natural life but nature has been controlled to yield power and energy for a commercial elite who even mechanise the night. He goes on to reject academia telling how the “best minds”

‘…passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating

Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing

obscene odes on the windows of the skull,’ (62, 12)

The educational establishment is thus condemned as simply perpetuating the mainstream acceptable philosophies and sexual morality that underpin Ginsberg’s observation of a distorted American Dream. The reference to “Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war” states directly that academics are perpetuating a system of oppression and subservience to a set of ideals that will inevitably lead to war.

Drugs, in Ginsberg’s America are a necessary sacrament and become a tool to reach a state of mysticism and thereby achieve a vision of a new

America outside the academic establishment, and his dream of identification with a rogue poetic tradition, symbolised by William Blake. But for Ginsberg such individuals have no place in the distorted American Dream and “…were expelled from the academies for crazy.”

Both On the Road and “Howl” involve pan-American journeys; however Ginsberg’s vehicle is not a car but an imagist display: the poem is a chant that, like a documentary style film, provides a stream of graphic pictures of the ills apparent to him, and others, of the crisis in the American Dream. The poem has scenes in several American states and also refers to

Mexico. In this way Ginsberg shows that it is all of

America that is in crisis.

As in On the Road the journey uncovers the wide spread, if mainly silent and marginalised, dissent in the youth and minority communities at the values of the mainstream view of the American Dream. The text shows, for some, the futility of simply searching for self-gratification but nonetheless elevates it to the status of holiness. But in doing so he attempts to create a sentiment of solidarity and spirituality and the possibility of mystical awareness that goes beyond the “HOLY GOOF’s” (Kerouac 1957 p176) idea of “IT!”. Ginsberg also aims to show an alternative society in which homosexuality, Negroes, Jazz and drugs are as holy and sacred as money. Ginsberg uses as symbols Carl Solomon, Neal Cassady and includes anonymous “angelheaded hipsters” and in oblique references Burroughs and Kerouac. In “Footnote to Howl” Ginsberg tells

America that everything is holy. This idea is expanded by other beat writers and poets who investigate and show in their work this idea of a sense of wonder at everything in the world.

Neither text is rejecting

America as such. Kerouac said in the 1959 Playboy article “The Origins of the Beat Generation” that to believe that he is attacking

America is to misunderstand everything he has written. He celebrates

America in a panoramic picaresque of a coast-to-coast road trip. (Kerouac, 1959).

Ginsberg in “Howl” condemns the way in which the American Dream has been subverted by the mercantile class, in the image of Moloch. He argues that American society suppresses individuals, and cultural works that do not conform to an ideal as espoused by the mercantile class, through the mouths of elected officials like McCarthy.

The Beats as a movement do not reject America; they reject what they see as the misappropriation of

America. Sal

Paradise and Dean Moriarty seeks to regain ownership of the entire continent by driving backwards and forwards across it whilst discovering there is no “IT”. Ginsberg celebrates the diversity and value of American peoples and their culture in “Howl” with a panoramic consideration of the lives of hipsters, Negroes, bikers and homosexuals and concludes that “IT” is the American Dream.

Part three of “Howl” focuses on Carl Solomon: the narrator is “with him”. This repeated chant of “I’m with you in

Rockland” gives the poem a hymn like structure and the line length and repetition add to the idea of a chant. At the end of part three the poem sees hope for the American Dream. It states, referring to Carl Solomon that:

“in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the

highway across

America in tears to the door of my cottage

in the Western night” (70, 29)

The last three lines of “Howl” attempt to reclaim ownership of the “American Dream”. In the narrators “dreams” Carl Solomon, a victim of psychiatric oppression, is able to cross

America freely and express his emotions “in tears” without fear of the “Western night

The relationship that the narrators of “Howl” and On the Road want with

America is symbiotic. They celebrate and sanctify their status as Americans. The attitudes of McCarthy, Hoover and others towards communism, homosexuality, African Americans, drugs, drinking and Eastern religion could not accept that the relationship the Beats and hipsters sought with

America could be inclusive. McCarthy and others believed that those who chose to live outside their interpretation of the American Dream were parasitic and as such had to be destroyed. “Howl” and On the Road directly challenge this binary of rejection and damnation. They effectively offer an alternative construction of the American Dream as that of an anarchic, but spiritually based philosophically and culturally free society. Thus the Beat movement and the two texts under consideration do not reject

America or their vision of the American Dream, they offer an alternative spiritual lifestyle that seeks out life, liberty and the anarchic pursuit of happiness within an inclusive society.

In On the Road the dream that Sal has of being free drifts from a euphoric view of the possibility to a realisation, back in

New York, that there is nowhere else to go. This is it. The road offers no more freedom that the city. Sal ends the novel sitting on a pier at sunset, looking west and ending the text:

“nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.” (Kerouac, 1957, p281)

Sal has realized that the only certainty is aging and death but he nonetheless thinks of Dean and America, finally viewing

America as a father that they never found. The American Dream is likened to a missing father, like Dean Moriarty: something that will never be found because it is always moving. The American Dream is as elusive as a father who doesn’t want to be found.

Word Count 4400


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