The Specific Style Of Writing In On The Road

Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road reflects the Beat Generation. A movement that rejected conformity to seek deeper meaning, it is Jack Kerouac’s most iconic story. This quest is the catalyst for most of the action in the story. Sal Paradise travels across America with Dean Moriarty, his chief companion. The story revolves around several trips that include New Orleans, Denver, San Francisco and New Orleans. Dean and Sal are both incapable of settling in, Dean especially, who has three different relationships and is marred three times. Dean’s stupidity and indecisiveness causes Sal to lose faith in him. He decides to return to New York to lead a more stable lifestyle with his girlfriend. Dean visits Sal but is unable to charm her with his impulsive behaviors and philosophical musings. As Sal is content to remain stationary, a rift develops between them. Meanwhile, Dean continues his reckless abandon in his search for the unifying meaning of his life. Kerouac’s distinctive writing style allows him to convey a time and the complicated web relationships that underpin the story.

Kerouac uses characterization as a key element of his narrative. Kerouac describes his Beat Generation cast as a group of multifaceted characters. Dean is immediately portrayed as a scattershot character who loves to ramble and discuss metaphysical ideals. Kerouac illustrates a conversation Dean has with Marylou, his first wife. Dean is seen wandering aimlessly through his apartment, disturbed because he doesn’t have any activity. He tells her that he needs to “get on the ball darling” and that he isn’t going to stop pacing in his apartment. His words flow out of his mouth in a stream-of-consciousness style. Dean is always moving and going, but it is not clear where he is headed. He is not content to stay at one place for too long. This is why he often uses lengthy and unintelligible sentences to describe his inner agitation. Kerouac also discusses Dean’s inconsistent behavior through the opinions of other characters. Marylou laments Dean’s tendency to “leave ya out cold whenever he wants” (159) while Galatea complains about Dean’s disregard for other people (183). Dean, himself, admits to his inconsistency and states that his trunk is always visible under the mattress. Their traveling lives are represented by the trunks. Although Sal is able to physically and metaphorically shut his away, Dean’s trunk is constantly urging him to move. These revelations are foreshadowing the novel’s end, when Sal is made to realize his true nature by Dean after being abandoned in Mexico. Sal says that he seeks out people who are interesting and make him “burn, burn…explode like spiders across stars”. It is clear that Sal values people who are able to transfix him, possess multiple dazzling aspects and manage to overshadow all other facets. Sal and Dean are both constantly searching for meaning in the journeys they take. Kerouac compared the promise of the final destination to a treasure waiting to be found. San Francisco’s ideal sparkles “like jewels at night” (13). Sal says that he saw the country as an oyster before he and Dean went on their trip. “The pearl was there, it was there,” 129. Repetition and simile are again a way to highlight both the journey and destination. However, the pearl and its meaning remain elusive.

Kerouac’s use of syntax and lyrical speech to convey the action, mood and atmosphere of the novel is also a part. His words reflect the flowing, improvisational jazz style. His style is a chaotic synthesis of abrupt and long sentences. Kerouac reminisces about a wild night spent in Denver. He said, “Everything swirled.” There were many parties. We even went to a castle party, where everyone drove. Dean fled away. Although the narration is sometimes interrupted with brief explanations, it retains a rhythm almost as poetic. Kerouac adds his own slang to the conversation, describing his friends in “the mad ones”, as he calls them, “the ones who are mad not to live, talk, save lives, and desire to do everything simultaneously” (5). Kerouac uses “mad” to refer to his group’s frantic, probing nature. Kerouac uses words such as “kicks (116) and “Beat (184) to describe the actions he and Dean seek. The novel’s unique sentence structure and diction by Kerouac emphasizes the feverish excitement.

On the Road Kerouac relies on syntax and description to express his originality. These elements are used to explain Dean’s wanderings and Sal’s travels, which follow the same pattern as the text’s progression. Kerouac creates meaning for himself in a confusing and chaotic period of his life.


  • finlaymason

    Finlay Mason is a 36-year-old blogger and teacher from the UK. He is a prominent figure within the online education community, and is well-known for his blog, which provides advice and tips for teachers and students. Finlay is also a frequent speaker at education conferences, and has been quoted in several major newspapers and magazines.

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