There are works that represent a social movement that is going on at the time they were written. On the Road by John Kerouac is an example of one of these works because it captures the soul of The Beat Generation. This was a cultural movement that occurred during the 1940s after the war and continued into the 1950s. The main character, Sal, goes across the country meeting new people and having amazing experiences everywhere he goes. He has no agenda or rules for his trip or his life. Kerouac personifies the whole beat generation and movement in Sal Paradise.
The beat movement consisted of people who believed that society was corrupted and wanted to deviate from it. It started when the youth of the postwar era began rejecting the norms of previous generations. This was very radical at the time because before the movement people were very prude and proper. The Beats opposed this moralist way of living by bringing taboo topics like sexuality and jazz to light. They explored what society shunned. (http://www.online-literature.com/periods/beat.php). The Beats had other characteristics that made them stand out; they did not believe using marijuana and other drugs should be seen as a crime, thus it was not against their laws. Opposition to the military and police probably developed due to the war and its violence. They established a love for nature and animals that was not there before. Being in nature and away from society was their goal. (http://www.heureka.clara.net/art/beat-generation.htm). The Beat generation and society before the movement were complete opposites.
Sal Paradise is a prototype for the beat generation because he has all the characteristics that defined the movement. Part one is when he gets a “bug” for wanting to move around. This is because he met Dean and is inspired by him. His new desire to be on the move represents the beginning of the Beat movement. Sal did not want to have an average life like the people around him and the new Beats did not want lives like their parents. They both reject the standard way to live so they can be free of responsibilities. Sal meets a bunch of people on his way to Denver. He hitchhikes and gets rides from people who are also constantly travelling. He gets a ride from some boys who are also doing a road trip and picking up hitchhikers on the way. He becomes friends with the people on the truck but they are gone as fast as they met. This shows how people would meet and it would seem as if they knew each other for years but they left no connection. They would move on and continue travelling without establishing an actual relationship. That way they would not be attached and settle somewhere.
When Sal gets to San Francisco for the first time, he gets a job as a security guard. It is not a hard job but he does not keep it for a long time regardless. He clearly does not care about having a job because one night he gets drunk instead of doing his job. This represents how the Beat generation did not take work seriously. They did not want a serious job because that would cause them to stop moving around. Money did not interest them so they did not care for a job that paid well. The main reason for getting a job was to get money to survive and continue travelling. It was not something they enjoyed having.
After San Francisco, Sal meets Terry and falls for her. This is the first girl that Sal commits to for a little. They travel together for a while but he eventually leaves her to return to New York. This shows how the people of the Beat movement cared about love but to a certain extent. They would meet someone and start a serious relationship even though they barely knew each other. It would be a serious relationship but it would last for a short amount of time. Staying in a serious relationship did not interest them because that would possibly result in settling somewhere. Sal has thoughts about finding a girl but once he finds one he leaves her in order to move on. It is like a thirst that is never fully satisfied.
The desire for travel sets in on Sal again after he spent a good amount of time in New York. This is the beginning of part two and it is cause by Dean’s visit. Dean is what inspires Sal to be on the road because Sal is inspired by the life that Dean has. While they are at a party, Dean tries convincing Sal to sleep with his girlfriend while they are at a party. This is an example of how the beat generation had no boundaries when it came to sexuality. They did not care about knowing a person before sleeping with them and there were no exclusive couples. This was very radical because the generation before them was extremely prude. Sex was never talked about because it was considered taboo. The Beat movement changed this way of thinking because sex was not something so secretive.
Once they have been travelling for a while, Dean leaves Marylou for Camille in San Francisco. This is another example of how easily people would move without thinking twice. No planning went into it and he left unexpectedly. The people from Beat Generation did not plan things. They just played it by ear and hoped it went well. This also shows how uncommitted they were. Dean continues to go back and forth between the two women without a problem. This lack of commitment is because they refuse to stay in only one place. He goes from loving one to leaving her for the other. There is no remorse for playing them. The women obviously do not seem phased by this because they continue to take him back. It is not that they are stupid, they too are part of the beat generation and do not seem to care. They are as easygoing and uncommitted as he is. This shows how women were also part of the movement even if they stayed in one location like Camille did. Even though he had been traveling with Sal and Marylou, Dean leaves them on their own in a second. People not only stayed on the move from location but also from people. It was as if people got bored of each other and wanted new friends around them. This shows how the beats always desired change in their lives in every aspect.
The fun of being on the road is starting to fade away by the time Sal makes his third trip. He is depressed and does not seem to have a good time with Dean. Camille is pregnant and Dean is injured because he tried hitting Marylou for sleeping around. This shows how hypocritical Dean is because he has been moving between the two women for a long time now. The two friends start to have conflicts due to Dean’s recklessness and conceited mind set. Dean gets another girl pregnant in New York knowing his wife in Camille is about to have their second child. Sal starts disapproving of Dean’s actions and life. The Beats cannot stay young forever no matter how hard they try; they will mature and start developing morals of right and wrong. For example, Sal starts off by admiring Dean and wanting his life but by the end of the third trip Sal is much more mature and stable than Dean. He realizes it is not right to get another woman pregnant while your wife is about to have a child. Sal starts to get some independence from Dean because he no longer finds Dean’s actions to be glorious. The people of the beat generation develop despite their desire to be away from society.
Part four is the peak of Sal and Dean’s conflict. Sal is completely independent of Dean at this point and plans to go on the road again with his friend Stan. It is now Dean that follows him and buys a car in order to go on the trip with them. After a party in Georgia, Sal is very sick and is not entirely conscious. Instead of caring for his friend, Dean continues without Sal and moves on. Sal is upset at Dean but realizes that this is who he is and nothing will ever change him. By this part of the book Dean and Sal represent two different types of Beats. Sal loves being on the road but he knows wrong from right and has loyalty. Dean is selfish and only cares about being on the move, he drops anything that will cause him to stay still. The beats that were like Dean will never have solid friendships or relationships because they are unable to stay committed. Beats like Sal can balance being on the road with being a good person.
The final part of the book is the most significant. Sal plans on moving to San Francisco with his girlfriend while Dean is still running around between Camille and other girls. Dean offers Sal one last adventure to San Francisco but Sal denies it. Sal has had his times of craziness and freedom but is now ready to settle down. Everyone, including the Beat Generation, will eventually have to settle down in order to have a stable life. Once they are satisfied with being on the move that will want a change towards a calm and normal life. Sal realizes this and chooses a girl to be committed to and a city he will live in for a good amount of time. Dean refuses to calm down and continues with his unstable life and failed relationships.
Sal Paradise represents the Beat Generation and movement throughout the whole book. He loves his times on the road but realizes that he must settle and develop a stable life. Sex and jazz do not bother him, he is very comfortable around these once shunned activities. He is it the happiest when he is alone with nature because it is very peaceful. The reader completely understands what it was like to be part of the Beat movement and generation once On The Road is wrapped up.