Degradation of Women in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Essay

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The Degradation of Women in On The Road

An argument can be made that the women in Jack Kerouac's On The Road are not as characteristically well developed as the men. Through Sal and Dean's interactions with women, the reader sees that there exist two types of females in this novel - the benevolent virgin/mother figure or the whore. Women are constantly referred to in a negative way or blatantly degraded and insulted by numerous characters. However, Kerouac (through the character of Sal) exhibits sympathy for women. Sal does occasionally participate in female stereotyping, but this is simply because he wants to fit in. Although Sal may try to make arguments against the poor treatment of women, the novel in its entirety seems to
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To Sal's credit though he does ask what she wants or thinks from the start but this sudden care seems to arise due to his own nervousness and insecurities not any kind of genuine feeling for Marylou. Her identity as seen through the eyes of men would fall into the whore stereotype of women. This is the exact opposite from Sal's Aunt. The most apparent treatment of Sal's Aunt as something less than an equal comes at the end of part one. Sal has just returned from his first trip west. He is tired. He has been starving for three days now and of course eats everything in the house. Then his Aunt's few extensive lines in the entire novel occur, and in a decidedly motherly fashion she says "Poor little Salvatore". She has fulfilled Sal's entire need of her. She has been a mother to cook for him and fret over him. This passage seems to point out the completely flat identities women were allowed or perceived to have by the Sal. “Women need few lines because the only thing they need to say is "go ahead and do me" or "oh, poor baby". The virgin or the whore; the only identities men saw”(Holmes 371). A slight twist on this is the character of Terry. Though only in the book a little while, she has relatively lengthy dialogue (for a woman) and a very significant role. She was the whore and the mother figure for Sal. He got to make her in a hotel in California and she also got to cook for him and fret over him while
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