Jack Kerouac’s On The Road - The Impact of Dean on Sal's Identity

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Impact of Dean on Sal's Identity in On the Road

In part I, chapter 3 of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Sal arrives at Des Moines and checks into a cheap, dirty motel room. He sleeps all day and awakens in time to witness the setting sun. As he looks around the unfamiliar room, Sal realizes that he doesn't understand his own identity. Identity lost, he states "I was half way across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future." He has lost the calming influence of his aunt, and Dean and partners are not around to feed his wild streak. The only clues to his identity are to be found in the strange motel room. This appeal to emotion gives the reader personal hints to identify with.

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Without exception, it changes every time he encounters new circumstances and surroundings. On the way to visit Old Bull Lee in New Orleans during part II, chapter 6, Sal is driving while Dean and Mary Lou are asleep. He is alone with time to think to himself, and he does not know what he is doing or where he is going. The style of the passage intrigues the reader; "All alone in the night I had my own thoughts and held the car to the white line in the holy road." Dean is no longer mentally present to lead him and feed his identity. Sal has no one to show him the way and he is forced to cling to his physical surroundings for comfort. His entire existence centers around following the straight line in the road. In chapter 7, after the stay with Old Bull, Dean is ready to leave and hit the road again. Sal is compelled to go with him although he would really like to stay with Bull awhile. Again, Kerouac uses emotion to move the reader, because most people have been torn between following one of two friends at some point.

In chapter 8 of part two, Dean steals gas and oil as Sal runs into the station and takes bread and cheese while the owners are in back eating dinner. Sal seems to be adapting his personality to that of Dean's. Earlier in the novel, when Montana Slim asks him to steal from strangers in alley ways, Sal doesn't seem to want anything to do with it. This schizophrenic behavior appears throughout the book, prohibiting one from understanding who Sal is
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