On the Road: Jack Kerouac's Rejection of the Middle Class American Dream

1597 Words 7 Pages
Jack Kerouac was one of a group of young men who, immediately after the Second World War, protested against what they saw as the blandness, conformity and lack of cultural purpose of middle-class life in America. The priorities of people of their age, in the mainstream of society, were to get married, to move the suburbs, to have children and to accumulate wealth and possessions. Jack Kerouac and his friends consciously rejected this pursuit of stability and instead looked elsewhere for personal fulfillment. They were the Beats, the pioneers of a counterculture that came to be known as the Beat Generation. The Beats saw mainstream life as a prison. They wanted freedom, the freedom to pick up and go at a moments notice. This search for …show more content…
I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with a miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead" (Kerouac 1). Thus begins Sal's life on the road and his search for a more meaningful, authentic life. He has failed to find authenticity in mainstream society but hopes to find it on society's fringes. In the novel, Sal's search for authenticity begins and ends with his association with Dean Moriarty. His highly charged friendship with Dean Moriarty continues throughout the novel but finally ends with a denouement in Mexico City. In his frenetic search for authenticity, Sal encounters a continuous progression of marginalized people that include not only Dean's friends and sexual partners but also hobos, migratory farm workers and black jazz musicians. Sal feels that all these people have authenticity because they all value the immediate over the traditional expectations of mainstream society. Kerouac defines the intense moment or "It" as the culmination of the immediate. "It" is well illustrated when Sal and Dean, together with a group of their Beat friends, go to a wild party at the house of Rollo Greb on Long Island, and Dean enthuses about Rollo saying, "if you go like him all the time you'll finally get it." "Get what?" "It! It! I'll tell you - now no time, we have no time now" (127). Later in
Open Document