Sal's Enlightenment in Mexico in Jack Kerouac's, On the Road

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In A Mexico Fellaheen from Lonesome Traveler, Jack Kerouac describes crossing the border between America and Mexico: "It's a great feeling of entering the Pure Land, especially because it's so close to dry faced Arizona and Texas and all over the Southwest B but you can find it, this feeling, this fellaheen feeling about life, that timeless gayety of people not involved in great cultural and civilization issues" (22). Mexico is at once "close to" America and yet distinct from it, a "Pure Land" removed from the fallout of Spengler's crumbling Western civilization. By acknowledging its primitive innocence, Kerouac calls attention to the difference between the ideal of freedom and pastoral harmony represented by Mexico and the reality of …show more content…
In Mexico, the hot climate, the drugs, and the fiery fever Sal contracts allow him to attain a measure of spirituality by purifying or essentially burning away what blurs his vision. He becomes able to see with a clarity of perception that evokes Emerson in its spirituality: "all egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God" (1075).

Sal's recovered ability to "see all" purely, transparently, allows him to understand and accept the contradictions and complexity that he finds in Mexico, and subsequently, he is able to understand and accept what he calls "the impossible complexity" (303) of Dean's life. Once he can accept Dean with all his faults as "a new kind of American saint" (39), he is in a better position to understand America itself and to accept the complexity of the country's postwar condition with its nuclear and communist paranoia, and its rampant consumerism.

The novel seems to suggest that, if individuals could be made aware of their own spirituality, and accept complexity as a condition of modern culture, contemporary America could recover some of the "timeless gayety" that Kerouac refers to in "Mexico Fellaheen." By an Emersonian act of "self-reliance," people could better understand and accept the world as it is if they could better understand themselves. As Sal describes the steps that lead to his own…