On the Road

Jason Fashner

Jack Kerouac is considered a legend in history as one of America's best and foremost Beat Generation authors. The term "Beat" or "Beatnic" refers to the spontaneous and wandering way of life for some people during the period of postwar America, that seemed to be induced by jazz and drug-induced visions. "On the Road" was one such experience of Beatnic lifestyle through the eyes and heart of Jack Kerouac. It was a time when America was rebuilding after WW I. Describing the complexity and prosperity of the postwar society was not Karouac's original intent. However, this book described it a way everyone could visualize. It contained examples and experiences of common people looking for new and exciting experiences and most of all, the unknown. America, at the time, had very few vehicle accessible roads that stretched across the entire nation. Route 66 was one that did and, it still exists today in parts of the west. The road led them to new places and people with different views and cultures and this is a prime example of what most people had the desire to do during that era, expand their horizons.

Kerouac along with friends, Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise, combed America from New York to California and from Mexico to Colorado, describing their experiences along the way. From the jazz clubs in New Orleans to the whorehouses in Mexico, their experiences in the places and with the people they encountered will leave the reader in awe.

"On the Road" was the most popular book Karouac ever wrote.

According to Gary Snyder, a poet of the era, its description of Dean Moriarty, Jack's friend, was "a depiction on the energy of the archetypal* west, the energy of the frontier, still coming down. Cassady is the cowboy crashing", is a most accurate example of American society's fascination with the cowboy lifestyle and how it eventually dwindled.

Karouac describes these places and their short adventures, in a very different but detailed manner according to his perspective. Some lavish and fun, some corrupt and dangerous, but all very interesting. It describes the environment of several locations throughout the nation during this period of postwar America with great accuracy. This is a fantastic, documentary-type novel that will leave the reader considerably more informed about what was happening in society during that era along with a better understanding of why so many people were drawn to the search of a new frontier.

Although they referred to their journeys as "spiritual", Karouac had a difficult time convincing his critics of such a description. Though they rushed back and forth across the country on the slightest whim, getting their kicks along the way, their real journey was toward self realization and inner understanding. They seemed to cross most boundaries, legal and moral, but it was only in hopes of finding a belief on the other side.

"On the Road" could be considered an American classic along with such books as Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn", and Scott Fitzgeralds's "The Great Gatsby". These are great novels describing the exploration of personal freedom and the challenges society faced in order to achieve the "American Dream".