Road of Optimism


English Essay





In Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, the protagonist, Sal Paradise, offers us a very optimistic view of life. He enjoys the spontaneity of life, and his adventures. He has a very high expectation for the future. For both Sal and Dean, this novel is their youthful exuberance and optimism for new experiences. The energetic beat of the jazz music called bop, their dream to find “IT” and their idealistic approach to life are just some of the evidence of optimism present in the book. Sal and Dean’s goal is to find the freedom and happiness of the open road. “The road” symbolizes Sal and Dean’s optimism outlook on life which near the end of the book changes for Sal.


The road represents Sal Paradise’s optimism for the future. His blind-optimism can be seen be throughout the book. For instance, when he says “I will stay on 6 all the all the way to Ely, I said to myself and confidently started.” (10) it shows his lack of worries and his optimism for the success of the trip. He thinks that one road will take him from the east of America all the way to the west. He never considers the clear possibilities for disappointment. Sal travels across the country and is enjoying the new scenery and group of people he meets while hitchhiking. He seems very carefree and tries to enjoy life as it comes. He is exposed to new towns such as “the only community in America where whites and Negroes lived together voluntarily; and that was so, and so wild and joyous a place I’ve never seen since.”(61). This journey increases his optimistic view on life by exposing his to things he had not seen in the east, a town where blacks and whites live together harmoniously.


As Sal continues down the road, his hopes get bigger and the consequences of disappointment grow larger along with those hopes. Near the end of Part One when Sal, staying in Denver with the Rawlins’, takes a trek to the mountains with a group including his hosts and Tim Gray, aspirations for the short trip run high. Sal says that “only a few days ago I’d come to Denver like a bum; now I was all racked up in sharp suit, with a beautiful well-dressed blond on my arms” (52) Sal is not disappointed with his journey on the road. When he seems to be in a dead-end, he is rescued and enters a luxurious environment. He is on top of the world and assumes that nothing can go wrong with his trip. When, Dean, Sal and Stan decide on a trip to Mexico, the wear and tear of many compiled and disparaging events begin to change Sal. At the beginning of the trip, he still believes that the road will lead him to many great things and that the trip will turn out just as it was planned. The trip begins with such enthusiasm and optimism to find the thing they have been searching for – IT. The first sign of Sal’s change in his optimistic view is when he says “Damn! It made the whole trip seem sinister and doomed” (269) after he finds out that Stan’s bee sting is a serious matter. His reaction to the bee sting is different from his reactions to things in the beginning of the book. Perhaps if the bee sting took place in the beginning of the book, Sal might have reacted with an optimistic approach, not a pessimistic one. Sal realizes that the trip is bound to be a failure. Near the end of his trip, he says that the end of his journey on the hard, hard road led to nothing but wild whore houses. The “hard, hard road” connotes a terrible and exhausting journey. Sal is disappointed by the reality of life. Although he might not be as optimistic as he was in the beginning of his journey on the road, he is still optimistic enough to believe that he still has a chance to live like the normal middle class people around him and that it is not too late to start anew.


For Dean, the road represents