Some people have called Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” the defining stamp of the Beat Generation, an unequaled exposition of the sacred road trip or a penetrating portrait of American youth.
I am not one of those people.
Written from the perspective of Sal Paradise (his name is a travesty to the ironic pun), him and his buddy Dean Moriarty decide to break free from East Coast banality and take on the vast expanse of America. Dean’s go-getter attitude and reckless spirit drive the novel forward as the two travel around the country with nearly empty pockets, meeting up with displaced friends and acquaintances along the way.
Though the story is usually lionized as an original outlook on the period – roughly centered in the ’50s – Kerouac’s inspired melodrama isn’t the first of its kind.
Backtrack 27 years when John Dos Passos redefined the structure of the novel as we know it, allowing for alternate viewpoints of varied characters, the general press and autobiographical commentary. Dos Passos used this framework to maintain a polished critique of the country during its transition to an industrialized, capitalist society.
As for the book’s philosophical footing, the Lost Generation of the ’20s was far more effective in its decoding of the human psyche, from the nonsensical Dada movement to the complexities of Mallarm