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Book Review: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Updated on July 27, 2013

Life On the Road

Everyone loves to read a good book. But, has there ever been one that has changed your life?

When thinking of what book to write a review on for this lens, the first one that came to mind was On the Road by Jack Kerouac. That sounds simple enough, right? But picking apart my favourite book was tougher than it seemed. This was my first ever book review, so i hope to do it justice.

On the Road was the first book I read of his and the first book that changed my life.

Image Credit: Renee Shearer

"The King of the Beats"

Born in 1922 and raised in working-class Lowell, Massachusetts, Jean-Louis "Jack" Kerouac was an American novelist and poet of the Beat generation. The Beat generation was a literary and cultural movement of the fifties - a group of post-World War II writers. This group - known as the Beats - established a culture of religious, drug and sexuality experimentation. Along with William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, they were considered pioneers of the Beat generation.

Kerouac was considered "The King of the Beats" and his most famous works include On the Road, Big Sur and The Dharma Bums.

The American Traveller

On the Road, as the title suggests, is about the life of an American traveller. It is also about the experiences of the Beat generation and the search for meaning and belonging.

Together, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty (and sometimes his wife Marylou) take spontaneous road trips (in search of God) across country and catch up with old friends along the way.

On the Road seems to take on a life of it's own, with drug visions, profound observations and with the language that the Beats use. As a fast-paced stream-of-consciousness modern classic, it is easy to get swept up in. Kerouac writes with unmistakable passion and poignancy. What makes this book so inspirational, is Kerouac's love of America, jazz and his compassion for humanity.

Although the story skips along quite fast, you never miss a beat with the transitions Kerouac provides. His spontaneous prose is captivating and entrancing. It has inspired not only his generation, but sequential generations as well.

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The Characters

If I didn't know that these characters were based on real-life people, I'd definitely believe they were. Most of them are easy-going and, with the exception of the crazy holy con-man Dean Moriarty, seem legit.

Dean Moriarty

To some, Dean is a horrible person. He often abandons his wife Marylou and Sal on occasions. To others, Dean is an inspiration. He teaches us to love life, though he does seem to take it for granted at times - for example, when he leaves Marylou for Camille, only to return to Marylou at a later date. Dean seems selfish at times, too, and unable to commit. He also has no sense of responsibility.

In On the Road, Dean searches for years, to no avail, for his alcoholic hobo father - who abandoned his family when Dean was a child. And from Sal, Dean only wants one thing: to learn how to write.

Sal Paradise

Broken after a divorce, Sal decides on a trip to San Francisco. His life changes when he meets Dean Moriarty, the "holy goof".

With Dean searching for 'kicks' and his long-lost alchoholic hobo father, together they travel across America and Mexico. Though Sal's aware he's being used by Dean, he enjoys his company too much to send him away.

Amidst the drugs, sex and jazz, Sal finds himself getting caught up in his unquenchable idealism of Dean. And when Dean abandons Sal to visit his second wife Camille in San Francisco, Sal feels lost of direction and purpose. Though soon, Sal realises that there is more to life than Dean Moriarty.

For the future, Sal envisions he and Dean both married, living on the same street. But Sal soon realises that the feeling may not be mutual, with Dean's inability to commit.

"So, what's bad about On the Road?" you ask ...

Well, when (if) i ever find anything I dislike about On the Road, I'll let you know. Until then, zip, zilch, nada.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac


On the Road
On the Road

It's a good view of the Beat generation's happenings. It's worth a read if you are interested in Jack Kerouac or the Beat generation. It's a fast-paced stream-of-consciousness modern classic featuring the holy con-man Dean Moriarty, profound observations and drug visions. Together, Dean and Sal take spontaneous road trips across America and Mexico, in search of God and life meaning.

In 2012, On the Road was adapted to film by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries).



Now a major motion picture starring Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley. - Watch the trailer

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Looking for a Something Unique and Rare? - Try These

Here you'll find first or rare editions of some of Jack Kerouac's books, guarenteed to put a smile on an avid Kerouac fan.

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What Do You Think of Jack Kerouac and His Novels?

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Other Novels by Jack Kerouac

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    • NickHerc profile image


      4 years ago

      I like your review. It's amazing to me, how such a small group of individuals inspired and influenced pretty much a whole generation.

    • SavioC profile image


      5 years ago

      What a nice review. I am sure many will read this book. I have written this as To Be Read on my list. Thanks for sharing.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 

      5 years ago from Albany New York

      Good review and nicely presented. Your opening sentence is excellent to get your readers curious.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice lens. I think you gave On the Road by Jack Kerouac a great review, especially as your first. Thanks for sharing.


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