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On the Road

Author: Jack Kerouac
Reviewer's Age: Grade 12

In On the Road, Jack Kerouac uses the stories of different road trips to describe a uniquely positive attitude toward life. The novel is narrated by Sal Paradise, a writer who lives in the New York area. Sal tells us about the several road trips he took during the late 1940's and early 1950's. He makes detailed and perceptive observations about the people and places he sees. He introduces many funny characters that take part in his adventures. The most important person Sal talks about is Dean Moriarty, a crazy young man who is always moving about (whether it is for better or worse). Dean embodies the attitude that Sal is trying to depict: Dean is always excited and feels the need to share his every thought with the people around him. Furthermore, Dean is never satisfied staying in one place or relationship; he always seeks something different and is always eager to experience new things. Despite the many bad situations he gets himself into, Dean always has a positive outlook on the future. Finally Dean is a madman on the wheel, recklessly tearing across thousands of miles of highway on mere whims. In terms of giving a picture of the spirit Dean represents, On the Road is a complete success. Reading this book gives you a true sense of what many people must have felt at that time: the urge to live freely without fearing the future or looking back. However, Kerouac could have accomplished that goal with a more compact book. Sal's observations do not add up to a final conclusion in plot, so there is a sense of the book being somewhat unfinished at the end. Although there is no significant plot resolution, the positive feeling you get at the end of the book makes up for it.