Are You Experienced?
There is no doubt that On the Road is a monumental work of fiction considering its optimism and its influence on an entire generation to break down barriers and destroy inhibition. Kerouac’s positive attitude toward travel and the experiences that come with it is expressed at the end of the very first chapter. "Somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me” (7). Sal’s optimism foreshadows the end of his journey, when he finally meets his wife and things seem to be going well for him. And it did turn out that he had a bunch of good experiences along the way. What is interesting to me is how much of an icon Dean Moriarty becomes for Sal throughout the book, when at the end of the book Sal is way better off than Dean who is a complete wreck. Dean, the symbol of the open road, ends up being nearly incapable of providing for himself, let alone for his family. But at the same time, it doesn’t make sense to me to criticize the book for this reason. Rather than to present a moral at the end of the story or show how Dean has grown, the point of the book is simply to instill in the reader the feeling of the road. As Viktor Shklovsky states in his essay entitled “Theory of Prose”, “Art is a means of experiencing the process of creativity. The artifact itself is quite unimportant”. By this, Shklovsky means to say that the meaning of any given work of art is the experience of it. In the case of Kerouac’s novel, the meaning of his work is the experience of reading it. In the end, there is no real sense of resolution, but so much happens throughout the course of the novel that it leaves the reader with an impression of what it was actually like for Kerouac to travel through the country. The story does a great job of capturing the excitement of travel by romanticizing the element of the unknown. Many books dealing with travel forget to address the thrill of the journey and instead focus on the triviality of traveling. On the Road, however, presents travel in a way that may appeal to the adventurous, but also runs the risk of coming across as pessimistic by the end.