On the Raod is Jack Kerouac’s crowning achievement as a writer because influenced so many people to get up and go on an adventure. Bob Dylan once said that “it changed my life like it a had changed everyone else’s”.
But what is it about this book that makes it worth reading?
A novel holds very little value for me if doesn’t have a good story at the end of the day. Thankfully On the Road has one! The story follows the true events based on Kerouac and his friend, Neal Cassady’s adventures around the USA with sweet F all money in their pockets. Now that’s a J1 people want to hear about!
Kerouac and Cassady are on a big road trip but the story is that the two are looking for something they’re missing emotionally. Kerouac is looking for someone that will give him a lust for life. Cassady sometimes fills that need. Cassady is looking for the father figure that he never had. Kerouac sometimes fills need. But all good things come to an end and you’ll see how if you read On the Road.
The two guys also get up to all sorts antics that are nothing short of madness. We’re talking about hard-partying, fights, grand theft auto, sex, enough drugs to kill a horse and the rhythms of 1950s underground American Jazz.
- The American Dream
Above all this madness though is a story about what the “American Dream” is. Most people would probably give you The Great Gatsby definition of it where if you work your butt your off you can make a name for yourself. Kerouac’s definition of the American dream is about challenging your freedom, taking life by the balls and not conforming the 9-5 life by going on an adventure.
The way the story is told makes it sounds like it was written by lad, mad out of his head on Benzopyrene… and he was! Truman Capote once called Kerouac’s prose “typing, not writing.” Oooo, literary burn!
The prose suits the story though. The story is about a guy driving back and forth across American on these wild adventures. The way that looks on paper is a lot these quick, short experiences then there will be this massive, religious-like experience where the guys meet Native Americans. “My mind is exploding to say something about every image and every memory… I have an irrational lust to set down everything I know.” This “wild form” was a free-association technique Kerouac referred to as “spontaneous prose”.
This book was written in the 1950s and is considered to be a catalyst for the “counter-culture movement”. That’s fancy pants talk for the book made young people in the 1950s look at their parents and think “shit, working 40-50 hours a week looks crap. I don’t want to do that” which led to that hippie attitude of kids in the 1960s wanting to have more freedom, untuck their shirts, “get loaded”, be part of communes and go to Woodstock to see Jimi Hendrix. This is why Red Foreman in That 70s Show says “Get a job, ya hippie!”
On the Road is nearly 70 years old and it stands the test of time. It’s about a young person saying “I want to live the life I want to live by going on an adventure I’ll never forget” which is why it’s worth any young, college student’s time.