On the Road

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On the Road Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sal took a bus through Pennsylvania and Ohio all the way to Chicago. He walked around the city, thinking about “all my friends from one end of the country to the other and how they were really all in the same vast backyard doing something so frantic and rushing-about.”
As Sal continues along his journey, he thinks of America as one giant “backyard” where his mad friends rush about, enjoying life.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Sal took a bus out of Chicago and then started to hitchhike again. A woman picked him up and took him all the way to Iowa, where Sal saw the Mississippi River for the first time in his life. Stopped in a small Iowa town, Sal ate apple pie and ice cream in a bus station. He notes that this was practically all he ate during his trip west.
By hitchhiking, Sal meets all sorts of people while traveling. Eating almost exclusively apple pie—a stereotypically classic American food—suggests that he is exploring a distinctly American experience.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Sal took another bus and then got picked up by a truck driver, who took him as far as Des Moines. He stayed in an inn near the railroad tracks and when he woke up the next morning, he says that he didn’t know who he was. He felt like a stranger, “at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.”
By setting out on the road and leaving his home, Sal is in the process of discovering himself. Being on the road has already unsettled Sal’s idea of who he is.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Sal saw some beautiful girls in Iowa, but says he was in a hurry to get to Denver, where Carlo Marx, Dean, and Chad King were, as well as other friends. Sal continued hitchhiking, and soon met up with another traveling New Yorker, an Irish man named Eddie. Sal says he liked Eddie because “he was enthusiastic about things.”
Sal prioritizes meeting up with his friends over chasing after girls. By hitchhiking, Sal is able to meet people and make more friends, like Eddie.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
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Sal and Eddie got on a bus and made their way into Nebraska, where Sal saw his first real cowboy. They started hitchhiking again and met a cowboy who had two cars he was driving back to Montana, and needed help driving one of them about a hundred miles, where he would meet his wife. Eddie and Sal agreed to help. Eddie drove one car, while Sal and the cowboy were in the other, and Eddie sped around ninety miles per hour.
Sal is excited to see a real cowboy, a figure of the west that Sal has romanticized so much in his imagination. Eddie drives recklessly, with no regard for any speed limits.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
The cowboy told Sal that he hated Nebraska and told him to come see “God’s country,” Montana, sometime. They stopped and Sal and Eddie ate in a diner. A big, “old-timer Nebraska farmer,” came in and Sal was fascinated by him, calling him the personification of the West.
Even more than seeing the cowboy, Sal is delighted to see the farmer in the diner, who personifies the freedom and happiness Sal associates with the west.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Sal and Eddie continued journeying with the cowboy and then found other people to hitchhike with. They got to a town called Shelton, which Eddie remembered he had been in once before. It started raining, and Sal gave Eddie a wool plaid shirt. As they waited for a ride, a man offered to give them both jobs in a carnival, but they declined, wanting to continue their respective journeys.
Sal and Eddie have bonded on the road and become good friends, so much so that Sal lends him a shirt. The offer to work at the carnival is appealing, but Sal and Eddie prefer to keep moving and traveling.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
At last, a farmer’s trailer pulled up to Sal and Eddie, and its driver said that he could only take on one passenger. Without saying a word, Eddie hopped on and left Sal behind. Sal felt like he was just about to give up on getting a ride, when a car stopped and picked him up.
Despite Sal and Eddie’s newfound friendship, Eddie doesn’t hesitate to leave Sal behind. Sal doesn’t let this bother him too much, though, as he hitches another ride. Being on the road seems to involve an easy coming together and parting, the making of and departing from friends. Everyone is moving, on their own journeys which sometimes they share for a while.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon