On the Road

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On the Road Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sal stayed at home for a year, during which time he attended school on the G.I. bill and finished his book. He went to visit his brother in Testament, Virginia for Christmas, 1948, and wrote to Dean to tell him where he’d be. While sitting around his brother’s house with relatives, a dirty car pulled up and a “weary young fellow,” came to the door. Sal recognized him as Dean.
While staying at home, Sal is able to finish writing his book. After traveling for so long, he has settled down for a bit with his family. But the fact that he writes to Dean shows that he may be missing both his friends and the open road.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Writing Theme Icon
Along with Dean were Marylou and someone named Ed Dunkel. Sal’s family and southern relatives looked at Dean, Marylou, and Ed with confusion. Sal’s brother was planning on moving soon, and was sending some furniture to Sal’s aunt’s house in Paterson. Dean offered to drive the furniture up to New Jersey.
Sal’s family members are taken aback by his nontraditional, countercultural friends.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Sal learned that Dean had lived with Camille in San Francisco and had a daughter. He worked on the railroad and made decent money, but one day “blew his top,” and decided to buy a car and drive to the east coast to see Sal. He told Camille he’d be back in a month. Sal took Ed, who also worked on the railroad, with him on the trip.
Like Sal, Dean is unable to stay put in one place for long. But, his pursuing his own freedom means abandoning his own wife and daughter.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Ed wanted to bring his girlfriend Galatea along, but Galatea wouldn’t come unless Ed married her. So, Ed married her and the three started driving east. Galatea kept wanting to sleep at hotels, which drained all their money, so Ed and Dean “gave her the slip in a hotel lobby.”
Ed shows as little concern for Galatea as Dean showed for Camille, abandoning her all by herself at a random hotel.
Themes
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
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Dean felt a desire to see Marylou again, so he drove to Denver and found her. They “had ten hours of wild lovemaking,” and decided they would be together again. Dean, Marylou, and Ed drove through the cold Midwest and picked up a hitchhiked who promised them a dollar if they drove him to Memphis. When they got to Memphis, though, the man couldn’t find his dollar. They finally got to Sal’s brother’s house in Virginia, not having eaten for 30 hours.
Dean shuffles between his different women (and wives) as he likes, without regard for whoever he might hurt in the process. His freedom is of a radical sort, meaning that he sees himself as unencumbered by any social bonds. Dean, Ed, and Marylou drove across the country on their own road trip, picking up random hitchhikers.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Dean danced inside to a jazz record, to the dismay of Sal’s southern relatives. Sal says that Dean’s madness “had bloomed into a weird flower.” He went with Dean, Ed, and Marylou for a spin in Dean’s car. They saw a poor black man in a mule wagon, and Dean told everyone to “consider his soul.” He said that he would like to know what the man was “poor-ass pondering about this year’s turnip greens and ham.”
Dean’s “weird flower” of madness confuses Sal’s family members, while Sal is happy to go for a spin with his old friends. Dean is superficially interested in the poor black man. He seems to see some kind of authenticity in the black man’s poverty, but does not actually consider the man’s oppression as a minority or his difficult life.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Dean then suddenly sped away and asked Sal where Carlo was. Dean thought that “this was the new and complete Dean, grown to maturity.” He pulled into the railway station, parked, and bought some cigarettes, talking and laughing. Sal says Dean’s “laugh was maniacal.”
Dean’s maniacal laugh is infectious, attracting Sal to the joyful, free life of the road.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Dean saw a black woman and said, “Dig her, ...that little gone black lovely. Ah! Hmm!” Dean, Sal, Marylou, and Ed sped back to Dean’s brother’s house. Sal says that he now had “the bug,” again, the itch for “another spurt around the road.”
As with the poor black man earlier, Dean “digs” the black woman without really considering her life. Once again, Sal has the desire to hit the road.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon