The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Sal is a young writer living with his aunt in New Jersey, who gets swept up by the mad eccentricity and excitement of Dean. He follows Dean… (read full character analysis)
Having grown up with an alcoholic father and spent time growing up in and out of jail and reform school, Dean comes to New York at the beginning of the novel to learn how to… (read full character analysis)
A poet and friend of Sal in New York, who Dean meets in Part One and quickly becomes friends with. Dean and Carlo go west before Sal does, and in Denver they maintain an intensely… (read full character analysis)
Sal lives with his aunt in Paterson, New Jersey. He keeps returning there after his wild journeys west, because his aunt offers a stable household (with food) where he can settle down for a short… (read full character analysis)
Sal meets Eddie, a fellow hitchhiker, on his first trip out west. They become friends and Sal lends him a shirt, but Eddie is quick to leave Sal behind when a farmer drives by with… (read full character analysis)
Dean’s second wife and the mother of two of his daughters. Like his other wives, Dean abandons Camille repeatedly in order to go on the road, but it is Camille who he appears to… (read full character analysis)
One of the guards working at the barracks where Remi and Sal also work in Part One, who used to work at the prison of Alcatraz. The guard is the complete opposite of Sal and… (read full character analysis)
Remi’s stepfather and a sophisticated doctor from Europe, who visits Remi in San Francisco. Remi asks Lee Ann and Sal to come to dinner with them, and to act as if everything is going well… (read full character analysis)
A Mexican woman with a small child who has fled her abusive husband. Sal meets Teresa on a bus to Los Angeles and the two forge a connection immediately. They sleep together in L.A., and… (read full character analysis)
An old, mad hobo whom Sal sees outside of Pittsburgh on his way back east in Part One. The Ghost shows Sal that one can wander around and find wilderness anywhere in America, that the… (read full character analysis)
A friend of Dean and Sal who shows up with Dean at Sal’s brother’s house in Virginia around Christmas. Ed marries Galatea before taking her west with Dean, but then he and Dean ditch Galatea… (read full character analysis)
Ed’s wife. Galatea demands that Ed marry her before she travels east with Dean and him. He does, but then he and Dean ditch her in a hotel lobby. She stays with Old Bull Lee… (read full character analysis)
Dean’s cousin, who he meets up with in Denver. Dean is excited to see his cousin, as they were close friends while growing up, but Sam has matured and changed. He asks Dean to sign… (read full character analysis)
A friend of Sal in New York. Dean originally comes to New York to ask Chad to teach him how to write and be an intellectual, and Chad sends him to Sal to learn how to write.
Dean’s first wife. Marylou loves Dean but realizes that he will leave her. When he abandons her in San Francisco for Camille, she starts seeing other men. While living with Camille, Dean remains obsessed with Marylou, but the two drift apart as Dean becomes preoccupied with Camille and Inez.
One of the hitchhikers in the back of the truck that Sal joins during his first trip on the road, who goes out drinking with Sal in Cheyenne before they part ways.
Another hitchhiker in the back of the truck that Sal joins on his first trip west, during the best ride Sal says he ever had.
A writer and one of Sal’s friends in Denver. Roland dislikes Dean and his manic, eccentric behavior, as he prefers to spend his time leisurely writing. When he runs into Sal in San Francisco, they get uproariously drunk at the dinner with Remi and Dr. Boncoeur, embarrassing Remi.
Sal and Dean’s friend in Denver, who they hang out and part with there.
Ray’s sister, who Sal hangs around with in Denver.
One of Sal’s friends who lives in Denver. When Sal first goes to Denver, he stays with Roland Major in an apartment belonging to Tim.
A girl in Denver whom Dean fixes Sal up with. Sal sleeps with her before he leaves Denver for San Francisco.
Remi’s girlfriend in San Francisco. Sal is highly critical of Lee Ann, and thinks that she only went to San Francisco with Remi because she thought he was wealthy. She becomes frustrated with Remi and kicks him out of their little shack in San Francisco.
Teresa’s brother, who tells Sal that he can help him make money by selling manure to farmers. However, Rickey ends up just drinking most days, telling Sal that they will make money mañana, tomorrow.
Rickey’s friend, who Sal thinks is romantically interested in Teresa. Sal hangs around with Ponzo and Rickey while living with Teresa.
Old Bull Lee
An eccentric, drug-addicted old friend of Sal, who lives in New Orleans. Sal stays with him for a while in Part Two. Bull has traveled the world, getting caught up in various international drug trades. He lives with his wife Jane and their two children.
Old Bull Lee’s wife, who is also a heavy drug user.
One of Sal’s friends, who hosts a big party on New Year’s Eve in New York.
A woman in New York whom Sal thinks he loves and wants to marry, but ultimately decides to leave behind in Part Two.
Sal’s friend who lives on Long Island with his aunt. Sal goes to a party hosted by Rollo around New Year’s in Part Two, before he goes west again with Dean.
A Jewish vagrant picked up by Dean as he, Sal, Marylou, and Ed drive south toward New Orleans.
A writer and a friend of Sal. He moves to Tucson to have time to focus on his writing but then ends up bored there, missing New York. He lends Sal some money so that Sal, Dean, and Marylou can make it to San Francisco.
A jazz musician Dean and Sal see perform in San Francisco. As he says of several jazz performers, Dean calls Slim God.
Sal and Dean drive around with Roy in San Francisco before they leave in Part Three. When Dean comes to Denver in Part Four, he arrives with Roy.
A girl who Dean goes out with in San Francisco before he and Sal leave to go east in Part Three.
A black man in San Francisco who Sal and Dean drink with before they leave to go east in Part Three. They go get drinks at Walter’s house and are both impressed when Walter’s wife doesn’t seem to mind Walter’s drinking and going out.
A woman Sal knows in Denver. Sal and Dean stay with her in Part Three. Dean is irritated with Frankie, but infatuated with her thirteen year-old daughter Janet.
The thirteen year-old daughter of Frankie. Dean is attracted to Janet, but Sal keeps him away.
A friend of Dean, who owns a ranch with his wife. Sal and Dean stop by their ranch on the way from Denver to Chicago in Part Three.
An ex-convict whom Sal meets on a bus in Part Four and accompanies to Denver.
Sal hangs out with Stan in Denver, in Part Four, and Stan goes to Mexico with Sal and Dean. As Sal sees when Stan leaves Denver and his grandfather begs him to stay, Stan is attempting to flee his grandfather for some unexplained reason.
A man who lives upstairs at Babe Rawlins’ house in Part Four and is hopelessly in love with her.
Sal, Stan, and Dean run into Victor at a gas station in Gregoria, Mexico. Victor takes them to his house where he sells them marijuana and brings them to a brothel.
At the end of the novel, Dean meets Laura, falls in love, and seems to settle down in New York with her.
The wife of Tim Gray.