On the Road

On the Road

On the Road Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dean and Sal were looking for a place to live in Manhattan as New Year’s Eve rolled around. Ed talked about a previous New Year’s when he was broke and got free food from a bakery, and then mentioned how he got “visions all the time,” like a hallucination of his dead mother.
The kind of eccentric madness that Sal is fascinated by in Dean becomes a dangerously real madness with Ed, as he has hallucinations.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Sal asked Ed what he was going to do about Galatea, and what he was going to do in with his life in general. Ed replied, “I just go along. I dig life.” Sal, Ed, Dean, and Marylou drove into New York for a party.
Ed is happy to “just go along” life without any plans. But while this life philosophy may be freeing, it is also self-centered and irresponsible, as revealed through his lack of care for Galatea.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Around this time, Sal got the feeling that he had forgotten something. He thought it had something to do with someone called the Shrouded Traveler. As he had once told Carlo, he had a dream about a “strange Arabian figure,” who pursued him across a desert. Sal was puzzled by the dream, but concluded that “something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven.” Sal later thought this Shrouded Traveler was simply death.
The Shrouded Traveler represents the unknown cause of Sal’s endless desire to keep traveling and moving. At one point, Sal thinks that the traveler represents death, such that his life on the road was a constant attempt to elude the inevitability of death. But later he will compare Dean to this mysterious figure.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Sal went to a party at his friend Tom Saybrook’s place and then stayed in New York for three days going to various parties. He brought Lucille to one and she told him she didn’t like him when he was around Dean. Marylou flirted with Sal and told him that Dean was going to go back to Camille, so he should come to San Francisco and live with her.
Sal spends more time partying with friends. He used to think he could settle down with Lucille, but she seems incompatible with his eccentric close friends. Marylou, meanwhile, is aware of Dean’s tendency to leave those he claims to care about.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
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Sal resisted Marylou’s advances. He says that he knew he and Lucille “wouldn’t last much longer.” Lucille was married with a child, and Sal had thought that he could marry her if she divorced, but now he knew that “the whole thing was hopeless.”
Sal now realizes that he is not ready to settle down and marry, but rather needs more time of aimless wandering whether on the road or among wild parties.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Sal went to all sorts of parties. He saw his friend Damion, whom he calls “the hero of my New York gang, as Dean is the chief hero of the Western.” Ed went home with Lucille’s sister. Sal fell asleep on a couch with someone named Mona.
Sal continues to prioritize going to parties with his friends and enjoying himself, not worrying about anything else.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Sal went to Long Island and a party hosted by “the wild, ecstatic Rollo Greb.” Rollo lived at his aunt’s house, and she threatened to call the police when Sal and his friends made too much noise. Rollo had two libraries full of books, listened to opera, and was “a great scholar,” whose “excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light.” Dean loved Rollo.
Rollo is another example of Sal’s eccentric friends at odds with mainstream society (here represented by Rollo’s aunt). Like some of Sal’s other beat friends, Rollo combines a penchant for partying with a learned interest in art and literature.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
During their weekend of partying, Sal and Dean went to hear a jazz pianist play. Dean was ecstatic at the music and referred to the pianist as God. Sal realized that Dean’s “madness would lead nowhere,” and says he “didn’t know what was happening to me.” He attributes this feeling to the “tea” he and Dean were smoking.
Sal is attracted to Dean’s madness, but also worries about where this kind of behavior will lead eventually. He enjoys some aimless wandering, but will want to settle down eventually.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon