On the Road

On the Road

On the Road Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sal, Dean, and Marylou drove out of New Orleans, along the Mississippi River. They stopped at a grocery store where Sal stole some food and Dean stole a carton of cigarettes from a gas station, so they were “stocked for the voyage.”
Once again, Sal and Dean have no qualms about stealing when it helps their own pursuit of personal freedom on their “voyage.”
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
They drove through some swampy land. Dean hoped they’d find a “jazzjoint...with great big black fellas moanin guitar blues.” They soon found themselves surrounded by a dark forest and Sal says that the dark was “a manuscript of the night we couldn’t read.” As they went into Texas and approached Houston, Dean recalled some of his times there (complete with drugs, booze, poetry, and women).
Dean idolizes black jazz music, but never stops to consider the plight of black people in the segregated America of the 1940s. Sal’s comparison of the night to a manuscript recalls his earlier description of reading the American landscape. Dean fondly recalls some of his times cavorting freely with drugs, women, and poetry.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Writing Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Sal took over driving after Houston. It started to rain and Sal had to veer off the road into the mud to avoid a car coming at them on the wrong side of the road. Dean and Sal had to get the car unstuck out of the mud, and ended up covered in mud themselves. They encountered snow and were cold and miserable. They all missed New Orleans.
This is a rare time when Sal and Dean actually regret being on the road and wish they were back in a particular place. But this bad mood doesn’t stay around for long.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
In Sonora, Sal stole more food. Dean kept talking nonsense, and drove them toward El Paso. At one point, he stopped and took off all his clothes to run around outside. He encouraged Sal and Marylou to “disemburden yourselves of all that clothes,” and the three of them drove for a while all naked in the front seat.
Sal continues to steal as Dean continues to spout his mad ideas. The three characters’ nudity is a kind of small rebellion against the strictures and norms of society, such as the obligation to wear clothes in public.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
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After a while, they parked the car and Marylou and Dean had sex while Sal slept. They drove onward to Clint, Texas, the home of a radio station Dean was familiar with. They finally arrived in El Paso, completely broke, needing money for gas. Dean ran off with “a crazy dumb young kid, fresh out of reform school.” Marylou told Sal that she knew Dean was going to leave her.
Sal’s close proximity to Dean and Marylou having sex underscores the odd tension of this trio, with Marylou placed precariously between the two close friends. As always, Dean is quick to run off on his own without considering other people.
Themes
Friendship Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Dean came back and they sped out of El Paso, planning to pick up some hitchhikers who might help out with gas money. Sal says that Marylou watched Dean out of the corner of her eye with “an envious and rueful love.” He says that Dean had confessed to him that he thought Marylou was a whore and a pathological liar.
Dean plans to pick up other wanderers along their way. He calls Marylou a liar and a whore, even though he’s the one who has seen multiple women at the same time and abandoned both Marylou and Camille.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Dean picked up a young hitchhiker, but the hitchhiker had no money. Sal said he could borrow money from a friend in Tucson, so they headed that way. In New Mexico, Sal pawned a watch for a dollar, which was enough money to get them to Tucson. A policeman pulled them over, but after checking Dean’s license let them go on. Dean said that police are “always interfering.”
Sal relies on his network of friends all over the country. Dean is again frustrated with the police—Dean sees the police and their insistence on rules and order as interfering with his quest for radical freedom—to do whatever he wants.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
In Tucson, Sal found his friend Hal Hingham, a writer who had moved to Arizona to write in peace. Sal, Dean, and Marylou ate a meal at Hal’s place, and then Hal leant Sal five dollars. Hal was lonely and missed New York. With the five dollars, Sal took off with Dean and Marylou, leaving Hal behind like “the other figures in New York and New Orleans,” as their “foolish gang,” kept moving.
Whereas Sal takes to the road to find interesting experiences for his writing, Hal tries to help his writing by withdrawing to a peaceful place. Yet Hal finds his peaceful place isolating, and Sal, at least so far, doesn't actually do much writing. Sal and his friends are always moving.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Writing Theme Icon