On the Road

On the Road

On the Road Part 4, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The group stopped just over the border and bought some beer and cigarettes, pleased at how cheap everything was. They were tremendously excited about being in Mexico and drove further south, into a desert. Sal says that he and Dean “had the whole of Mexico before us.”
Having already traversed the United States several times back and forth, Sal is excited to have a huge stretch of unexplored (by him) land before him on the open road.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Dean told Sal that they were entering “a new and unknown phase of things.” They arrived at the town of Sabinas Hidalgo around seven in the morning. As they drove through town slowly, they saw a group of women, one of whom asked where they were going. Dean said he was “digging” everyone here.
Mexico is associated in Dean and Sal’s minds with the new and unknown, allowing them to rediscover the excitement of the road.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
They got back on the road and headed toward Monterrey. Dean said he was high off the Mexican sun. He kept driving through Monterrey for Mexico City. They drove through a swampland with “thatched huts with African-like bamboo walls,” and “strange young girls.”
Dean’s excitement at driving through a new country continues. Sal’s narration patronizingly paints the Mexicans they see as primitive, strange, and exotic.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
Sal drove for a while and felt like he was driving across the world, through “the essential strain of the basic primitive, wailing humanity.” Sal passed by what he called “great, grave Indians...the source of mankind and the fathers of it.”
Sal enjoys the freedom of this drive, but his quest for self-discovery comes at the cost of denigrating the natives he sees as primitive.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
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Sal stopped at a gas station near Gregoria and someone named Victor came to his car, saying that he could get “gurls,” (that is, prostitutes) and marijuana for Sal. Victor got in the car and they drove to his house. Sal was worried that Victor’s mother would be upset at him getting marijuana, but Victor said that his mother got it for him.
Mexico is a virtual paradise for Sal and Dean, as prostitutes and marijuana are easy to find and more socially (and legally) acceptable than in the United States.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Victor’s brother brought some marijuana out to the car and Victor rolled a huge joint, which everyone (including Victor’s brothers) smoked. Dean and Sal liked Victor and his brothers, though they couldn’t understand what they were talking about in Spanish. For a moment, Sal thought Dean could understand Victor speaking in Spanish.
Sal and Dean enjoy smoking marijuana and feel that it brings them closer together in a kind of bond with Victor and his brothers, even in spite of the linguistic boundary between them. They are always trying to get close to people, to bond with people, and then to move on to find the next person with whom to bond.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Sal says that Dean looked like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and like God. Victor brought over his baby son to show to everyone. Dean said it was the prettiest child he’d ever seen. Victor then showed Dean, Sal, and Stan to the brothel. They played music on a jukebox as loud as they wanted, which Sal says he never could do in America.
Sal idolizes his friend Dean as a new kind of American hero and spiritual guide. He is having an ecstatic time in Mexico, a country that so far seems to be free from the restrictions that always interfered with his good times in America.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Dean, Sal, and Stan danced with the prostitutes, and then went off with different ones. Sal wanted to sleep with “a sixteen-year-old colored girl,” but gave up when the girl’s mother came in and talked to her. After sleeping with one woman, Sal went off with Dean’s original woman, but this woman was too drunk, so he went with another one. The three of them drank and slept with different prostitutes until nighttime.
Sal, Dean, and Stan are having a raucous time, enjoying themselves without any regard for laws or propriety. But their liberated happiness coincides with the exploitation of young girls and other prostitutes.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
The whole time, Sal kept thinking of the sixteen-year-old girl. Victor finally showed Sal the bill for everything, which was over three hundred pesos. Sal walked outside and remembered he “was in Mexico after all and not in a pornographic hasheesh daydream in heaven.”
In contrast to the United States, Mexico, with its lax laws, is for the countercultural Sal and his friends like a daydream or magical haven of sex, drugs, and fun.
Themes
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
Victor took them all to a nearby bathhouse, where Stan and Sal showered. Victor was sad to see them all go, and asked them to come back. Dean said he’d take Victor to the U.S., but Victor said he probably couldn’t go because he had a wife and kid and no money.
Unlike Dean, Victor chooses not to run off and enjoy himself with new friends because he cares about his duties toward his family and is constrained by poverty. Being free like Dean is a luxury he can’t afford.
Themes
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon