On the Road

On the Road

The Road Symbol Icon
As the title of the novel suggests, the road is of tremendous importance to Sal and Dean’s lives. They spend the majority of the novel traveling—whether driving, riding buses, walking, or hitchhiking. The open road symbolizes freedom for Dean and Sal. They long to be on the move, feel happiest on the road, and meet new friends as they travel. The idea of a physical journey along a road also comes to stand for more symbolic journeys. Dean and Sal come to understand themselves and the world better over the course of their time on the road. They travel not only on physical, literal roads, but also on journeys of maturation and learning. The road can even symbolize life itself, which can be thought of as the ultimate journey. Normally, one thinks of a road as useful for getting from one place to another. For Sal and Dean, however, their destination is never as important as the road itself, as being in the process of a trip. The road itself is the goal for them, and the journey is more important than where they end up. As Sal says at one point, emphasizing the importance of the road and all that it represents, “the road is life.”

The Road Quotes in On the Road

The On the Road quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Road. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of On the Road published in 1999.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles.

Related Characters: Sal Paradise (speaker), Dean Moriarty
Related Symbols: The Road
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Part 4, Chapter 1 Quotes

Whenever spring comes to New York I can’t stand the suggestions of the land that come blowing over the river from New Jersey and I’ve got to go. So I went. For the first time in our lives I said good-by to Dean in New York and left him there.

Related Characters: Sal Paradise (speaker), Dean Moriarty
Related Symbols: The Road
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Part 4, Chapter 5 Quotes

Behind us lay the whole of America and everything Dean and I had previously known about life, and life on the road. We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic.

Related Characters: Sal Paradise (speaker), Dean Moriarty
Related Symbols: The Road
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Exc

Part 5, Chapter 1 Quotes

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

Related Characters: Sal Paradise (speaker), Dean Moriarty
Related Symbols: The Road
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Road Symbol Timeline in On the Road

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Road appears in On the Road. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Writing Theme Icon
Sal Paradise recalls how his “life on the road” began when he met Dean Moriarty, shortly after splitting up with his wife. He had... (full context)
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...Carlo each kept a half. Sal then journeyed out west slightly later, beginning his “whole road experience.” (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
...and so decided to journey north to Bear Mountain, where he could get on this road and stay on it all the way to the west coast. After getting out of... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
...lay down outside with some hobos, which made him want “to get back on that road.” (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 13
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
As Sal and Teresa walked along the road, cars full of high-school kids sped by, the kids jeering at Sal and Teresa. They... (full context)
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
...He “forgot all about the East and all about Dean and Carlo and the bloody road.” (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 14
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
The Ghost of the Susquehanna walked in the middle of the road and Sal was sure that “the poor little madman,” would get hit by a car.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
...says that he now had “the bug,” again, the itch for “another spurt around the road.” (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Sal, Dean, Marylou, and Ed all felt good getting on the road again. Sal felt as though they were “performing our one and noble function of the... (full context)
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
...another hitchhiker and then dropped him off in North Carolina. Sal drove along “the holy road,” through South Carolina at night while everyone else slept. Dean and Sal were overjoyed to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
...as she knew that the arrival of Sal meant Dean would likely go on the road and leave her again. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
...get him to give them money, but he wouldn’t. When they got back on the road, Dean drove for a while, speeding so dangerously that the other passengers were terrified. (full context)
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
...longer journey ahead of them. Sal says that they didn’t mind this, though, because “the road is life.” (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
...and marry him as soon as he divorced Camille. As they got onto a dirt road leading toward Ed Wall’s ranch, it was raining and Dean drove so fast that the... (full context)
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...stolen it. After the meal, Sal, Dean, and the two passengers got back on the road. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Dean drove past some hobos on the side of the road and thought if his father might be among them. They saw a man driving a... (full context)
Society, Norms, and Counterculture Theme Icon
Back on the road, Dean continued driving dangerously until they pulled into Chicago, looking like “a new California gang... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
Privilege and Prejudice Theme Icon
They got back on the road and headed toward Monterrey. Dean said he was high off the Mexican sun. He kept... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Freedom, Travel, and Wandering Theme Icon
America Theme Icon
...jungle and started driving toward some mountains, seeing “mountain Indians” along the side of the road. They stopped the car outside a little hut and saw a three-year-old Indian girl. (full context)