The book On the road by American novel writer Jack Kerouac is up there with the most acclaimed travel literature ever. There aren’t many books that capture the philosophical aspects of traveling across the North American continent quite like this one. On the road has in fact been ranked 55th in Modern Library’s top 100 English language books ever and in 2012 Walter Salles adapted it into a successful movie
The story is based on the travels of the author Kerouac himself. From 1947 to 1950, Kerouac and his friends embarked on a hitch hiking journey across the United States and Mexico and experienced profound personality shifts during their time on the road. They experienced major character changes and had to endure their most difficult circumstances yet by going through moments of great joy but also countless hardships.
The two main characters, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty are adaptations of Kerouac himself and Neal Cassidy, “a sideburned hero of the snowy West”. The latter marks himself aside with his carefree attitude while Sal tries to be the voice of reason on many occasions. The clash of both characters is one the most intriguing components of the story and plays an elementary role in the unfolding of events.
The book’s historic background also plays a major part in the events and adds key elements to the story. The events happen in the period of Americana, a specific era in American jazz history.
Jazz and drugs are omnipresent factors in Kerouac’s novel and add a very particular tone to the story. Several episodes of love and the making and breaking of relationships also feature.
In a nutshell, the book is a well written, entangling story of young travellers who struggle in their lives but manage to establish a meaningful existence during their time on the road.
It is an absolute must read for any adventure traveller as it catches the reader with its sense of drama and with its entrapping descriptions of how travelling and being on the road alters the personalities of people and enables those people to grow and learn from their experiences during their journey.