Part Three : The Continuation of Old Themes:

::Thursday , February 28, 2002::

:: :

Part III marks a change in the pace and philosophy of the novel as Sal decides Middle America is where he will find what he has been seeking. He goes to Denver to settle down and become a “patriarch” which I find a very stunning departure from his early ramblings. Becoming a patriarch is a new one.

The Quest

But no one is in Denver. “I was lonesome. Nobody was there.”

Soon he is on his way back to San Francisco, knocking on Dean’s door at 2 a.m. “You’ve finally come to me,” Dean says. Dean is with Camille this time and Sal hears her sobbing upstairs. He thinks of his “arrival somewhat like the coming of the strange most evil angel.” Camille knows the two men together will push Dean into madness again.

After a few days together, Sal realizes it was up to him to save Dean. “The devil himself had never fallen farther.” “Let’s walk to New York,” Dean says, sounding like the old Dean only crazier. Sal suggests after New York they could go to Italy. Sal also realizes Dean is very needy now–maybe always has been, but up to now he was more fun than baggage. “I’d never committed myself before with regard to his burdensome existence.” Now he has, but he will not abandon his friend. “It was probably the pivotal point of our friendship when he realized I had actually spent some hours thinking about him and his troubles.” Sal finishes with the revelation that they are ”two broken-down heroes of the Western night.” Even so they will stick together and will “be buddies” till they die.

A word here about a unique form of travel these two have used. Apparently in the 50s it was possible to drop by certain travel bureaus in the big cities of America and pick up share-the-gas-cars, driving to certain destinations with other travelers. Sal and Dean have used this form of transportation frequently.

On the road again Dean reveals m ore about his alcoholic dad whom he has searched for off and on throughout the story. He talks of making and selling flyswatters in Nebraska, and watching, huddled and crying in the background, as his dad drinks up the profits in a five day binge.

Sal and Dean become so excited retelling their life stories that the car rocks. “Dean and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all innumerable riotous angelic particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our life…we know what IT is and we know TIME and we know that everything is really FINE.” I wish I knew more about IT, but I sense a breakthrough as Dean continues, watching the driver of the car

Now you just dig them in front. They have worries they’re counting the miles, they’re thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there–and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see. But they need to worry an d betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won’t be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it , which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it all flies by them and they know it and that too worries them no end.

The road is life, Sal says.

In Denver Sal and Dean argue in the men’s room over growing old and Dean leaves his dinner, steps outside and cries, he says. Sal doesn’t believe him. “You don’t die enough to cry.”

Everyone of these things I said was a knife at myself.

Everything I had ever secretly held against my brother (Kerouac’s

brother died at the age of nine.) was coming out: how ugly I was and

what filth I was discovering in the depths of my own impure

psychologies…You know I don’t have close relationships

with anybody any more–I don’t know what to do with these

things. I hold things in my hand like pieces of crap and don’t

know where to put it down.

The holy con-man began to eat. “Its not my fault! It’s not my fault!…Nothing in this lousy world is my fault, don’t you see that I don’t want it to be and it can’t be and it wont’ be.

Once again the boys link up with strangers, this time a family from Oklahoma (Okies), party, act crazy, chase women, and for a few days destroy the peace; then they must move on. In Denver Dean connects with a cousin who only wants Dean to sign papers, stating he and his dad will stay away from the family. Dean is truly alone, attached only to Sal.

At the travel bureau they pick up a 1947 Cadillac to get them to Chicago along with other passengers. Dean’s crazy driving scares everyone again and the boys in the back seat ask Sal “Is he your brother?” Sal replies, “He’s mad…and yes, he’s my brother.” The two men do seem to have become two parts of a whole they find equally untenable.

Dean relates more about his life, how he met Marylou, and his search for his dad.

As they approach Chicago, Sal recounts they had driven from Denver to Chicago with a side trip in east Colorado, 1180 miles in 17 hours, an average of 70 miles an hour. Remember this is 1949.

From Chicago to Detroit they take a bus.

In Detroit, ragged and dirty, Dean and Sal spend the night in an all night theatre, watching, listening to, dreaming of a Western that replays six times, “the strange Gray Myth of the West” an appropriate movie for these two who once thought IT was located in the West. Could we substitute Gatsby’s Green light here? Sal has one terrific nightmare in which he sees himself wrapped around a toilet bowl asleep. During the night hundreds of seamen (the time of his dream is during W.W.II come “cast their sentient debouchements” on him till he is covered. His Conclusion? “What difference does it make after all?–anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven? what’s earth? All in the min -d.”

In New York, Dean and Sal move in with Sal’s aunt who has had enough of Dean. She says “Dean can stay here a few days and after that he has to get out, do you understand me?” I should have kept track of how many women want to keep these two separated for everyone’s good. It reminds me of keeping two kids apart on the playground or in the classroom. Sal realizes the trip is over.

Incredibly five days later at a party Sal introduces Dean to Inez, and they begin the long distance calls to Camille, asking for a divorce so he can mar +ry her. The decision is made to go to Mexico to obtain the divorce because it will be quicker. A few months later Camille gives birth to a second baby, and a few months later Inez has a baby. At the end of Part III Sal tallies up. Dean has fathered four children and has “not a cent.” Needless to say, the trip to Italy is off.


Through sexual innuendo in an encounter with a homosexual, Dean becomes wise. The implication is in order to raise some money Dean confronts a homosexual (fag) in the story. (This has always been a derogatory word to me, and I believe it was in the 50s if I remember correctly–I don’t use the word myself. The only time Dean and Sal appear judgmental at all is when they meet a homosexual. Biographers mention Neal Cassady’s affair with Allen Ginsberg in between his hetero sexual affairs, and some hint at Kerouac’s homosexual encounters.) The homosexual backs off nervously apparently fearful Dean will now steal from him, but Dean comments as he has earlier in the story, “You see, man, it’s better not to bother. Offer them what they secretly want and they of course immediately become panic-stricken.” A theory I would have to test further, but it sounds like it would be true more often than not.


While Dean has been living with Camille, he has probably driven her mad. She cries and throws tantrums when Sal shows up at their door. Add this fact also. Dean has gone crazy over Marylou, following her around San Francisco watching her with other men.

Dean returns to Marylou I suppose because he still loves her, but he also wants “absolute proof that she was a whore.” Wow–Love is a dual, isn’t it, as Sal has already determined.

Under the influence of “bad tea, Dean runs to Marylou to share the stuff with her. He also takes a gun “I knew I loved her so much I wanted to kill her.” Later he gives her the gun and tells her to kill him. Their love has nearly destroyed them, and Marylou finally marries a used car dealer . But Dean carries a memento of his final days with Marylou, a badly damaged thumb he has broken when he struck her. I hate it when English majors make too much of the events in stories, turning them into heavy symbols, but the broken thumb which, poorly treated develops osteomyelitis, becomes a visible symbol of how Dean has changed. Sal says

“That thumb became the symbol of Dean’s final development.

He no longer cared about anything (as before) but now he also cared v

about everything in principle; that is to say, it was all the same to him

and he belonged to the world and there was nothing he could do about it.

Dean, I think, finally must pay a consequence for his actions and suffers from a wound just like anyone else.

Dean returns to Camille and goes to work at Firestone, but Camille throws both of the men out.

This is the moment Sal comes to realize that "all these women were spending months of loneliness and womanliness together, chatting about the madness of the men.” Hmmm, is Sal beginning to think about the feelings of others? I wonder.

Sal finds the woman he loves agai n after Dean has driven the car into the ditch on his way to Chicago. She is a young girl, standing in a field , watching her father pull the car out with a tractor. Sal calls her is “prairie angel “I’d give up everything and throw myself on her mercy and if she didn’t want me I’d just as simply go and throw myself off the edge of the world.” He doesn’t even speak to her.

East versus West

Interest in getting to either coast seems blunted now. The cross country trips seem to be more duty than desire. Sal even tries Denver, thinking that is the place for him. Chicago and Detroit are also major stops on the road. Middle America exerts its influence.

Youthful Exuberance

Remember it’s 1949. Sal is 27; Dean is about four years younger. Yet youth is over for these two. They are sti ll irresponsible in the eyes of the women they meet and love, but they are changing; Sal wants to settle down now; Dean has even married and found a job.

The Beat Generation

The drug use continues. Dean gets hold of some “bad green –green, uncured marijuana” and smokes too much of it. The first day he lies rigid, not moving or speaking, looking straight up. He hears buzzing, sees technicolor visions and feels wonderful.

EVERYTHING I’d ever done or known or read or

heard of or conjecture came back to me and rearranged

itself in my mind in a brand-new logical way and because

I could think of nothing else in the interior concerns of holding

and catering to the amazement and gratitude I felt, I kept saying,

‘yes, yes, yes.’” “I had understood everything by then, my

whole life was decided.”

It’s after the third day of this that he takes the gun to Marylou’s and threatens to kill her, then asks her to kill him. I don’t know about you, but I will stick to martinis.

Jazz continues to play in the background as Dean and Sal listen to “a wild tenorman bawling horn.” “Blow, man blow!” Dean cries. Jazz club patrons drink wine-spodiodi, and now I know the drink is a layer of port wine, whiskey, and port wine. Sorry I missed that. Everyone rocks and roars. They actually hear George Shearing play in Chicago.


Sal has never been judgmental. He would have benefited from good judgment. In Denver he accepts and longs to be a N egro, “feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night.” Or maybe a “Denver Mexican or even a poor overworked Jap, anything but what I was so drearily, a ‘white man’ disillusioned. All my life I’d had white ambitions; that was why I’d abandoned a good woman like Terry in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Sal walks the streets of Denver, wishing he could find Dean and Maylou. He watches a softball game and wishes he had been able to play with such abandon. He had felt no joy when he played sports in school. Now it was too late. The people he hears, talking on the porches, know nothing of “white sorrows.”

But Dean is becoming “the Idiot, the Imbecile, the Saint of the lot,” int eresting, conflicting descriptions as he and Sal spend their last two days in San Francisco. He is now called the “HOLY GOOF,” and I am reminded of the fool in Shakespeare’s plays although I never thought of Shakespeare’s fools as being so self-destructive. When Dean is silent at a party, he frightens everyone, but Sal describes him as BEAT the root, the soul of Beatific….we’d made up our minds about time …Bitterness, recriminations, advice, morality, sadness–everything was behind him, and ahead of him was the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being.” Since I’m not quite there yet, I’m not certain I fully understand how to get from one existence to the next.

Galatea wishes him dead. Sal counters “Very well then,…but now he’s alone and I’’ll bet you want to know what he does next and that’s because he’s got the secret that we’re all busting to find and it’s splitting his head wide open and if he goes mad don’t worry, it won’t be our fault but the fault of God.” Another friend who thinks he knows Dean better than anybody, says “All Dean was, was just a very interesting and even amusing con-man.”

But just about the time one thinks it ‘s time to commit Dean, he continues with his soul–which I think is wrapped up in a fast car, a coast to reach, and a woman at the end of the road–calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened.”

Enlightenment from direct, intuitive insights

Zen Buddhism?

On his way to San Francisco one more time he sees “God in the sky in the form of huge gold sun burning clouds above the d xesert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, ‘Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.” Other references to the influence of Buddhism are noted in previous sections.


I have to add something here. Does it bother anyone else that white folks see minorities, especially Blacks, as somehow happier than we are because they don’t have as many problems as we have? That’s how Sal views other races. That’s exactly how lots of Southerners saw Blacks during the Jim Crow days. As though working for low wages, living in poor housing with little or no medical care, lack of education and general opportunity to succeed didn’t produce problems. The kindest comment I can make about Sal’s wishing to be something other than white is how naive and how ego-centric.


If anything I think the sentences and paragraphs are longer in Part III, but I also think the expr ession is getting sharper; Kerouac’s voice is stronger.

Conclusion to Part III

Part III ends with the Dean and Sal pledging their everlasting friendship primarily because they really only have each other. Dean has fathered children whom he does not support and seldom sees. About to travel to Mexico to get a divorce from Camille, Dean is now living with Inez, but knowing him, one wonders how long that will last.

Both men have nearly broken through to “the path,” eschewing daily worries about clean clothes, gas money, food, but I still don’t think the masters would approve of the way these guys live, do you?

Diane McCormick