Have you ever wondered what it might be like to just aimlessly wander the country, enjoying the journey instead of worrying about the destination? If so, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road might be the perfect book for you.
Many people say that this is a book that changes their whole view on life. That’s because it shows a view and a life that’s outside of the mainstream, and it serves as one of the most-read, best-known books of the Beat Generation.
Whether you’re analyzing On the Road because of an assignment or of own your choosing, you’re in luck. It’s interesting and different from a lot of other fiction you might see in class.
Just because it’s different and fun doesn’t mean you can slack on the analysis, though. If that’s the part that’s tripping you up, I’ve got a few tips on how to make your Jack Kerouac On the Road essay awesome.
Be an Active Reader
Sure, there are some books that you just want to read over and over again. On the Road may even become one of them.
But if you’re reading it so you can write an analysis essay, you don’t have the luxury of time. When you’re on a deadline, it pays to make the first read-through count.
There are many ways to be an active reader—you just have to find the method or methods that work best for you.
Active reading means that you pay attention to the details so that you can recall them better later. Here are just a few methods to get you started.
Annotate and/or take notes
Annotating and/or taking notes while you read is a great way to isolate information so that you can see it easily.
Annotations can be written in the margins of the book, so you easily know exactly which pages the information was found on. If the margins don’t leave you as much room as you need, you can use sticky notes. This also helps you see which pages are flagged without having to flip through every page.
Taking notes is basically the same as annotating, except it’s done separately on paper or on a computer.
If this is your preferred method, just be sure to notate which page the information came from to ensure you can cite your sources easily when you write your Jack Kerouac On the Road essay.
Color coding your information helps you determine which parts of the text refer to symbolism, characterization, setting, or any other literary devices you notice and want to write about in your essay.
There are two simple methods for color-coding your information: multi-colored sticky notes and highlighters.
Sticky notes have the advantage of allowing you to write information about the literary device you’re pointing out directly on the note. But many students prefer highlighting because it’s quicker.
Play around with these methods or use more than one at a time to find the technique that suits you best. The method you choose should make it easy to pull information for your essay without having to do too much re-reading.
Outline Your Jack Kerouac On the Road Essay
While Sal Paradise may have been able to get along on the road without any real plan, the same cannot be said of your essay. The process of writing is a great journey, but for that journey to result in a clear, cohesive essay, you’ll need a roadmap, otherwise known as an outline.
Your outline can be as detailed as you want it to be. Remember, the more details you put into your outline now, the less work you’ll have to do for your essay later.
Here’s an example:
- Thesis statement: Dean Moriarty is a complex hero in On the Road, playing both good and evil. Dean’s obsession with time and young girls, as well as his restless behavior, shows how free-spiritedness and recklessness are two sides of the same coin.
- Obsession with time
- Compares musicians who know time (keep a good beat) to God
- Attaches a pocketwatch to his coat
- Always concerned with time/how long it takes to get things done
- Obsession with young girls
- Can symbolize obsession with youth
- Dean’s travels are a way for him to chase youth/run from aging
- Restless behavior
- Never satisfied in one place
- Leaves friends with little to no warning
During the outlining process for your Jack Kerouac On the Road essay, you should put a lot of thought into your thesis statement. That’s because the thesis statement tells the reader what your essay is about.
If you go straight from the hook into the body of the essay, or if you don’t have a clear thesis statement, your reader may get confused about the point of your writing.
Some Ideas to Get Your Jack Kerouac On the Road Essay Started
Now that you have the basics down on how to get the most useful information out of Kerouac’s On the Road, and how to organize the information to write a more cohesive essay, let’s get into some content ideas.
There are many things you can analyze about the book, but you should typically concentrate on just one literary device. This way, you can really analyze it in detail instead of spreading yourself too thin by focusing on too much at once.
Below are some ideas to get you started. Use the explanations and thesis statement examples to inspire your own Jack Kerouac On the Road essay.
Analyze one of the characters
Character analysis is usually a good option because characters typically appear throughout the book and have a lot of traits you can write about.
Take Dean Moriarty, for example. Dean is fascinating, not just to Sal but to the reader. You never know what to expect from him, and Sal is quick to point out his contradictory characteristics. He’s called both a devil and God, a saint and a conman.
There are several symbols and allusions when it comes to Dean as well. His last name refers to the antagonist in Sherlock Holmes, which is contradictory to his status as the hero/protagonist of On the Road. This represents Dean’s self-opposing nature.
Dean is also attracted to young girls, which, I admit, is pretty creepy. But the girls can also serve as a symbol for youth itself. Dean’s lust for youth can explain why he is never content to stay in one place—he’s trying to hold onto a youthful life.
A thesis statement about Dean Moriarty could look like this:
Dean Moriarty is a complex hero in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, playing both good and evil. Dean’s obsession with time and young girls, as well as his restless behavior, shows how free-spiritedness and recklessness are two sides of the same coin.
Discuss the symbolism
There are a few important symbols you can write about in your Jack Kerouac On the Road essay. One major symbol is the Cadillac. This is an American-made car and one that, for many people, signifies wealth and status.
In On the Road, the car represents the American Dream. And what do the characters do with this American Dream car? They destroy it.
Dean and Sal are part of the Beat culture, which rebelled against mainstream ideas about wealth and status. They wanted to live fast and die young. So they drove fast and demolished the car.
A possible thesis statement in this case might look like this:
Because it is an American-made status symbol, the Cadillac in On the Road represents the American Dream, and Dean’s destruction of it represents the Beat culture’s rebellion against that traditional dream.
Talk about the (many) settings
Sal spends a lot of time traveling, which means there is a lot to talk about in terms of the setting. These places, in Sal’s mind, represent different moods and characteristics.
Starting with Sal’s home base in New York… Sal sees this as a place of both intellectuals and criminals. Either way, New York depresses him. Intellectual banter, while stimulating at times, doesn’t bring him any excitement. He decides the West is where it’s at.
Dean is from Denver, and to Sal, Dean is the bee’s knees. He’s smart without being an intellectual, and he’s exciting and full of life, just like the West.
Sal heads west, eventually making it all the way to California, only to find that the places he thought would bring him joy don’t do the trick. Sal wants what he doesn’t have, but by the end of the book, the reader can see that it’s more about the journey than any single destination.
Here’s an example thesis statement with setting in mind:
Each setting in On the Road takes on significant traits that directly reflect Sal’s perspectives on life and the people who influence it, from the intellectual stiffness of the East Coast to the wild and free-spirited nature of the West.
Whether you’re reading Kerouac’s On the Road for the first time or the fiftieth, you can usually pick out something new. Writing an analytical essay helps you look at the book from a new angle—and show your instructor you know the material.
If you need more inspiration, check out these Jack Kerouac On the Road essay examples:
- The Importance of Friendship in On the Road
- The Nonconformist Lifestyle of the Beat Generation in On the Road
- Diversity and the Idea of Adventure in On the Road
- An Analysis of Dean and Sal in On the Road
And as always, if you need help making your essay truly great, the Kibin editors are here to help. They check your grammar and spelling, but also make suggestions on how to improve your support, thesis statement, or anything else that could be changed for the better.
So now it’s time to start your journey to a fantastic grade.