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Comparison between "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

serena mazzone

on 17 June 2015

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Transcript of Journey

A Journey on the Road
The Road (2006)
The Road
is set in a

We are not in the past (previous McCarthy's works) but in the future

Post-apocalyptic future (probably after a nuclear catastrophe)

Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island on July 20, 1933.
His original name was Charles but he changed it into Cormac after the Irish king.

He grew up in Tennessee and started publishing his first stories after university.

His first novel,
The Orchard Keeper
was published in 1965.

He traveled throughout Europe but decided to settle in Texas.

In 2005
No Country for Old Men
was released, which was adapted into an award-winning film by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Dust jacket photo form The Crossing 1994
Photo Credit Marion Ettlinger
used by permission
Dean Moriarty: lives for "kicks", moments of intense pleasure and experience.
He is free from any restraints.
He represents the type of person during post-war who tried to fill the void and replace fear living every moment with intensity and recklessness

Marylou: Dean's 15 years old wife. She is the fictionalised version of Lu-Anne Henderson, Kerouac's first wife

Carlo Marx: Allen Ginsberg

Old Bull Lee: William S. Burroughs

a man and a kid = a father and his son

What does it mean?

Why do we travel?

How do authors deal with journey in their works?
Spontaneous and episodic

expression of a thought, episode, scene ordered as the mind recalls it

unsophisticated language, "hip talk" (street language)

juxtaposition of short and long sentences
exclamations, repetitions

slang and colloquial words

Language and Style
2007 Pulitzer Prize for Literature
James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.
In a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic world a father and his son try to flee the oncoming winter and head towards the southern coast along carefully chosen roads.
They hope to avoid jackals and thieves along the way, reach a milder climate, and perhaps locate some remnants of civilization.
They have got rags to wear and the heat of their own bodies. They have to struggle to find a shelter and their only defense is a gun with only a few bullets. Before them the father pushes a shopping cart filled with blankets, cans of food and a few other things, like jars of lamp oil or gasoline. The cart is equipped with a bicycle mirror so that they will not be surprised from behind.
In this desolate world the pair struggle to stay alive and survive thanks to their instincts and to their mutual affection.
Human relationship as the only source of redemption

They are both saved by COMPASSION and EMPATHY

FAITH in human kind
Their fire within = goodness of humanity and the memory of a woman
The road is a main character
elementary and simple language

very little description involvement of the reader, he has to use his imagination

minimal: everything at the lowest terms, as bare as the world they live in

childlike style

Defined as almost a sort of stream of consciousness

Where are they going?

What is their destination?

photo from /www.travelblog.org
the south and the sea
Jack Kerouac
He was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on March 12, 1922.
His parents were French-Canadian immigrants.
He joined the United States Navy and had a short marriage when he was 20.

He attended the Columbia University in the 40's where he met the future figures of the Beat Movement: the poet Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and the writer William S. Burroughs.

In 1949 he started the production of his most successful and famous novel:
On the Road.

Photo Credit: Tom Palumbo

It was a cultural movement that spread between the 50's and the early 60's.

against oppressive prudery of their parents' generation
questioning about postwar economic boom and the consumer culture seen as destructive to the human spirit and against social equality
Art & Literature
Anti-academy and anti-establishment pretensions

against 20th century Modernists' formalism

they wanted a more EXPRESSIVE and BOLD art

Underground Music

on the road - the jazz club scene
The Beatniks
Beat (slang term = down and out, poor and exhausted) + Nik from "Sputnik"


Term created in

Main characteristics
refuse conventions (dress, cleanliness, sexual life)
push senses to the limits (drugs, alcohol)
alternative culture poetry, music, philosophy
basis for Hippie movement in the 60's
hitchhiking across the country along Route 66
The novel is about the friendship between Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty and their wanderings throughout America.
- 5 parts
- from 1947 to 1950

Some key elements to remember:
there is not a real, central plot
theme of the journey: escape from the past, the city and reality
uneasiness and desire to keep going
Sal Paradise, the narrator is the alter ego of Jack Kerouac
Dean Moriarty, a fictionalised Neal Cassady, is idolised by Sal for his exuberance and passion
living day by day
poster of the movie released in 2012
Sal and Dean's road map

Characters in the novel do not always have a precise destination in mind but they are driven by the need to keep going.

ambition for progress

They find nothing at the end of their journey

“But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or a say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” (Chapter 1, Page 5).
Route 66
It is a famous American highway that once connected Chicago to Los Angeles. It was 4,000 km long and crossed many towns, deserts, rivers.
It was opened in 1926 and was used by many families who left their houses in search of a better life.
In the 50s and the 60s was the symbol of the spirit of movement and excitement. during the years it was improved and modified and its endpoint became Santa Monica. It was removed from the national highway system in 1985 .
Nowadays some places belonging to this famous road can still be seen.
it takes to a real destination
it is the means to explore aspects of ourselves
it gives hope for a better future

"Do you remember that little boy, Papa? Yes. I remember him. Do you think that he's all right that little boy? Oh yes. I think he's all right. Do you think he was lost? No, I don't think he was lost. I think he's all right. But who will find the little boy? Goodness will find the little boy. it always has. It will again." (The Road, pag.139)
"He woke in the night and lay listening. he couldn't remember where he was. the thought made him smile. Where are we? he said. What is it, Papa? Nothing. We're okay. Go to sleep. We're going to be okay, aren't we Papa? Yes. We are. And nothing bad is going to happen to us. That's right. Because we're carrying the fire. Yes. Because we're carrying the fire"

"Sometimes the child would ask him questions about the world that for him was not even a memory. He thought hard how to answer. There is no past. What would you like? But he stopped making things up because those things were not true either and the telling made him feel bad. the child had his own fantasies. how things would be in the south. Other children. He tried to keep a rein on this but his heart was not in it. whose would be? No lists of things to be done. the day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. Al things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you. [...] When he got back the boy was awake. I'm sorry, he said. It's okay. Go to sleep. I wish I was with my mom. He didn't answer. [...] After a while he said: You mean you wish that you were dead. Yes".
"He could remember everything of her save her scent. Seated in a theatre with her beside leaning forward listening to the music. [...] She held his hand in her lap and he could feel the tops of her stockings through the thin stuff of her summer dress. Freeze this frame. Now call down your dark and your cold and be damned"
“Yes, and it wasn’t only because I was a writer and needed new experiences that I wanted to know Dean more, and because my life hanging around the campus had reached the completion of its cycle and was stultified, but because, some how, in spite of our difference in character, he reminded me of some long-lost brother; the sight of his suffering bony face with the long sideburns and his straining muscular sweating neck made me remember my boyhood in those dye-dumps and swim-holes and riversides of Paterson and the Passaic. His dirty workclothes clung to him so gracefully, as though you couldn’t buy a better fit from a custom tailor but only earn it from the Natural Tailor of Natural Joy, as Dean had, in his stresses. And in his excited way of speaking I heard again the voices of old companions and brothers under the bridge, among the motorcycles, along the wash-lined neighborhood and drowsy doorsteps of afternoon where boys played guitars while their older brothers worked in the mills. All my other current friends were “intellectuals”—Chad the Nietzschean anthropologist, Carlo Marx and his nutty surrealist low-voiced serious staring talk, Old Bull Lee and his critical anti-everything drawl—or else they were slinking criminals like Elmer Hassel, with that hip sneer; Jane Lee the same, sprawled on the Oriental cover of her couch, sniffing at the New Yorker. But Dean’s intelligence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, without the tedious intellectualness. And his “criminality” was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea-saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). Besides, all my New York friends were in the negative, nightmare position of putting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or psychoanalytical reasons, but Dean just raced in society, eager for bread and love; he didn’t care one way or the other, “so long’s I can get that lil ole gal with that lil sumpin down there tween her legs, boy,” and “so long’s we can eat, son, y’ear me? I’m hungry, I’m starving, let’s eat right now!”—and off we’d rush to eat, whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, “It is your portion under the sun.”
A western kinsman of the sun, Dean. Although my aunt warned me that he would get me in trouble, I could hear a new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young age; and a little bit of trouble or even Dean’s eventual rejection of me as a buddy, putting me down, as he would later, on starving sidewalks and sickbeds—what did it matter? I was a young writer and I wanted to take off.
Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.”

It is a boundary line that needs to be explored even if it leads nowhere
"It is because I am Beat, that is, I believe in beatitude and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son to it...Who knows, but that the universe is not one vast sea of compassion actually, the veritable holy honey, beneath all this show of personality and cruelty?"
"The Beat Generation, that was a vision that we had, John Clellon Holmes and I, and Allen Ginsberg in an even wilder way, in the late Forties, of a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way—a vision gleaned from the way we had heard the word "beat" spoken on street corners on Times Square and in the Village, in other cities in the downtown city night of postwar America—beat, meaning down and out but full of intense conviction"
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