I started reading this book with unusually great expectations. Not only that I had heard very goods comments about it, but it is also the most recognizable novel of the Beat generation, and I have found remarkable genius in each of their works I have read. In the first few pages, we find out, that the main character is a writer who will look for an overman. It can’t be more promising.
Sal considers Dean Moriarty to be precisely and overman and immediately suggests that he has a remarkable unusualness. The critical reader, however, needs to check for himself whether Dean really is an overman. In the beginning, Dean is shown in a very few scenes and has very few lines. He still can’t be given an appraisal, as it is not clear how deep he is. The only thing that is obvious is that he is very free. Free in a way very few people have ever managed to be. The other characters do not remain in the story for a long time; each one shines in his scene and then gives his place to the next one. Sal is still an observer, rather than a propelling power for the action. Dean, on the other hand, remains hidden from the main plotline, meanwhile the reader’s interest to get to know him and the desire to rush together with him on the hillsides of insanity grow and make him read page after page. The sixth chapter ends with the question “Where was Dean?” which makes you repeat with Sal “Yes, where is Dean?”.
Finally, in part two, Dean begins to participate in the book. I wouldn’t say I like everything he does and says but that doesn’t matter. What matters is whether his acts and words belong to an overman. This question becomes more and more interesting.
What we learn about Dean is that he is mad. Life is burning inside him. For him, the road is an endless home, which allows him to reach his true self, but at the same time connects him to the whole world. His inexhaustible energy is inspiring, inaction would be impossible to exist around him. He dashes into every day and every night with uncontrollable enthusiasm and readiness for new experiences. His curiosity makes him be among people and to want to learn everything about them. The story of each stranger interests him and looks meaningful to him. For him, everything that is happening around the world is a part of life and the only variable is the intensity of the events. What’s compelling in Dean is his furious and irresistible impulse to life and his wild passion for the rocky peaks of freedom.
In the whole book, the meanings of words such as love, marriage, relationship, etc. combine and differ in a very interesting way. Sal experiences a very acceptable relationship in California. Terry and he feel very clearly when they have to get together and when they have to go apart. Between these two moments, they manage to take everything from their relationship, so despite being short, it leaved a trace in their souls. The two of them are happy but in this reality their life is always doomed to happen “mañana”. Sal cannot afford that, he has to live every second of the present to the full.
Dean, on the other hand, is incapable of connecting to another person with whom he has romantic and/or sexual relatioships. He is one of those people, whose only true lover will forever be life. Dean needs women but not a woman. He can achieve a meaningful intellectual-emotional relationship only with someone like Carlo Marx.
Dean easily makes decisions about marriage and divorce. He doesn’t look for security, stability or guaranteed boredom for life in marriage. He looks for a supreme devotion in each of his relationships with another human being. He doesn’t grant to marriage and to divorce more importance than the minimal one they have. Neither one is crucial in his world. He has found a way to distort the relationships to freedom.
The things may look different for Camille and Marylou. They are madly in love with Dean but he destroys their lives. However, anyone who has even averagely good judgment of people should know that Dean Moriarty will not do anything else but destroy your life. The question is are you going to pay this price in order to walk the road of freedom together with him. If you are ready to bind your life to someone like Dean, you should be aware that he isn’t a good person with problems, but he is egoistic, irresponsible and, because of searching much deeper relationships than the usual ones, completely ruthless. You have to be ready to connect to a monster in order to reach the angel of freedom.
Dean’s relationship with Marylou is much more interesting than the one with Camille. He and Camille have two children, but he takes Marylou on the road, which suggests that he respects her more. Marylou understands better what kind of person Dean is and doesn’t become hysteric because of his actions. She even manages to be more or less a worthy opponent. Dean feels towards her the closes thing to love he is capable of.
Sal is the next character who decides to bind his life to the one of Dean Moriarty. He knows the many sides of Dean. Besides, he is ready to sacrifice his whole being just for one supreme experience. He should get a chance for this with Dean. The scene looks fateful, on the top of one of San Francisco’s hills, and it looks like God himself is a witness and the decision is irreversible.
Soon, the two of them are on the road again. The road is a central topic in the whole novel. America comes in front of the characters and the readers very real, very palpable through its magnificent landscapes and the many-sidedness of its children on its endless roads. Travelling is a symbol of change and growth. The more you learn about the world around you, the more you learn about the world within you. Throughout the book the road and the destination fuse further and further, their borders disappear and the reader wonders if the characters travel to reach their destinations or do they pick distant destinations in order to travel. This is their way to move forward, to deny inaction, to run with the speed of change, to madly chase the future. Travelling in the name of travelling.
Jazz is the other thing that very precisely reflects their souls. Music is a drug for them. Each dose is a reason for searching the next one. It turns them into a lightning circle of desire to find new melodies, new themes, new curves. It transforms into a means for merging the reality and the worlds in their own minds. The whole universe transforms into indistinguishable spots of sound, people and ideas. Emotions go on the surface and receive bright electric colors.
The physical reality, however, has darker nuances. The life of Dean goes on in the way one expects it to go : it presents him with challenges. The amputation of a part of his thumb and all his other health problems are the first real hardships for him. The way he gets over them will tell a lot about him. In San Francisco, the child of freedom Dean Moriarty spends his days taking care of his kid and cleaning his house. This is a challenge for his spirit.
With time, most of Dean’s friends go against him. They feel the expected spite towards what they are incapable of grasping. Also, once the years of frivolous wandering are behind them, they start to look for the security of home and marriage and Dean’s freedom becomes inconvenient for them. Women fear him, because he has a destructing influence on their husbands, which makes them leave the hearths searching for old ghosts and unlived apparitions. But that’s not all. Objectively, Dean breaks all moral rules. His friends think that he is an egoist, a freeloader and that he disrespects everyone he doesn’t need. And they are completely right. The true description of Dean is a ruthless bastard. But they choose to judge this only in its bad aspect. People are always willing to forgive boredom and mediocrity of the common person. But they never forgive the cruelty of the free person. Sal is the only one who defends Dean. But we shouldn’t forget that he has not been in big trouble because of Dean so far. This is very likely to happen, as it happens to everyone who has been around Dean for a long time.
In part four, when Mexico becomes the climax of all their journeys, we expect a climax in Dean’s personality as well. We don’t find one though. I don’t blame him for leaving Sal as his illness and therefore Sal himself limited his freedom which is Dean’s whole self. However, he doesn’t overcome himself at any point. Despite everything that happens to him, he doesn’t change much. But in true life, the peaks are constantly getting higher and staying at the same place for too long means going downwards.
Dean Moriarty is not an overman. He is just very remarkable. I didn’t think that someone who is that free can be not an overman. But in Dean’s case, this freedom is limited to himself only. He is inspiring, but apart from this, he doesn’t contribute to the spiritual development of any of his friends. He lives the world, but does not change it. And behind him, he leaves only unfinished stories, pointless pain and unreasonable expectations. In the last chapter, the reader watches him go with concern that the world of his own soul will turn out to be too small for him.