Part III: Brief Analysis
After leaving Bull Lee, Sal reflects, “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies,” (156). This quote shows the way in which Sal’s feeling of insignificance in regards to the vastness of the world feeds his hunger for experience.
The image Sal uses here of people turning into specks on the horizon helps us to understand Sal’s idea of the relationship between the individual and the world. Particularly, he calls this world “too-huge,” suggesting that Sal’s perception of himself in regards to the world is as a very small and insignificant speck in comparison to the vastness of the world. This feeling of insignificance pervades Sal throughout the journey, and is partially the reason why he is attracted to Dean’s larger-than-life approach to life. Being a part of Dean’s journey gives him a sense of significance, for with Dean he enters into an adventure that is greater than simply himself.
This involvement with Dean and also his feeling of insignificance in the vastness of the world ignites an unquenchable thirst in Sal for more. In the quote above, Sal opens with the sorrow of saying goodbye, the inconsequentiality of the individual, and the overwhelming nature of the world. He seems to dismiss these ideas with his final sentence, “But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Yet this is not a dismissal of his previous thoughts, it is precisely these thoughts and feelings that lead him to the “crazy venture,” they drive him to want experience and be significant. Hence, Sal “leans forward” into the experience, despite and also because of his insignificance. By traveling ”beneath the skies,” he realizes the vastness of the world, but does not get overwhelmed by it. He can focus on the present feeling, the present thrill, the present experience, rather than feeling smll and inconsequential. Hence, his fact-paced lifestyle has the power to conceal his true idea of insignificance.
In a way, the same thing happened when Dean first invited him to go across the country with him. At that point, Sal was living with his aunt in a sort of obscure and alone life, with a “feeling that everything was dead,” (1). Sal approaches travel from a place of insignificance, from a realization of the smallness of himself and the greatness of the world.