“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 they 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 say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the starts and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” (6)”
The quote above has always been one of my favorite quotes. However, it wasn’t until this class that I actually applied it to Sal’s life within the novel. Throughout the work, Jack Kerouac’s protagonist is fascinated with travel because he’s not comfortable with who he is and his own life experiences. Throughout Part 1, Sal observes everyone else’s behaviors and desires to learn about every one else’s stories. He’d rather focus on individuals like Dean’s madness, then writing his own story. At the beginning of the novel, Sal is only focused on getting to Denver because he believes everyone else is already there and he is missing something. The character doesn’t yet realize that his individual journey can flood his own life with “madness.”
As we see within the long descriptive sentences and paragraphs, Sal is attempting to write everything down. He’s trying to get the most of every place he goes to, and every person he encounters. However, it is not until his hardship adds up that he becomes vulnerable and begins to realize the affect travel can have on him. When Sal cannot get a room at the Y, he stops at some random and dirty hotel by the train tracks. After sleeping all day, he wakes up unsure of where he is and who he is. Sal writes, “I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was- I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen…I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost” (15). It is not until this moment of Sal’s journey that always for self-reflection. Rather than writing the details down, Sal focuses on how traveling has affected him within.
As Sal continues to face more obstacles along his journey, the use of long descriptive sentences and paragraphs begins to diminish. Rather than exaggerating every detail and trying to get it all written down, Sal finds value in the experience. Once he has opened his eyes and looks deeper at the people and places he’s encountering, Sal recognizes that individuals experience life the same no matter where they are from. The largest reality check Sal undergoes is his trip to Mill City where he experiences Remi’s struggle. As Remi and Sal steal groceries to get food, Sal sees that life can be hard all over. And when Sal has had enough, he decides the East is calling him home.
As Kerouac’s protagonist travels home to New York, he has evolved into a more mature and knowledgeable adult. The mad people and places he once wanted to experience, like Dean and Denver, aren’t all that different from him. For so long, Sal focused more on others than he did on himself. However, once he hit the road, Sal began to learn himself. Kerouac’s use of Sal’s journey in Part 1 is to show us we call all be mad. Like Sal, once we begin to learn ourselves, we all can burn like yellow roman candles and explode like spiders across the sky.