Role of Women in the Novel on the Road





Role of Women in the Novel on the Road

Jack Kerouack writes about the adventures of Sal and his friend Dean as they tour America on the road in different years. He writes about their lives and encounters on the road. His novel illustrates the lives that people had during the beat generation. Some of the common themes in the book are sex, love, drugs, and crime. Kerouack has included many characters in his novel. He has included several women, most of whom are either wives or girlfriends of the male characters, and others who Sal and his companions encounter on the way. The women differ in their personality and character, and they take different roles in the text.

The author includes a wide variety of women in his novel On the Road. The women have different roles. The women are not only a reflection of the society during the time, but their representation in the novel reveals what the men think about them. The women mostly represent a divergent view of American attitudes and perception. They are willing to live beyond the traditional definition of the woman as the keeper of the home. They show how much they are liberated by their willingness to be sexually adventurous, take drugs, and live independently. They are a representation of American culture and generation at the time that dared to defy the social norms.

Women act as visuals of men pleasure. In many instances, the men judge them by their looks rather than their personalities and characters. To the men, women are more of art pieces to be admired and some specific parts analyzed. They especially focus on the eyes, hair, lips, and breasts. Thus, the author takes time to describe how the women look and what he finds most appealing about them. Marylou is a pretty blonde and Dean’s beautiful chick. Camille is the brunette with beautiful creamy thighs. He describes Inez as a big sexy brunette. Terry is the cutest little girl with stuck out breasts with delicious looking flanks. Lucille is the beautiful Italian woman with honey colored hair. Such descriptions reveal men’s initial intentions when they meet women. They are not interested in women’s values when they meet them. Their focus lies on the women’s beauty and the sexual fantasies they would realize if given a chance.

In some cases, the author reveals some of the inner qualities of the female characters, which enables the reader to know them better. The author’s focus on the women’s physical beauty seems to create an obstacle to him as it prevents him from analyzing his characters in a deeper way. Thus, one is not able to know why some women end up making certain decisions or acting the way they do. However, such descriptions enable the reader to understand why the men act the way they do. The main part of their journey seems to be the ability to find beautiful women and satisfy their sexual pleasure. The men objectify the women in such a way that they can replace them easily wherever they go. Dean ends up with many lovers and he marries three women in the course of three years.

The sexual preferences and fantasies that men have for women precede their racial and ethnic mentalities. They are not overly concerned with the differences in women’s color and background. The important thing for them is that the women have the desirable qualities within them. When Dean meets the person who lent them the car to go to Chicago, he is not interested in the legal affairs and he only concentrates on the breasts of the owner’s wife. He reveals to Sal his description of a good wife. He notes that wives are supposed to be tolerant and understanding of their husbands. They are not supposed to question all their actions and motives. They are supposed to be submissive to their husbands in every way.

Men see women as some form of refuge or temporary relief in physical and sexual matters. Sal depends on his aunt when he is in New York. He lives with her when he gets out of college and she takes him in, whenever he arrives in the city from his adventures. She even helps him out financially. Dean sees Marylou as someone he can always go back to when he needs relief from his marital and love problems. He also sees some form of stability in his second wife Camille, who seems to be most tolerant of his errant ways (Kerouack 34).

Most of the women in the novel are presented as naïve, dumb, passive, and victimized. Although Sal begins by giving a positive description of Marylou in terms of her physical appearance, he proceeds to call her dumb and says that she is capable of doing very stupid things. All other women that Dean sees are submissive to his errant and immoral behaviors. They tolerate him even though he ends up making them pregnant, cheating on them, and finally abandoning them. Terry is a victim of her situation. She had to leave her husband who was mistreating her. She does not have sufficient means to earn a decent living and she still has to take care of her son. The fact that she is Mexican and poor probably denies her the chance of having a stable family with Sal. Sal admits that his whiteness and desires in life compelled him to leave Terry, who he describes as a wonderful woman.

Traditional American values regard family highly. Men and women have clear roles and responsibilities. Fathers are supposed to take care of, and provide for their families. However, this is not always the case as presented by Kerouack. Sal’s friend, Frankie, has to provide for her four children and take care of them. Her husband left her when they were traveling, and she has to be independent and strong for the sake of her family. Sal describes her children as wonderful, meaning that she has managed to raise them well. Many people in the society perceive women to be dependent on men. They expect women to get all that they need from the men. However, this is not the case with Sal’s aunt, who though not a major character in the novel, plays a major part in Sal’s life. She lives alone and sends him money when she can. This shows that she is financially dependent. She does not need any man to take care of her and to provide for her needs.

Although the author shows how much the women are liberated, he also shows the existence of long held prejudice and sexism among the men. The men expect the women to do all the household chores. This is especially the case with the wives, who are expected to take care of their homes and maintain their households. They are supposed to submit to their husbands and meet all their demands. Some women such as Marylou are not interested in maintaining such descriptions and living by such standards. She is willing to cheat on her husband with one of his friends. She is determined to move beyond the confines of lover and girlfriend, and she cheats on her husband with other men (Kerouack 45).

The women in the novel represent different characters and they play different roles. They are a representation of the society and it is hard to categorize them in one specific class. Some of the women are victims of their situation. Other women have suffered but they do not let the situations they face overwhelm them. However, most of the women in the novel are objectified and treated as sexual objects. The men treat them like pieces of art to be admired and analyzed. They use them to fulfill their sexual fantasies and desires, and then leave them as they seek new adventures.



Works Cited:

Kerouack, Jack. On the Road. New York: Viking Press, Inc., 2001. Print.


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