“Now this is the first time we’ve been alone and in a position to talk for years,” Dean said. And he talked all night.
Along the drive from New York city back to Sal’s brother’s place in Virginia, Dean’s thoughts stream by like the highway itself. He elaborates about God, Nietzsche, Sal's fear of driving, Lucille and her troubles, life in America, and the nature of life itself. “Troubles, you see is the generalization-word for what God exists in.”
Sal notices that Dean uses the word “pure” a lot and decides that his friend has become a mystic.
As I continue to read On The Road, I keep trying to identify what makes the book iconic, and also what made it sort of ahead of its time when it was published in the mid-1950s. In this section, I think it is the sort of pointless rambling in the car as well as in life that was perhaps unusual. I do not know that the car had ever been portrayed in literature as a place that cocoons you, gives you solitude or privacy as well as transport, and above all inspires confidences. Perhaps at the time the car had not yet assumed such a central position in American life, either.
Nowadays I think we take this for granted, and have all experienced the sensation of having this little ellipsis in life that a road trip, either short or long, inspires. But the idea of tearing up and down the eastern seaboard of the US at a high rate of speed discussing God, women, and life was I think quite novel at the time.
In our family the prototypical moment came when my sister was driving my six-year-old niece along Highway 2 between Kingston and Gananoque in a freezing rain storm and just as they had to pass over a narrow, treacherous frozen bridge, my niece chose that moment to inquire as to how gay men have sex. She had to wait for her answer…
I have been lucky enough to take several great road trips with Frank and with my sister, and while the level of discourse may not be quite on a par with Sal and Dean, I have enjoyed it and learned from it. But my next goal is to take an extended trip by myself. Something I have never done.