Jack Kerouac - Reshaping the Boundaries of Freedom -Compare the main characters from On the Road and Easy Rider

Essay by kokotko May 2009

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Reshaping the Boundaries of Freedom

This paper deals with the comparison of the main characters from Jack Kerouac's On the Road and Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider as far as the similarities and differences of their aims, way of life and the period in which they live is concerned.

First of all it is suitable to dedicate a few words to the periods of the 20th century the protagonists were living in. The time span of On the Road is three years, starting in 1947, and the film Easy Rider takes place in 1969. In general or roughly said we could say that in the first few years after World War II and, of course, before the war the conformist attitude concerning the way life in the society was implemented. In other words people behaved more or less according to a pattern that had been dictated by a "higher power" (e.g.

religion, politicians, movements, tradition). The thing that each of the characters has in common is that they do not live according to the rules of their "habitat", they represent an anti-pole of the traditional, mainstream American society by rejecting its values, putting the phrase "The Land of the Free" into practice and reshaping the boundaries of freedom.

Dean's and Sal's realization of this concept is not exactly the same as Billy's and Wyatt's but it is similar, it has a similar nature: To be on the road, travelling vast distances from their present whereabouts to a spontaneously picked destination, using illicit substances, alcohol, having fun, "digging" everything and living for the moment.

The first main difference is about the decision for choosing their lifestyle. Dean attended reform school where he was not reformed at all and dashes through America like a circular collecting a vast amount of adventures. He is searching for IT, in other words the ultimate life experience. Sal is trying to find a way to get over his divorce and therefore jumps on the express Dean is riding. The ones who actually ride something are Billy and Captain America while the Beatniks use hitchhiking and driving borrowed cars as a means of transport. We know nothing about the bikers' past, we are just thrown into a period of their life and know that they want to enjoy money earned from selling cocaine and go to Mardi Gras. Here is a major contrast - the beats were not involved in drug trafficking they were doing various odd jobs to get by .

Furthermore, a similarity in the duos' personalities is evident , Dean and Billy are rather "explosive" while Wyatt and Sal are laid back and look at things from a higher perspective, Sal also proves this with a fact that he does not take "harder stuff" .

In conclusion, a major similarity, the society was not ready for any of them and they could not handle the boundaries they set for themselves - they blew it (the case of Billy and Wyat which was depicted at end of the film when the redneck's shotgun blew them away), Dean ending up like bum - only Sal realized it and decided to make his life calmer and moderate.