Quotes from ‘On the Road’

My favourite quotes from On The Road  By Jack Kerouac.

On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across America.
Like most legends, the story of the whirlwind composition of On the Road is part fact and part fiction. Kerouac did, in fact, write the novel on a single scroll in three weeks, but he had also spent several years making notes in preparation for this literary outburst. Kerouac termed this style of writing “spontaneous prose” and compared it to the improvisation of his beloved jazz musicians. Revision, he believed, was akin to lying and detracted from the ability of prose to capture the truth.

Quotes

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk–real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

“Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life”

“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven.”

“This is the night, what it does to you, I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

“It made me think that everything was about to arrive–the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever.”

“we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”

“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.”

“the car was swaying as Dean and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all innumerable riotous angelic particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our lives”

“we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

“the sight of his uneaten food made me sadder than anything in years. I shouldn’t have said that…he likes to eat so much…He’s never left his food like this…”

“‘Nothing in this lousy world is my fault, don’t you see that? I don’t want it to be and it can’t be and it won’t be.'”

“‘He’s mad,’ I said, ‘and yes, he’s my brother.'”

“‘Oh a girl like that scares me,’ I said. ‘I’d give up everything and throw myself on her mercy and if she didn’t want me I’d just as simply go and throw myself off the edge of the world.”

“It was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then suddenly continue with his soul–which I think is wrapped up in a fast car, a coast to reach, and a woman at the end of the road–calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened.”

“Her great dark eyes surveyed me with emptiness and a kind of chagrin that reached generations and generations in her blood from not having done what wascrying to be done–whatever it was, and everybody knows what it was. ‘What do you want out of life?’ I wanted to wring it out of her. She didn’t have the slightestidea what she wanted.”

“‘What is he aching to do? What are we all aching to do? What do we want?’ She didn’t know. She yawned. She was sleepy. It was too much. Nobody could tell. Nobody would ever tell. It was all over. She was eighteen and most lovely and lost.”

“All the cigarette butts, the bottles, the matchbooks, the come and the gone were swept up in this pile. Had they taken me with it, Dean would never have seen me again. He would have had to roam the entire United States and look in every garbage pail from coast to coast before he found me embryonically convulated among the rubbishes of my life, his life, and the life of everybody concerned and not concerned. What would I have said to him from my rubbish womb? ‘Don’t bother me, man, I’m happy where I am. You lost me one night in Detroit in  August nineteen forty-nine. What right have you to come and disturb my reverie in thispukish can?'”

“anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven?what’s earth? All in the mind.”

“‘What’s your road, man?–holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road,any road. It’s anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?’ We nodded inthe rain.”

“and you know that it doesn’t matter and we know time–how to slow it up and walk and dig and just old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know.’ We sighed in the rain.”

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actualnight, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance.”

“Suddenly he bent to his life and walked quickly out of sight. I gaped into the bleakness of my own days. I had an awful long way to go too.”

“‘Howd’y’do. My name is Dean Moriarty. Yes, I remember you well. Is everything all right? Well, well. Look at the lovely cake. Oh, can I have some? Just me?Miserable me?’ Ed’s sister said yes. ‘Oh, how wonderful. People are so nice. Cakes and pretty things set out on a table and all for the sake of wonderful little joys and delights. Hmm, ah, yes, excellent, splendid, harrumph, egad!'”

“He had no idea of the impression he was making and cared less. People were now beginning to look at Dean with maternal and paternal affection glowing in their faces. He was finally an Angel, as I always knew he would become”

“I had finally found the castle where the great snake of the world was about to rise up.”

“Here were the three of us–Dean looking for his father, mine dead, Stan fleeing from his old one, and going off into the night together.”

“Here we were, heading for unknown southern lands, and barely three miles out of hometown, poor old hometown of childhood, a strange feverish exotic bug rose from secret corruptions and sent fear into our hearts.”

“We passed Walsenburg; suddenly we passed Trinidad, where Chad King was somewhere off the road in front of a campfire with perhaps a handful of anthropologists and as of yore he too was telling his life story and never dreamed we were passing at that exact moment on the highway, headed for Mexico, telling our own stories. O sad American night!”

“On the horizon was the moon. She fattened, she grew huge and rusty, she mellowed and rolled, till the morning star contended and dews began to blow in our windows–and still we rolled.”

“‘Yes I heard what she said, I certainly damn well did, oh me, oh my, I don’t know what to do I’m so excited and sweetened in this morning world. We’ve finally got to heaven. It couldn’t be cooler, it couldn’t be grander, it couldn’t be anything .”

“As essential as rocks in the desert are they in the desert of ‘history.’ And theyknew this when we passed, ostensibly self-important moneybag Americans on a lark in their land; they knew who was the father and who was the son of antique life on earth, and made no comment.”

“Life was dense, dark, ancient.”

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down   river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land thatrolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West coast, and all 

that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

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