Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Worshipping the New

Dean Moriarty is a wonder to behold. For Sal Paradise, he is an inspiration for intelligence, lifestyle, and most importantly for travel. Dean is inexplicable and unlike anyone that Sal has ever met. In fact, he is unlike anyone most people in the story have ever met. Though continuously interesting, Dean does not prove himself to be particularly likable. He is unreliable, difficult to talk over, and always on the move. Despite this, Dean fascinates Sal beyond all logical reason. As a friend, Dean always falls short. He is, however, an endless source of novelty and excitement. Since Sal can never get close enough to know him, he does not tire of him.

Part of what appeals to Sal most about travel is the promise of new things. He smells new scents on the fresh, sweet air. He meets new women to fall in and out of lust and love with. He gets drunk at different bars with different people. As he moves across the country, nothing is constant. When he does stay somewhere long enough to feel acclimated, he is quickly overwhelmed with confusion about what he is even doing so far from home in the first place. Instead of this feeling driving him back east, he is propelled to his next destination. The search of newness is what drives Sal forward.

Sal can’t seem to tolerate anything that just sit still, especially when Dean is involved.  In describing his friends, Sal says”…I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the 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…” (Kerouac 6). For Sal, the only things worth any of his time are those things that can constantly offer something novel and fascinating for him. His near worship of Dean, therefore, stems from his inability to ever truly know him. I found his fascination with Dean almost beyond my understanding at first. Of all of his friends, Dean surely offers the least counsel, attention, and affection for Sal. On more than one occasion Sal mentions that despite all the time that he and Dean had spent supposedly traveling together, they had not sat to talk the entire time. Why, then, would Sal continue to seek his company? From Sal’s point of view, Dean is an inexplicable source of excitement and entertainment. Shrouded in mystery and the unknown, Dean is offers to Sal a future that is anything but dull.

In my attempt to understand Sal’s worship of Dean I was reminded of my own experience at Tunbridge Charter School. One of the reasons I love going there so much is the excitement that all the kids have to see me once a week. I expected this because it is the way of children to get excited about people my general age, but I am still taken somewhat aback when one or two children with whom I have never specifically sat and talked with will come up to hug me as I leave and regret that I come only once a week. To them, I have realized, I am something new. I am exciting because they don’t see me every day and I don’t represent the repetition of their daily lessons the way their teacher does. It is not that I am actually any more interesting a person than the teacher they see every day is, but I am something different. Although I am not dedicated to their well-being like their teacher is, I am a break from the mundane just as Dean is for Sal.

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