Degradation of Women in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road

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The Degradation of Women in On The Road

An argument can be made that the women in Jack Kerouac's On The Road are not as characteristically well developed as the men. Through Sal and Dean's interactions with women, the reader sees that there exist two types of females in this novel - the benevolent virgin/mother figure or the whore. Women are constantly referred to in a negative way or blatantly degraded and insulted by numerous characters. However, Kerouac (through the character of Sal) exhibits sympathy for women. Sal does occasionally participate in female stereotyping, but this is simply because he wants to fit in. Although Sal may try to make arguments against the poor treatment of women, the novel in its entirety seems to reinforce male domination. "On the Road endorses the belief that women exist as either a virgin or a whore and Sal's character is not strong enough to offset this belief"(Bartlett 135).

Although women are portrayed negatively in the novel, they do play a key role in many ways. Dean always needs to have a woman around to make his experiences more "real." As a result, women in general are often degraded. Marylou, for example, is constantly talked about but never talked to. She is not socially valuable enough to engage in conversation. When Dean tries to persuade Sal to sleep with Marylou, the dialogue is between Sal and Dean. Marylou doesn't have one line. All she really has is a little "go ahead". That is all and that really does not even imply cooperation; only coercion like "go ahead and You do Your thing to me". Dean is flippantly wanting...

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