Quest for Self and Identity in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road

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The Quest For Identity In On The Road

In Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, the protagonists embark upon a long, arduous quest for human identity. Their aim is to uncover who they truly are, where they fit in the ‘scheme of things’ and what the meaning of life is. They articulate this desire by speaking, during the novel, of the search for ‘IT’, ‘IT’ being human identity. This ‘IT’ is an intangible thing; something that holds a different meaning for every individual. It encompasses all the things humans yearn for – life answers, the meaning of the universe, happiness, enlightenment, self-fulfilment, ‘beatification’ (as articulated by Kerouac). ‘On the Road’ is the story of a desperate search for ‘IT’, in which the protagonists finally come to realise that ‘IT’ is unattainable and time cannot be defied.

The human search for ‘IT’ is never-ending. Even when we know that the search is virtually impossible, that ‘IT’ is unreachable, that ou...

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...iences and thoughts. The novel concludes with the poignant truth humans often try to ignore – that time and aging are inexorable and that the answers to life will most probably never be known to any of us while on earth.

Works Cited:

Kerouac, Jack. On The Road. Penguin Books Limited, New York. 1955.

Honan, Simon. The Beat Generation, Allen and Unwin Publishing, New York. 1987.

Eliot, T.S. The Collected Works of TS Eliot, Eldridge Publishing Inc, Sydney.1954.

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