The Quest For Identity In On The Road

Essay by mele_timberlakeUniversity, Bachelor'sA, January 2005

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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-fulfillment, 'beatification' (as articulated by Kerouac). 'On the Road' is the story of a desperate search for 'IT', in which the protagonists finally come to realize 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 our longing will never be satisfied, we go on looking.

Some people search for 'IT' through purchasing innumerable material items, some follow a religion, some turn to music, art and literature, and some frantically travel the world, longing to experience that something that will define and enlighten them.

Throughout history, musicians, artists, writers, actors, scientists and other prominent individuals have been deeply absorbed with the human desire to locate 'IT'. Many have concluded that without 'IT', life is empty and futile - some even going so far as to suggest that 'IT' is non-existent and therefore life is meaningless. "The worlds revolve like ancient women, gathering fuel from vacant lots" (Eliot 1954:24). Throughout 'On the Road', the protagonist, Sal Paradise, and his friends, refuse to accept this notion, driven by the belief that 'IT' does exist, and that they...