Dean and Sal, scaring the people they are sharing a ride with, talk non- stop in the backseat about childhood thoughts they had in common, and Dean talks more about being a child with his drunk bum father. Sometimes Dean would cry for days when his father was on a binge. Sal and Dean are scornful of the other people in the car, a thin gay man and a couple, who waste their time worrying, planning and being afraid. At night, the man hits on Dean unsuccessfully; Dean tries and fails to get money from him. But he does let Dean drive for a while. Dean speeds crazily, frightening the others further. When they arrive in Denver, they drop Sal and Dean off with great relief.

At a restaurant, Dean makes a comment about Sal being older and Sal, exhausted, snaps at him irritably. Dean walks out, leaving his food untouched. After he comes back, he tells Sal that he was crying. Sal almost can't believe it, and then feels awful. Dean says it's okay, and they go to stay with an "Okie" family, friends of Sal's from his last visit. Dean becomes the most excited Sal has ever seen him at the prospect of meeting one of his cousins, whom Dean was close to as a child. The cousin answers Dean's questions about the past, but says that he is only meeting him to ask Dean to sign papers saying that he and his father will have nothing to do with the family anymore. After, Sal is sympathetic and reassures Dean that he, Sal, believes in him even if no one else does. Then they go to a carnival, and Dean is attracted to a beautiful midget girl but doesn't have the nerve to talk to her.

Dean gets in trouble with the neighbors for pursuing their pretty daughter. Sal calms them down, but the mother threatens to shoot Dean if he comes back. Dean argues with the family they are living with, and Sal gets in trouble with the cousin of his "woman friend" who thinks he is using her for money and food. At a bar, Dean goes crazy when a man hits on him, runs out and starts stealing cars one after another. Finally, in the morning, everything a mess, Dean realizes that the last car he stole and wrecked was a detective's car, and he and Sal flee on foot immediately, taking a taxi to a travel bureau. There, a man wants someone to drive his Cadillac to Chicago; Dean leaps at the chance.

That afternoon, he drives around town and makes love to a waitress he just met--she promises to come to New York. They leave with their passengers--two boys going to religious school--and immediately Dean breaks the speedometer, going over 110 miles an hour. Though Sal cautions him when it starts raining, Dean hits a turn too fast and flips the car into a ditch. While Dean goes to the nearest farmhouse for help, one of the boys asks Sal if Dean is his brother; Sal says yes. The farmer hauls them out of the ditch with his tractor. His whole family comes to watch: the prettiest daughter is a shy "prairie angel" who Sal and Dean can't stop staring at. Then they stop at Dean's friend Ed Wall's ranch, in the middle of the dark plains. Ed is wary of Dean now, but he and his wife give them a good meal before they go on.


After Dean and Sal are dropped off with their suitcases in Denver, they don't know where they will go or how they will get there--as usual--but Sal says it doesn't matter because "the road is life." They thrive on the uncertainties that plague most people, like the other passengers in their last ride. On that ride, Dean states that worry is more than a waste of time: it's a "betrayal" of time. This expresses Dean's general philosophy of life, for which Sal admires him so much; it is a philosophy of constant action and movement. With Dean, Sal feels this way too and is freed from the passive pessimism which characterizes much of his time away from Dean and the road.

Now that Sal has earned Dean's respect, they are on more equal terms, and Sal reveals more about himself in his actions. Dean too, as Sal understands him better, becomes more human and less iconic. In the restaurant, Sal snaps at Dean unreasonably, and we see Dean hurt for the first time. Sal, too, has been cruel for the first time and feels like a "beast." But he can't even believe at first that Dean was crying, saying that Dean doesn't "die enough to cry." We see that Sal is made uncomfortable by deep emotions--he isn't used to having a strong effect on people. Also, he feels weakened by having revealed an ugly side of himself. He tells Dean that he doesn't have any close relationships anymore, but also, in typical Sal fashion, maintains that nothing is his own fault. So Sal is not likely to change himself. With this revelation of the Sal's character, it is easier to understand his loneliness, restlessness and depression when he is alone--he wants to be with people, but at the same time is wary of getting close to them. This becomes even clearer later when, after seeing the "prairie angel," Sal comments that a girl like that scares him. He is afraid of falling in love, the most absolute intimacy, of having the power to hurt or the vulnerability to be hurt.

Still, knowing Dean's vulnerability makes Sal care about him even more. When Sal, after Dean is effectively disowned by his family, promises Dean that he believes in him even when nobody else does, they are creating a bond stronger than the loosening bonds of family and society. While everything else changes, passes and frays, they can believe in their friendship.


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