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Map from On The Road

The Map Jack Kerouac Drew For 'On the Road'


‘On the Road’, one of the most iconic modern novels, will never be the same to the readers that get the chance to see the map its author drew and the other plans that were created as a result.

The literary critic Morris Dickstein once said that On the Road was more important as a myth or as a cultural marker than it was as a novel. When it was published in 1957 it unexpectedly helped the young and emerging culture that was consumed by the charm of authenticity and the aversion of social norms. Undoubtedly many of the novel’s readers have attempted to map the travels of Kerouac and Cassady, or perhaps those of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, over the American landscape, as many have surely done with The Dharma Bums. On the Road is, after all, more than a mere book about a journey, it is a mythological journey.

And the map does exist, and it was drawn by the author himself. It was found in one of his journals and it traces the route of the hitchhiking journey made from July to October of 1948. The map is in its own right a beautiful piece. Each dot marks a place and the map is traversed by lines that go back and forth, creating a tail-less whale whose belly is full of literature.

Kerouac Map

For those who want a more accurate representation of Kerouac’s narrative, Michael J. Hess drew a more detailed map. It offers passages that were taken from the novel and which describe the places where the characters stopped, stayed or merely mentioned, such Sal Lake City, the “city of sprinklers”. The charm of this map is its geographic poetic of the places that flowered below the feet of Paradise and Moriarty and which knit together the beat mythology of On the Road. On the other hand, there are also four interactive maps created by Dennis Masker. Each one of them depicts parts of the novel and makes a list of the most important vehicles of the time, for example the Hudson 1949 and the Ford Sedan from 1937.

The zealousness used to trace the trajectory of fictional characters is a subject that is profoundly related to the search for a meaning. A map is not merely an image; it is the unlocking of formulas and meanings that lie here and there, among loose ideas that we didn’t know where previously connected. A map is a metaphor and reading books and their corresponding maps is embarking on a journey.

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