Salvatore “Sal” Paradise is the narrator and the protagonist in Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road. Sal, an Italian American youth living in New Jersey with his aunt, is an uninspired writer working on a book who follows and accompanies Dean Moriarty, a young and reckless Denver vagrant, on his journeys across America and describes his trips with and without Dean in search of kicks.
On the Road is known as a semi-autobiographic story, and Kerouac admitted himself being Sal Paradise, when journalists asked him if he was Dean Moriarty, who was actually inspired by his close friend Neal Cassady. Indeed, the connections between Sal and Kerouac are significant. Kerouac, coming from a French-Canadian origin himself, created Sal as an Italian-American based on his life; while Sal lives with his aunt in New Jersey, Kerouac lived with his mother in New York.
Role in the novel
In On the Road, Sal Paradise is in his early 20s, a World War II veteran taking college classes on and off on the GI Bill. An aspiring writer, he longs for a life of passion, inspiration and "kicks". He finds those things in his friend Dean Moriarty, a free spirit who takes Sal along on various adventures. Most of the novel concerns Sal and Dean going on a road trip from New York to Los Angeles, as well as the love triangle between Sal, Dean and Dean's erstwhile girlfriend, Mary Lou.
Throughout the novel, Sal idolizes Dean as a "holy fool", but eventually drifts apart from him as he pursues a career as a writer. He last sees Dean on a street corner in New York. Following a brief, awkward conversation, they go their separate ways.
In other media
In popular culture
The first song "Stuck Between Stations" by The Hold Steady on the album Boys and Girls in America starts with the lyric, "There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise was right / Boys and Girls in America, they have such a sad time together."
Sal Paradise was the name of an indie rock band on Tooth & Nail Records in the mid-1990s, and he is mentioned in a song, "The Story of the Blues (part 2)", by singer-songwriter Pete Wylie, who sings, "The city intellectuals of the world are divorced from the folk-bodied blood of the land and are just rootless fools." (In fact the quotation is from another of Kerouac's characters, Jack Duluoz - also based on Kerouac himself - in his 1968 novel Vanity of Duluoz).
Sal appears as "Sal Paradyse" in the Crazy Wide Forever section of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier. He joins Dean Moriarty (who, in this story, is the grandson of Professor Moriarty), Mina Murray, and Allan Quatermain against Doctor Sachs.
The third track on the album The Holiday by English rock band Futures is entitled "Sal Paradise" and makes references to taking to the road and driving to L.A.
- Kerouac, J: Vanity of Duluoz, page 272. Coward-McCann, Inc., New York, 1968.
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