Good Similarities And Differences In Themes Of “On The Road” By Jack Kerouac And “Atlas Shrugged” By Ayn Rand Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature, Conflict, Society, People, Books, Women, Men, Atlas Shrugged

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/01/07


The novel “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac is one that follows the lives of two people, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they journey through America and come face to face with different cultures and people in general. Kerouac narrates this story through Sal, and it takes place supposedly between 1947 and 1950. The two characters have different personalities with Sal being more contained and from a difficult personal situation while Moriaty is livelier and a person who loves to have fun and explore new places. Sal welcomes him to his journeys in order to add some excitement to the whole venture. The novel comes out as an autobiography with Sal representing the author while Moriaty represents Neal Cassady, a friend to the author. Through their travels, the characters are in a constant challenge to authority by being involved in music, poetry, and even drug use.
On the other hand, “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand is a novel that seeks to depict the state of the United States at a time where the society’s leadership was in conflict with the industrialists. Here, the people in the country responsible for all economic ideas, the most intelligent and influential were not appeased with the kind of regulations that the country was placing upon them. The author employs a blend of intimacy, mystery and science fiction in narrating the occurrences at the said time. Rand also uses the book to introduce to the world her philosophy of objectivism that has continued to get support from different quarters. An interesting fact about Atlas Shrugged is that it continuously received negative reviews since its publication, but that has worn down over the years with people being more receptive of the author’s ideas.

Theme of conflict

Conflict as seen in “On the Road."
Differences between men and women
For starters, in the book On the Road, the first perspective of the theme of conflict involves the difference between men and women, with conflicting goals, desires and purpose in life. Kerouac chooses to give a presentation of the relationship that men and women have in a way that opens him up for criticism. From the novel, it is easy to establish that the author is trying to show the negative impact that women have on men’s lives. To this end, the women relate to men in such a way that prevents the men from fully achieving their potential or even living their lives as they are supposed to. According to the author here, the society has set up social structures that touch on the personal life and even the professional life which impede the men from finding their destiny and living on it. There is, therefore, an evident disregard of the situation of women who are also bound by the same societal structures that affect the men. The author disregards and does not show how the women are affected by such a setup. Through the actions of various characters in the novel, the price women pay to help men in their perceived journey towards self-discovery is not looked into. The women are actually victimized and seen as having a negative impact on the men.
The conflict is further shown in the kind of roles that the men and women differently play in the book. According to Sal and Moriaty, they have a noble role of going through their journey and attaining freedom. The women come in as impediments to their achievement of this kind of freedom that they desire. This therefore highlights the position and what is thought of women in the contemporary setting. Going back to the novel itself, the men journey all they want, and the women are not allowed to participate in the journeys but rather provide support in terms of shelter and food for the men. Apart from that the disposable nature of women shown by the novel in contrast to the high regard men are held is another source of conflict in the book. Here, Moriaty, for example, is said to have been married three times and each of the time she gets up and leaves the wives without any consideration of their fate. The men are seemingly ignorant of the feelings and dignity of the women that they dispose of any time throughout the book.

Marginalized people in the country

Another source of conflict in the book is the nature of treatment of the minorities in the society. Given the context of writing of the book, most people in the society were still divided racially, and the people of European descent were seen as superiors. Given the diversity of the society, therefore, various cases of racially motivated conflicts are seen in the book. According to the major characters in the book, however, this kind of marginalization had some kind of freedom attached to it. To this end, the marginalized had the freedom to operate within their own set of standards in their culture and were not tied to the popular culture or expected to behave in given ways. Through their experiences within the marginalized societies, Sal and Moriaty are able to be involved in some activities such as their music. Through such avenues, they find freedom of expression such as in jazz clubs; a kind of freedom that is not available in their own culture. The author hence portrays the conflict between the two.
Another way through which conflict is perceived in this situation is the conditions of poverty that the people in the marginalized communities experience. In the instance where Sal stays with a group of migrant farm workers, he sees freedom in that he has few obligations as a result of the little money he makes. Unlike in the popular culture of the white people in the rest of the country, the workers here just need to feed and take care of their families. They have no further responsibility or obligations since their pockets cannot allow. The author also brings out the conflict between the two cultures since Sal has the pleasure of moving from place to place, from culture to culture not afraid of how he is going to feed. He has people and relatives who can offer him support anytime he wants. This cannot apply to the immigrant workers who have no one to fall back to and ask for help. They have to work in order to live.

Conflict as seen in “Atlas Shrugged”

The same theme of conflict is represented in Atlas Shrugged through two perspectives. The difference in its presentation here is the universality of its application since the focus shifts from individual or specific instances that Sal and Moriaty in On the Road experienced, to the nationwide portrayal of conflict. The presentation of the theme in the two books, however, has some similarity in that conflict is seen between women and men in the society and in the societal structures that have been set in the community.

Conflict in perception of Sex

The context of time that this book is written that is in the 1950s can explain the conflict that arises when it comes to sex. In the book, Rand shows the difference in people’s perception of sex, with some holding high regard to it while others view it as being shameful. In Atlas Shrugged, it is evident that the people who are striking use sex to represent their perception of their set of values. According to them, people use sex as a means of achieving individual happiness through the unification of the mind and the body of the person in question. These characters equate the lack or withholding of sex to the impediment of happiness to an individual.
The other side of the conflict is espoused by the people who have a strong sense of negativity towards sex. These people do not perceive the importance attached to sex by some of the people in the society and actually view it as a shameful act. This raises opposition from the major characters in the book such as Dagny and Francisco, who indulge in debates, discussions and speeches that defend various aspects of sex.
A conflict also arises in the set of values placed by different groups in the society. Some people in the society such as Galt and his followers were champions for liberty when it comes to sex. The rest of the society, however, is inclined towards restricting sexual activity to couples in order to emphasize on the importance of social structures such as marriage.

Conflict on the role of the Mind

One of the major points of focus in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is the role of the mind in the functioning of the society and the overall wellbeing of the people. This is an avenue through which conflict is depicted since some people see the importance of the mind as being the driving force of societal success. Other groups in the society are however not of the same view and assume that the society and the economy continue to operate irrespective of what some individuals think or do. A conflict arises when the author introduces the question of the possible results if “thinkers” such as researchers, industrialists and artists take away their mental input and achievements to the community.
The values that the thinkers and intellectuals in the book hold are another source of conflict in the society. Here, some people in the society are supportive of the notion that the society needs a set of and enforced moral code that forces people to devote their lives to helping others. The intellectuals are opposed to this and in contrast believe in individual rights and freedom in the realm of politics. The thinkers, therefore, hold the view that individuals should be left alone to rationally decide what to do therefore maintaining some form of independence. Through the strike that ensues, it is proved that the ideas that the thinkers had are true since the economy of the country is brought to its knees. The role of the mind as the driving force for prosperity and improvement of the society is clear


The theme of conflict is clearly seen in the relations that different characters in the two books have within themselves and other aspects of their societies. It is seen through the differences between men and women in the society and through the marginalized societies in America in the book, On the Road. In Atlas Shrugged, conflict is seen through different perceptions of sex and differing views on the role played by the mind in developing the society.

Works Cited

Kerouac, Jack. On the Road: The Original Scroll. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.
Maier, Barbara, and Warren A. Shibles. The Philosophy and Practice of Medicine and Bioethics: A Naturalistic-Humanistic Approach. Dordrecht: Springer, 2011. Print.
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957. Print.
Swartz, Omar. The View from on the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999. Print.
Theado, Matt. Understanding Jack Kerouac. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2000. Print.
Nathan Dickey. Book Review: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. 2011 Web 31 March 2015.

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WePapers. (2021, January, 07) Good Similarities And Differences In Themes Of “On The Road” By Jack Kerouac And “Atlas Shrugged” By Ayn Rand Essay Example. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
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Good Similarities And Differences In Themes Of “On The Road” By Jack Kerouac And “Atlas Shrugged” By Ayn Rand Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Jan 07, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2022.

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