Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism: The Tide of a Great Popular Movement

Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism: The Tide of a Great Popular Movement

Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism: The Tide of a Great Popular Movement

Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism: The Tide of a Great Popular Movement

Synopsis

This illuminating study is a reevaluation of an often-overlooked aspect of Mark Twain's writings--his travel narratives--and demonstrates their centrality to his identity and thinking.

Excerpt

In Following the Equator, his last travel book, Mark Twain shares an anecdote about an “elderly lady and her son” who, because of a series of mishaps, have traveled well beyond their original itinerary, getting further from home all the while. “Think of it,” he writes, “a projected excursion of five hundred miles gradually enlarged, without any elaborate degree of intention, to a possible twenty-four thousand” (58). This short sketch serves as an appropriate symbol for Twain’s touring and travel-writing endeavors. in embarking on his own travel-book career with The Innocents Abroad, Twain inadvertently stepped into a world of travel writing that would carry him around the globe for the next thirty years, a beloved wandering “innocent.” Furthermore, it would allow him to become an author of unparalleled success, all “without any elaborate degree of intention” —at least in the beginning. This extended “excursion” would prove fortunate for Twain and for millions of readers who have traveled with him.

To view Mark Twain as a split, often conflicted personality is a popular approach to examining the man and his literary achievement. Although it may prove distracting or even tiresome to some readers, this approach remains helpful in ongoing efforts to understand his craft. Many readers have used this premise as a springboard, citing the dualities represented by the nom de plume itself—Samuel L. Clemens versus “Mark Twain”—but readers have also recognized the identity conflicts between the genteel writer and the wild humorist, the liberal humanist and the racist, among others. I am not interested in elaborating on any of those already formidable discussions, for as Twain stated in the preface to The Innocents Abroad, “other books do . . .

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