In Charley's Travels,

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Originally published in 1962, "Travels with Charley: In Search of America" is a travelogue written by American writer John Steinbeck. It's a travelogue about Steinbeck and his standard poodle Charley's cross-country trip across America in the year 1960. Since Steinbeck made his living writing about the United States, he felt compelled to travel across the country and get to know it better. Before setting out on his journey, he pondered many things, but the most pressing was, "What are Americans like today?" Yet much of the "new America" he saw left him with reservations.

When asked about his cross-country journey in a custom-built camper he named Rocinante (after Don Quixote's horse), Steinbeck relates the following story. His trip begins on Long Island and proceeds roughly along the United States' perimeter, taking him to Maine and the Pacific Northwest, then back down to his hometown of Salinas Valley in California, across the country to Texas and the Deep South, and finally back to Long Island and New York. An expedition of this magnitude spanned nearly 10,000 miles.

The author knew he was dying and wanted to take one last trip across the country, according to his oldest son Thom Steinbeck. Steinbeck's son says he can't believe his stepmother let his dad go on the trip given his heart condition. It would be a mistake to take this travelogue too literally, as Steinbeck was at heart a novelist," the book's new introduction warns readers in the 50th anniversary edition. "

Summary [ edit ]

Part One [ edit ]

After 20 years in New York City and travel throughout Europe, Steinbeck felt disconnected from his homeland and began the book by describing his lifelong wanderlust and his preparations to reconnect with it. Nearing the end of his career at age 58 in 1960, he still had the impression that, when writing about the American people, he "was writing of something [he] did not know about." "and to [him] this was criminal in a so-called writer" (p.  6) For the trip, he purchased a brand new GMC pickup truck that he named Rocinante and had outfitted with a personalized camper-shell. Charley, a 10-year-old French Poodle belonging to his wife, was the last-minute addition to his mental exploration companions. He had planned to leave his summer home in Sag Harbor on Long Island's eastern end after Labor Day, but Hurricane Donna, which made a direct hit on the island, delayed his departure by about two weeks. Steinbeck's account of his heroic efforts to rescue his boat in the midst of a hurricane is indicative of his fearless, even reckless, attitude and his courage in setting out on a long, arduous, and ambitious cross-country road trip on his own.

Part Two [ edit ]

Steinbeck's journey began when he took a ferry from Long Island to Connecticut, where he would begin his journey. S Many of the Navy's new nuclear-powered subs were based out of New London. As one submariner put it, subs "offer all kinds of - future." Steinbeck claimed that rapid technological and political changes were to blame for the future's unpredictability. He bemoaned the excessive trash that accumulates in American cities and society due to the "packaged" nature of virtually everything. "

Later, he spoke with a rural New Englander. They came to the conclusion that their conversation about the upcoming election between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy had been limited by a mixture of fear and uncertainty about the future. Although he noted that "if 'Teen-Age Angel' [sic] is top of the list in Maine, it is top of the list in Montana" (35), Steinbeck found that eating breakfast in roadside restaurants and listening to morning radio programs provided him with interesting insights into the lives of the people he encountered. demonstrating the pervasive influence of Top 40 radio and other forms of mass media

The journey took him up into Maine's northern territory. While traveling, he noticed that all of the "summer" stores were closed for the season. There was old "junk" for sale in antique shops, and Steinbeck admits he would have bought some of it if he'd had the space. It was at a diner on the outskirts of Bangor that he realized how much the negative outlooks of those around you can affect your own outlook on life. Next, Steinbeck traveled to Deer Isle, Maine, to see Elizabeth Otis, a friend of his literary agent who spent her summers there. Though Otis frequently spoke highly of Deer Isle, he was never able to put his finger on what exactly made it his favorite place in the world. Steinbeck needed directions to Deer Isle, so he pulled over and asked for help. He later heard from a local that asking for directions in Maine is a bad idea because natives don't like to interact with tourists and often give them misleading information. The house on Deer Isle where Steinbeck was supposed to stay was occupied by a terse female cat named George, and the lobster Steinbeck ate there was the best he had ever tasted because it had been caught that day. The following day, he drove to northern Maine, where he spent the night in a field with a crew of French-speaking migrant potato pickers from Canada, with whom he drank some French vintage wine. A clear nod to the amazing description in "The Grapes of Wrath" that made Steinbeck famous, Steinbeck's portrayal of the workers was sympathetic and even romanticized.

After visiting Niagara Falls and Buffalo in Upstate New York, Steinbeck headed west across the state to reach Chicago via the northernmost reaches of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Because Charley lacked the necessary immunizations to re-enter the United States, he changed his plans at the Canadian border in Niagara Falls and drove straight through southern Ontario instead, which would have shaved off a day of travel time to get to Detroit. He expressed his distaste for the government after his run-in with American border patrol agents. He said the government is demeaning because it doesn't believe anyone unless their claims are documented by an official. He continued his account of the ways in which the people he met along his journey's path had different perspectives and values. Language and social norms vary from state to state. For instance, he noticed a dramatic increase in population from state to state as he made his way into the Midwest. He wasn't passing through quaint New England towns, but rather massive industrial centers like Youngstown, Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, South Bend, and Gary. Roads, especially the ones that start with a S Both Route 20 and the section of Interstate 90 between Buffalo and Madison, Ohio, were widened and sped up, and they were both jammed with traffic. Moreover, the opinions of people differed depending on where he went. When he visited New England, he noticed that locals there spoke briefly and often waited for the newcomer to approach him before striking up a conversation. People in Midwestern cities, on the other hand, were friendlier and more approachable. He said that people's desire to escape their current surroundings and experience something new led them to speak openly and frankly with total strangers. They were so accustomed to their routine that any visitor sparked an interest in learning about new things and envisioning distant lands. Every time a stranger visited their state, it was as if a new chapter had begun in their lives.

Further on his journey, Steinbeck observed how rapid technological development was providing Americans with ever-increasing amounts of instant gratification, be it microwaveable soup from a vending machine or portable dwellings. Intriguing to Steinbeck, mobile homes He believed they exemplified a novel American way of life by demonstrating the belief that one should be free to relocate if they so choose. Among truckers, he discovers a secret language and a sense of camaraderie that prompts him to muse on rootedness and the merits of both going and staying. The chapter concludes with Steinbeck's arrival in Chicago to reunite with his wife. He takes Charley to the groomer and then arrives at the hotel early, only to find that his room isn't ready. Weary and disheveled, he bargains with the hotel for a room that hasn't been cleaned up after its previous occupant, "Harry," and once inside, he begins to investigate what Harry left behind, building a tenuous case against Harry based on what he finds. Steinbeck's fictionalized version of him as a business traveler who pays a woman for a night of companionship, despite the author's belief that neither party actually had much fun.

Part Three [ edit ]

Steinbeck went to North Dakota via the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. He went through U S St. Louis on Route 10 Paul on an "Evacuation Route" in preparation for a Soviet nuclear attack. A "fear-designed road," as he put it (p. 129) and it was the catalyst for one of Steinbeck's many insights into American culture: the nation was motivated by fear. At one point, by way of St. Paul, he visited Sauk Centre, the place where Sinclair Lewis was born, but was disappointed to find that the locals he spoke with at a restaurant were unfamiliar with the author.

Steinbeck had the epiphany that Americans are often ignorant of their immediate surroundings and culture when he stopped at a diner to ask for directions. Further, he lamented that modern Americans place "cleanliness first at the expense of taste" (141). Concerned that Americans had become too complacent and no longer interested in risk-taking and rebellion, two traits that made the country great, he lamented, "It looks as though the natural contentiousness of people has died" (142). Steinbeck, upon entering North Dakota, remarked that the city of Fargo had always captivated him because of its (perceived) colder winters and hotter summers than the rest of the country. His preconceived notion of Fargo was unaffected by his visit to the real Fargo, which he described as "just like any other busy American town." While traversing North Dakota, Steinbeck settled on the Missouri River as the true eastern/western boundary. Scents and sights east of the river were more typically associated with the East, while those west of the river marked the beginning of "The West." In Montana, after Steinbeck's passage through North Dakota, he proclaimed, "I am in love with Montana." He went on to say that Montana was "a place unaffected by television, a place with kind, laid-back people. "The hectic activity of America did not seem to be in Montana (158)," he writes. And so he found himself on the Little Big Horn battlefield. As he went through what was then called "Injun Country," he recalled a novelist who had written about the conflict between the Nez Perce and other Native American tribes. The two then went on a trip to Yellowstone National Park, which Steinbeck claimed "is no more representative of America than Disneyland" due to its abundance of man-made attractions. In the park, Charley's canine instincts caused him to bark like crazy at the bears he saw by the side of the road, revealing a side of himself that Steinbeck had never seen.

Their next stop was the Great Divide in the Rocky Mountains, and after that, they were on their way to Seattle. Steinbeck pondered how American explorers Lewis and Clark must have felt upon first sighting the Columbia River. Changes on the West Coast over the past two decades were highlighted (p. 180): "The unbelievable transformation didn't become clear to me until I was within driving distance of Seattle. Why does development appear to be devastation? To get to California, Steinbeck took a road trip through Oregon. Steinbeck's overloaded truck, Rocinante, got a flat tire on the way, and he had to change it in the pouring rain. It was Sunday and it was raining and it was Oregon, as Steinbeck recounted the incident: "It was obvious that the other tire might go at any minute." While the specialty tires were difficult to find, the problem was quickly solved thanks to the unexpected kindness of a gas station attendant.

After that, Steinbeck went to see the towering redwoods he had written so much about. To paraphrase what he said: "Even the most vain, slap-happy, irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect." When Charley refuses to urinate on the trees, which Steinbeck calls a "salute" for a dog, Steinbeck muses, "If I thought he did it out of spite or to make a joke, I said to myself, 'I'd kill him out of hand.' " (189) '" (193)

Steinbeck spent his childhood in the Salinas Valley in Monterey County, and he returns to the area after being away for 20 years. Amid his many observations, he singles out the increased population and technological advancements that have taken place in the Monterey area. A lot of the regulars and childhood friends he had frequented the bar with had passed away, so he went there to see his old friend Johnny Garcia. On pages 205–208, he seemingly bids farewell to his hometown forever, alluding to Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again." Fremont Peak, the highest point in what would become known as "Steinbeck Country," was where he ascended to bid farewell to the landscape from which he drew so much inspiration for his works. To escape the unchanging past where "my mother is always shooting a wildcat and my father is always burning his name with his love," I printed once more on my eyes, south, west, and north. " (208)

Part Four [ edit ]

Back on the road heading east, Steinbeck took a detour through the Mojave Desert, where he almost shot a pair of inquisitive coyotes. The desert's resilience inspired him to open a can of dog food for the coyotes. He and his wife, Elaine, traveled to Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving at a lavish cattle ranch outside of Amarillo that he referred to as an "orgy." Elaine was Steinbeck's third wife, and throughout their marriage, he wrote extensively about Texas and Texans. The Lone Star State had a "mystique closely approximating a religion" to him, and he respected and loved it despite the fact that "people either passionately love or passionately hate Texas."

After describing Steinbeck's Thanksgiving at the ranch, the author traveled to New Orleans to see the ensuing racial unrest among white mothers at the newly integrated William Frantz Elementary School in the city's Ninth Ward. He felt downcast after the encounter.

When Steinbeck finally reaches the state of Virginia, he reflects that, "in my heart, the journey was over." This trip was no longer an adventure, but rather something he had to endure until he was back in New York. Steinbeck travels through Pennsylvania and New Jersey before returning to New York, where he inevitably gets lost and needs to ask for directions. It becomes clear by the end of the story that Steinbeck uses his time spent wandering aimlessly as a metaphor for the transformation of America. The United States appears to be drifting aimlessly into an uncertain future marked by massive population shifts, racial tensions, technological and industrial change, and unprecedented environmental destruction. [2]

#1 Best Seller [ edit ]

The Viking Press released Travels With Charley around the middle of 1962[3], not long before Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in Literature. On October 21, 1962, the book debuted at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list (Non-Fiction), where it stayed for one week before being dethroned by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring on October 28. [4]

For use in creative contexts [ edit ]

One of the protagonists in Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven names his son after Robert Louis Stevenson because he thinks Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes is the greatest work of English literature. Travels with Charley was a title chosen by Steinbeck and his wife Elaine, who were themselves influenced by Stevenson. [5]

In 2010, Dutch journalist and writer Geert Mak followed in Steinbeck's footsteps, basing his journey on Steinbeck's diary entries and the book. Mak documented his experience in a book titled "Reizen zonder John" ("Travels Without John" in Dutch). The author examines the progress made in the United States since Steinbeck's time and discusses the ways in which society has changed.

Trampled by Turtles, a Bluegrass band from Minnesota, released a song in 2018 titled "Thank you, John Steinbeck." Some of the lyrics in this song make allusions to the book: "I left in a hurry, my clothes barely buttoned/ And 'Travels With Charley' tucked under my arm." "

The Beach Boys released their album Holland in 1973, which included the three-part song California Saga. I was wondering if you ever made it out to Salinas. The valley that Steinbeck discovered Indeed, he documented the situation as it actually existed. while on the road with Charley Also, have you ever taken a stroll beneath the sycamores? Former site of the farm house The monarch's fall migration concludes there. Atop a cyprus tree that has been battered by the wind

Veracity [ edit ]

There have been claims that parts of Steinbeck's story are fictitious. Reason magazine published an article by Bill Steigerwald, a former staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and associate editor for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, titled "Sorry, Charley," in 2011. Eventually, in 2012, he published a book of his own entitled Dogging Steinbeck, in which he analyzed the novel. [6][7] Steigerwald argues that Travels has little credibility as nonfiction because of how much of an imaginative leap Steinbeck made and how much he departed from the truth. [6]

The conversation he has with the traveling Shakespearean actor near Alice, North Dakota, serves as an example of his thesis. On the same day (October 12) as the supposed conversation in Alice in Wonderland, Steinbeck wrote a letter to his wife describing a motel in the Badlands where he was staying. Steigerwald reasoned that the conversation with the actor probably didn't happen because the Badlands are about 350 miles away from Alice. Although Steinbeck had Charley with him, Steigerwald disproves the notion that Steinbeck was "roughing it" on his journey in [6][11]. According to what Steigerwald had to say:

During his travels, Steinbeck rarely spent time alone. The majority (45 days) of his total 75 days away from New York City were spent in the company of his devoted wife, Elaine. On the other 17 days, he either stayed in motels, truck stops, and trailer courts, or parked his camper on the property of friends. However, Steinbeck did not experience any of these conditions In addition to spending two weeks at the Steinbeck family cottage in Pacific Grove, California, and one week at a Texas cattle ranch for millionaires, he stayed at some of the country's finest hotels, motels, and resorts while on the road with Elaine. He frequently stayed in high-end motels by himself, as he freely admits in Charley. [6]

Steinbeck's son believed his father invented much of the dialogue in the book, saying, "He just sat in his camper and wrote all that [expletive]," so Steigerwald wasn't the only one who thought Steinbeck hadn't written a completely nonfictional travelogue. "[7]

While Steinbeck scholars haven't necessarily denied Steigerwald's findings, they have questioned the significance of his methods.

English professor at San Jose State University and National Steinbeck Center scholar Susan Shillinglaw told the New York Times, "Any writer has the right to shape materials, and undoubtedly Steinbeck left things out." The book is not a lie because of this. "Whether or not Steinbeck met that actor where he says he did, he could have met such a figure at some point in his life," she said in reference to the alleged conversations. And maybe he embellished some of the stories with the waitress. Should we really care that much about this? "[7]

According to Steinbeck biographer and Travels introduction writer Jay Parini's interview with the New York Times:

I've always just assumed it's fictionalized to some extent. The author Steinbeck is using his fiction writing skills to manipulate and shape the events. Perhaps he wasn't even recording anything at all And yet, I can't help but sense the genuine article. Should I reevaluate my faith in the book in light of this? The opposite is true In this case, I'd like to give Steinbeck a round of applause. To truly capture its essence, it may be necessary to employ the methods typically associated with fiction writers. What makes this book so much more memorable than, say, Michael Harrington's The Other America, which was published around the same time? [7]

Bill Barich, author of the similarly themed Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America, explained:

Most of the book seems to be a fabrication on Steinbeck's part. There's nothing but wooden dialogue here. Steinbeck was discouraged from going because he was sad, sick, and in poor health. He was attempting to reclaim his lost sense of adventure and the chivalrous zeal of his youth. Even so, by that point, he was probably no longer capable of conducting interviews with regular folks. Due to his newfound fame, he preferred to meet with Dag Hammarskjold and Adlai Stevenson. He was probably doomed before he even hit the road, and his illness colored much of what he wrote. I do, however, take some of his remarks about the nation seriously. His observations on the decline of nationalism, the increasing homogenization of the United States, and environmental destruction were spot-on. He saw the future and knew all that would happen. [7]

When writer Geert Mak attempted to follow Steinbeck's footsteps in 2010, he ran into inconsistencies and impossibilities in Steinbeck's travel schedule. In the end, he came to the same conclusion as Steinbeck: that much of what happened was probably made up to inspire Steinbeck's musings about the country, which the Dutch writer found to be true and valuable nonetheless. citation needed(Citation required)

In his disclaimer for the 50th anniversary edition of Travels with Charley, published in 2012, Parini stated:

Take this travelogue with a grain of salt, though; Steinbeck was a novelist at heart, and he adds numerous touches typical of fiction rather than nonfiction, such as shifting the order of events and expanding on scenes and making up dialogue. Remember that Steinbeck used all the tools at his disposal as a novelist to make this travelogue into a compelling story, including embellishing the facts and making up whole scenes when necessary. All good novels and stories remain true in the same way that the book does. In other words, it offers a representation of the aesthetics of America during a particular era. Its people and places are vividly evoked, and Steinbeck's grasp of his country at this historical turning point is nothing short of extraordinary. It's the product of his long career of studying the world and perfecting his craft. [12][13]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ Published on September 13, 2006 as "Steinbeck knew he was dying," Discussion with author Thom Steinbeck, in audio format
  2. ^ There's a new name for the building: the "Steinbeck Center." Date of original publication: November 3, 2013 Retrieved 2013-11-17
  3. ^ Professor Benson, Jackson J. (1984) Chronicles of a Writer's Life: John Steinbeck Published in New York by Viking Press. pp  913 ISBN 0-670-16685-5
  4. ^ "The New York Times Top Ten List" Hawes Publishing Company Retrieved 28 August 2011
  5. ^ "Elaine provided the title Travels with Charley because both Steinbeck and Elaine admired Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey," said Pauline Pearson of the National Steinbeck Center on June 5, 1990. "Welcome to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA." Date of original publication: June 11, 2010 Retrieved 2007-03-20
  6. ^ a b c d Bill Steigerwald, "Sorry, Charley," Reason, April 2011.
  7. ^ ef="https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">"https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">" target="_blank">cite_ref-mef="https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">" target="_blank">cgrath_7-0" target="_ef="https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">"https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">" target="_blank">cite_ref-mef="https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">" target="_blank">cgrath_7-1" target="_blank">blank">a ef="https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">"https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">" target="_blank">cite_ref-mef="https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">" target="_blank">cgrath_7-1" target="_blank">b ef="https://en.wikipeef="" target="_blank">" target="_blank">c ef="" target="_blank">d e Charles McGrath, writing for the New York Times on April 3, 2011, presents "A Reality Check for Steinbeck and Charley."
  8. ^ By Bill Steigerwald (Dec. 14, 2012) Dogging Steinbeck: How I went in search of John Steinbeck's America, found my own America, and exposed the truth about 'Travels With Charley'The book's full title is Dogging Steinbeck: How I Discovered My Own America While Chasing After John Steinbeck's and Exposed the Truth About 'Travels With Charley.' Also available in print and on Kindle. The Self-Contained Publishing Environment of CreateSpace pp 280 pages ISBN 978-1481078764
  9. ^ On March 3, 2013, Bill Steigerwald was interviewed by C-SPAN for a question and answer session about his book Dogging Steinbeck. Accessible as of November 28th, 2014
  10. ^ "The Path of Travels Without Charley" Retrieved 2011-10-10
  11. ^ Name: Steigerwald, Bill Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Online, "The Next Page: The Fancism of 'Travels With Charley'" Dec. 5th, 2010 Extracted on January 2nd, 2011
  12. ^ Travels With Charley: An Introduction by Jay Parini, 50th Anniversary Edition Information retrieved on October 1st, 2013
  13. ^ Bill Steigerwald, "Travels With Charley," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 14, 2012: "now officially mostly fiction." Grabbed on October 1st, 2013

Additional Reading [ edit ]

Internet resources [ edit ]

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