In the 19th century tourism became available for a broad market and travel writing became a consumer literary artefact. The popular bestseller Innocents Abroad by the American writer Mark Twain (1869) is one of the landmarks in this development of travel writing. Innocents Abroad describes Twain’s five month Tour to Europe and the Holy Land in a satiric, comic burlesque way. He shows his readers ‘the real’ Europe and East. That is, the Europe and East the readers would see if they looked at this part of the world with their own eyes instead of the eyes of the people who had travelled to those countries before (Twain, 5).
In three years he sold an increasing number of copies and his satiric look became very influential in American culture (Railton). In this paper I will analyse the excising attitudes towards Europe and the East and the attitudes that emerge from Twain’s account. Mark Twain’s book is clearly a product of his time. Innocents Abroad is a report of the Grand Tour Twain joined in 1867 and was published in 1869. The American writer wrote travel letters for a San Francisco newspaper as part of the “very first large-scale tourist excursion cruise” just after the Civil War (1861 – 1865) (Obenzinger, 119).
While America in that time still contended with the aftermath of the war, they became a rising industrialized country and the aspirations to travel grew. In this time, also known as the Gilded Age, the United States had very strong growth in the economy and population. Because of the second industrial revolution the American manufacturing industry surpassed Britain and they developed as an international superpower. In short, this was the development of America as the New World (The History place).
Although this was the start of America becoming an international superpower, most American people felt inferior to the ancient culture of Old Europe. They weren’t that long independent from England and it was widely believed that the US lacked upon the traditions and culture which could be found in ancient Europe (Gerster). However, their attitudes against the Eastern part of the world were totally different. In his book Orientalism, Edward Said explains how the West in the 19th century portrays the East as backward, passive, feminine and uncivilized.
These cultural attitudes show how the American looked at Europe and the East at the time Mark Twain wrote Innocents Abroad. The cultural attitudes which emerged from Twain’s book will be explained in the next part. As a traveller from the New World to the Old, Twain is doing his duty by gazing at the great side of Europe and proceeds to the Holy Land, which is the main goal of the pilgrimage (Obenzinger, 119). Everywhere he goes he finds things to mock and to admire, but the tone of his descriptions can be split in two parts; the western Christian part and the eastern non-Christian part.
The western Christian part of the tour contains European countries as France, Spain and Italy. A typical example of the way Twain describes this western part is the next quote of his arrival in France: “WE have come five hundred miles by rail through the heart of France. What a bewitching land it is! What a garden! Surely the leagues of bright green lawns are swept and brushed and watered every day and their grasses trimmed by the barber. [… ] There is no dirt, no decay, no rubbish anywhere — nothing that even hints at untidiness — nothing that ever suggests neglect.
All is orderly and beautiful — every thing is charming to the eye” (Twain, 105). Twain portrays the France landscape here from an extremely idyllic side and it almost seems like a fairytale. Even though he also finds things to mock, in general his description is in a positive note. This should not be a big surprise, because the west European culture has a lot in common with the American culture. They share the Christian religion and are both part of the western side of the world. However, between all the prettiness in the France landscape, there are some little turns in the way Twain describes the foreign people.