A Critique of 'Travels With Charley'
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A Critique of 'Travels With Charley'

How accurate is Douglas Dowland's criticism of Travels With Charley?

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A Critique of 'Travels With Charley'
https://pixabay.com/photos/book-reading-book-reading-read-1149031/

Douglas Dowland argues that Steinbeck makes assumptions about America with the mindset that his limited experience represents the country as a whole though his book Travels With Charley. He is correct in saying that Steinbeck makes assumptions, but Steinbeck clearly states that the truths which he presents are relative to his own journey. He establishes that each traveler's journey is unique, thus concrete and collective conclusions cannot be made from an individual's experience.

Steinbeck travels for personal reasons—to explore America and satisfy his own curiosity. He discusses the effects that traveling has on his mind, like how he gradually became incapable of enjoying or appreciating his journey. Thus, his critiques are often personal and not an attack on America as a whole. Steinbeck writes, "I had seen so little of the whole...but I saw enough and felt enough to believe war was no stranger. So here—a little episode, a few people, but the breath of fear was everywhere." Evidently, Steinbeck repeatedly states that he understands how little he has seen and experienced. He does not attempt to make judgements about America based on the fraction of it that he has seen—he simply states his observations.

Additionally, rather than harshly voicing his discontent as Dowland claims, Steinbeck instead uses the negativity that he has witnessed on his journey to help him lead a better life. After experiencing the violence toward the Negro population in New Orleans, he proceeds to be more mindful and considerate of them. He effuses his newfound appreciation by offering rides to assist Negroes. Furthermore, he does not tolerate others' maltreatment of Negroes. When faced with another's racism and negativity, Steinbeck replies, "I want to get rid of you. Get out." Therefore, Steinbeck uses his travels to better his life and to isolate himself from hatred. Dowland has misinterpreted Steinbeck's intentions. While discussing violence in America, Steinbeck actually evokes the positive impact such negativity can have; it can be an inspiration to act kindly and to practice different virtues than the residents of New Orleans.

Finally, on page 273, Steinbeck blatantly disproves Dowland by writing, "I've told only what a few people said to me and what I saw. I don't know whether they were typical or whether any conclusion can be drawn." Steinbeck recognizes the opportunity for misinterpretation of his work and is warning against it. Nonetheless, Dowland still accuses Steinbeck of being judgmental, even after Steinbeck's numerous reminders that the truths he presents pertain strictly to

his personal experience on his journey. Travels With Charley is a harmless (and rather well-written and informative) narrative about the effects of travel on the mind—it is not an attack on America.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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