Traveling has always been one of the most pleasurable and at the same time educational past times people always love doing. Going to different places enables people to learn new things by meeting people of different languages, of different cultures, and by going to places with different environments, history and traditions. Traveling can also be considered as one of the most insightful activities people can ever practice. It opens traveler’s perspectives and points of view to a wider view of things based from the various cultures and traditions he see in his adventures.
A lot of travelers also prefer to document their voyages, so as to capture their learnings and well as the memories they wish to keep with them. Over the years, travelers’ notes and tales have become popular subject matters and topics in literature as well as in different art forms such as film and music. These works usually create a dynamic and holistic perspective of a place as well as the culture, history and values embedded in its roots. In literature, one of the most renowned author that have already worked on this kind of work is Nathaniel Hawthorne.
His work, Notes of Travel discloses his memories and learnings while having his adventure around the culturally rich country, Italy. For this discussion, this work by Hawthorne shall be viewed in the goal of understanding the history and the culture on where the context of this work was based. Also, this discussion shall try to identify and describe the dynamic setting and way of life in Italy through the eyes and observations of Nathaniel Hawthorne. This discussion shall also how well this work relates and connects to the other works of the author.
And lastly, this discussion shall also compare and contrast this work from some of the the author’s other works. Notes of Travel: A Picture of Italy Basically, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Notes of Travel is a collection of memories the author put together which enables readers to go back to the author’s footsteps in the country, smell the air he once breathed in, walk the path he once walked on to, see the sights he once saw and appreciate the beauty of this country he once explored.
This work appears more like a comprehensive travel diary as it describes the entire adventure in intricate detail, so fine that the reader will easily form a picture of the placed inside his or her head. In the introductory part of the Hawthorne’s documentation of his journey, he already describes how engaging the the environment in Italy was. The first object he was able to observe was the preserved settings of historic landmarks in the distinct areas in the country. Hawthorne notes,
“The most noteworthy object was the remains of an old castle, near the water-side; the square, gray, weed-grown, weird keep of which shows some modern chimney-pots above its battlements […] The English characteristically patch new things into old things in this manner, materially, legally constitutionally, morally” (Hawthorne 1-2) From this passage, it can be noted how the author described everything he saw in intricate detail. This was one of the most notable characteristics of Hawthorne as an author. However, it does not end there. What appears more notable is his ability to submerge reader’s minds and imaginations
From this point on, Hawthorn leads the readers into a closer and more intimate look of the country. One of Hawthorne’s most favorite features in his travels is the act of meeting various kinds of people. Although Italy may not really appear like a very large country, it is actually divided into 20 dynamic regions (Killinger 3). This division did not really help in creating a solid and a common identity in people’s values, traditions and way of life. Hence, traveling all over the country would seem like traveling to different places at the same time are the division also created considerable differences of each regions’ culture and setting.
According to Killinger (2005), Italians are naturally industrious people. *Gondolier Venice (Killinger 6) Just what is shown in the photograph above, Italians have always been observed as some of the most hardworking and humble people in the world. Italian cities like Verona and Veneto have been very significant in the country for these are deemed as the economic leaders of the nation (5). As per Hawthorne’s work, the author appears to agree with this observation. The author’s apparent amazement and high regard to the hard works and dedication of Italians to their craft became one of the most observable of the author’s observations.
Aside from the people’s industry, the author also frequently mentions their positive and happy dispositions. Based on the author’s recount of his travel, it will appear like the Italians are some of the world’s happiest and worry-free people. Hawthorne would see them as people with hopes and positive attitudes about life. However aside from these attitudes, the most significant observation the author makes about Italians is their connection to religion and history. Religion is one of the most powerful influences within the Italian society.
As what has been depicted in this work, Italy is basically denominated by the Roman Catholic religion. The author found it understandable that Italians are generally religious and spiritual since they are practically near some of the holiest places in the world, Rome and Vatican. Just like how he was able to describe the flamboyant and florid architectural designs of buildings, Hawthorne also did not fail to mention how apparent the influence of religion was in Italy’s environment and in people’s way of life.
Considering that religion is one of the most important aspects in the lives of Italians, Hawthorne found it logical to stop by some religious monuments and churches. The influence of the Catholic Church’s primness has been very apparent in the author’s description. Most of the infrastructures were evidently influenced by religion and these monuments and structures have long served as people’s reminders of how important the church is to their lives. *Rome Trastevere, (liveworldtours) The photograph above is the famous Italian destination, the Rome Trastevere.
These kinds of infrastructures – that hold images of saint-like creatures and the apparent representation of Jesus Christ – have been frequently mentioned in Hawthorne’s work. These depictions show how large and implicative the influence of the Roman Catholicism has been to the society’s setting and more significantly, to the people’s lives. And just like Hawthorne, Nickles (2001) also thought that the church has brought a lot of significant impacts on people’s lives. He even thought that the church has become an extension of people’s lives. Nickles notes, “The Roman Catholic Church plays a large part in people’s lives.
People ask their priest for advice on personal issues. They visit shrines across the country. The shrines are devoted to Jesus, Mary, and different saints. Some people go simply to worship, but others who are sick visit in hope that they will be cured” (Nickles 8). The same observation was done by Hawthorne. The author emphasized on the fact that Italy has been enclosed by several conservative Catholic institutions. On his daily walks along Italian streets, his expectation of seeing infrastructures and objects with Catholic influences never failed him. Italy is known for remarkable architecture and art.
And because of people’s dedication to religion, Roman Catholicism has also been apparent in their buildings and art works. This was supported by Killinger who also looked at the Religious aspect of the Italian culture and history. He notes, “Because its churches maintain a commanding presence in every city and village in the peninsula, it might be assumed that Roman Catholicism dominates Italian culture. While that influence is substantial, and while an overwhelming majority of Italians consider themselves to be Catholics, Italian culture is much more secular and diverse than outward appearances might suggest.
In part, this diversity derives from two largely secular, historical forces that converged with the Christian tradition to shape Italian Culture: The Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance” (Killinger 41). Some bridges were filled with life-size statues of saints, and these have always served as attractions for tourists. Aside from this, the Roman art influences have also been apparent on dome structures such as churches and museum. Inside buildings, artworks depicting saints in their most heroic scenes can also be observed.
Hawthorne would even say it was like walking through the height if Roman Catholicism during the 15th century. Every influence of the religion was preserved to the extent of making them look like they were there for the first time; that not several decades have passed. Below is an evident manifestation of this influence which has also been mentioned in Hawthorne’s description of city bridges in Italy. *Ponte Vittorio Emanuela II. (“Rome Pictures”, Bugbog. com) The photograph above shows a sophisticated bridge with evident influences of Roman architectures and Catholic imageries.
The bridge was also made up of short arches and pillars that are evidently influenced by the Roman art. And apart from this, the imageries of saints appear to be the most evident influence of Roman Catholicism in this infrastructure. This observation was also shared by Nickles as he notes about the common impressions of tourists when seeing these structures along the cities of Itaky and the Vatican. He writes, “Worshipers and other visitors marvel at the Vatican’s beautiful, historic buildings. Many were designed by Italy’s most famous architects.
The Vatican houses one of the world’s largest art collections. Thousands of pieces, from ancient Egyptian and Roman works to those of artists from the last few centuries, are found there” (Nickles 10). Hawthorne took note of his daily walks around the towns of Italy and he would also see religious rites and traditions being practiced everywhere that easily captured his attention and interest. These rites and traditions make it clear that people in Italy are one of the most compliant people when it comes to religion.
Hawthorne was amazed by how dedicated people were to one religion which obviously has kept them united over the years. But apart from this, one of the most remarkable features in Italy is the ability of the people to preserve their history and ancient tradition as well. Hawthorne walks through the streets and marvels at the sights that give him an idea of what Italy was like years before. A lot of ancient infrastructure and art was preserved well that they were still able to reflect the dynamic and colorful history the country went through over the past centuries.
Hawthorne notes that Italy can be considered to have one of the most amazing and richest cultures in the world. The country’s passion for art and culture has been very apparent, and Hawthorne was easily brought to a thought that this has been going on since the earliest times of Italy under the Roman Empire. And just like Hawthorne, Nickles also supported this observation. The author notes, “Italy has one of the richest cultures in the world. The history, arts, customs and beliefs of its people stretch back to ancient times.
Since before the Roman Empire, which ruled Italy 2, 000 years ago, powerful leaders have encouraged painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, and other artists to create masterpieces” (Nickels 4) In Hawthorne’s travel notes, he mentions historic places that seemed like they did not passed the centuries. The sculptures were as marvelous as they were when they were still new. Below is the photograph of a famous sculpture in Italy found in the Capitoline Museums. *The Capitoline Museum, Palazzo Conservatori Entrance (“The Capitoline Museums”, Buogbog. com)
It is sculptures like this that make Italy’s history easier and more interesting to study. Hawthorne admits that History can always be one of the most tiresome subject matters; however, the history and art of Italy seem to make this topic quite more stimulating and engaging to explore. The traces of the Roman civilization was said to be apparent in every structure and tradition that people practice. For the author, it would seem like looking through the past of Italy even though his feet were situated at present times. The Context of Hawthorne’s Work
Based on the author’s manner of presentation of the specific features of the Italian culture and history, it would easily be assumed that the author has a particular leaning and interest in art and history. Hawthorne’s descriptions and explanations of the most important highlights in Italy reveal a deep interest and passion for history and culture. The author spoke in intricate details, and each structure and tradition was presented as vivid as picture to the reader’s eyes which apparently reflects the author’s attentiveness to such features.
A lot of critics have already noted that Hawthorne has been deeply affected by the materialistic view of the Puritan times. This was one of the reasons why the author preferred emphasizing on natural and immaterial treasures such as culture, history and tradition. During his generation, not so many readers were actually interested in studying and exploring history as much as he wanted them to do so; hence, he found his own initiative to advocate history and culture by setting his own feet to travel, taking notes of his experiences and learning, and share them to people.
Furthermore, although a lot of people found this effort very unlikely of Hawthorne as he was previously observed to delve more on literature and poetry, a lot of critics claimed that he was actually made for works like this as his words on culture and history sounded credible, appropriate and effective. And despite the shifts and transitions in genre and literary style, Hawthorne was nevertheless seen to stand by his own perspectives in writing as what can be observed in this work and what has been observed by a lot of other critics.
“For more than a century, despite the changes in perspective and methodology, the verdict on Hawthorne’s stature has remained virtually constant. The critical consensus continues to be that Hawthorne was a shrewd and larger-minded writer who read widely and pondered deeply about the human condition and American identity from Puritan times to his own. Though afflicted by self-doubt and constrained by a materialistic society that did not adequately reward serious artists, he created texts whose power, profundity, and artistry command our attention” (“Nathaniel Hawthorne [1804-1864]”)
This critical recognition with all the past receptions of Hawthorne and Hawthorne’s work show that, he basically wrote under the needs of his time. He saw the need for learning of history and culture; hence, he wrote under that necessity. Comparison with the Author’s Other Works Hawthorne was basically known for his poetry. This was the basic reason why a lot of critics was surprised when he ventured on writing travel logs like this and works on history and culture. However, as it appears, this kind of work is not actually away from Hawthorne’s literary expertise.
He has already worked on several novels with similar emphasis on history and culture such as Notes of Travel of his tour in England. Much like this work, this novel also presents –in intricate detail – the dynamic culture and history of the cities in England. In several ways, Hawthorne’s objective in this work also appears similar with his objectives in his other works which is to promote a deeper and a more passionate attitude towards one’s own culture and history. And though he was well known for poetry, he was nonetheless able to associate his interest in history and culture in most of his works such as in Scarlett Letter.
Generally, this work provides a comprehensive and an informational material in learning all about the Italian society. Apparently, this work was completed under the context of Hawthorne’s generation that evidently posted a need for learning history and culture. And evidently this work also appears like Hawthorne’s look at the past through the more critical eye of the present. Works Cited Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Notes of Travel V4. Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2008 Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Notes of Travel. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009 Killinger, Charles L. Culture and Customs in Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005 Nickles, Greg. Italy: The Culture.
Crabtree Publishing Company, 2001 Photograph “Gondolier Venice”. Culture and Customs in Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005 Photograph “Ponte Vittorio Emanuela”. Rome Pictures Bugbog. com. Internet. 05 May 2010. <http://www. bugbog. com/gallery/rome_pictures/rome_pictures. html>. Photograph “Rome Trastevere”. “Rome Pictures” Rome. Live World Tours. Internet. 05 May 2010. <http://www. liveworldtours. com/rome/details. html>. Photograph “The Capitoline Museum, Palazzo Conservatori Entrance”. The Capitoline Museums. Bugbog. com. Internet. 05 May 2010. <http://www. bugbog. com/gallery/rome_pictures/rome_pictures_15. html>.