A very interesting and attention-grabbing book “Domestic Manners of the Americans” by Fanny Trollope can not leave even one indifferent. It reveals new and unexpected facts and startling specifics of American nature that gives a new glance over American people. Though this is not-to-the-minute book it may be found rather relevant today. It may be read for unlimited times and every time it for sure to gave some new ideas about American character and temperament, it offers better understanding and suggests reasonable explanation to deeds and behavior of American nation.
Many subjects and events from American life are touched upon in numerous chapters of this book, mocking main traits of inhabitants of the United States. Sometimes with ridiculous seriousness author describes occurrences and things she fad the chance to experience or see. For example I’d like to touch upon the chapter 20, where the author focused her attention on the state of Washington. Not even the minute fact out of the reach of the satiric eye of writer, nevertheless everything described was described with much dignity.
First of all the author tries to disperse reader’s attention depicting the brilliancy of nature and luminosity of American cities. But as for their inhabitants she is not so admirable, the writer see them as real gentlemen (for too few ladies are in the streets) occupied by strolling and looking well. “Instead of drays you see handsome carriages; and instead of the busy bustling hustle of men, shuffling on to a sale of “dry goods” or “prime broad stuffs,” you see very well-dressed personages lounging leisurely up and down Pennsylvania Avenue”.
And at first, it is nothing to do with accusation. “The total absence of all sights, sounds, or smells of commerce, adds greatly to the charm”. But their favorite recreation of all these gentleman (“… who must be presumed to be the elite of the entire body of citizens, both in respect to talent and education, it cannot fail to make Washington a more agreeable abode than any other city in the Union”), this amusement is gambling, that is really carried to a very considerable extent, however here as elsewhere within the country it is kept exceptionally out of sight.
In spite any failings on good American people we can witness the fertility of their mind and the patent office is a curious record of it. But unfortunately about one in a thousand inventions had been really brought into use. “The purity of the American character, formed and founded on the purity of the American government, was made evident by the display of all the offerings of esteem and regard which had been presented by various sovereigns to the different American ministers who had been sent to their courts”. Well, every nation has to possess anything to be proud of.
And along with this proud the writer points that not once heard the statements which represent Americans as “treacherous and false almost beyond belief in their intercourse with the unhappy Indians”. Though we do not have enough evidence for such declarations but it is “impossible for any mind of common honesty not to be revolted by the contradictions in their principles and practice”. A little bit confirmation to the last statement we may find in author’s words “Americans stand against the governments of Europe, because they favor the powerful and oppress the weak. At the same time getting forget about their attitude to the Indians.
American people are fighters for universe freedom and democracy, you may hear it discussed in every drawing-room, roared out in taverns and even from the pulpit, “listen to it, and then look at them at home; you will see them with one hand hoisting the cap of liberty, and with the other flogging their slaves”. Again we may trace the inconsistency of their nature “you will see them one hour lecturing their mob on the indefeasible rights of man, and the next driving from their homes the children of the soil, whom they have bound themselves to protect by the most solemn treaties”.
More useful and couching facts the author received visiting American debates. “The privilege of attending these debates would be more valuable could the speakers be better heard from the gallery”. It was mortifying to see marvelous hall “fitted up in so stately and sumptuous a manner” that was filled with men who were sitting in the most inappropriate manner, a large majority of them with their hats on, and nearly all of them were spitting to an excess that decorum and decency forbids one to describe it.
Though there were still left few among the crowd that were distinguished by not wearing their hats and “by sitting on their chairs like other human beings, without throwing their legs above their heads”. Orators’ eloquence extremely amused the writer and was admitted to be the hoarse like and it required literacy. In fact “if America, in her vastness, her immense natural resources, and her remote grandeur, would be less Imitative, she would be infinitely more picturesque”.
The lack of decorum wasn’t very uncommon with American ladies. It wasn’t very abnormal at Washington for a lady to take the arm of a gentleman, who was neither her husband, her father, nor her brother. All this freedoms so unusual for any decent society seem to disdain restraints of civilized world. For example visiting American theatre the author saw “one man in the pit was seized with a violent fit of vomiting, which appeared not in the least to annoy or surprise his neighbors”. What to say about strict manners in the street.
One more curious and somehow annoying universal habit of chewing tobacco of almost all male population of this country gives this remarkable peculiarity to the American countenance. As a result we perceive for how veiled and obscure the nature of a nation can be. We may also claim that numerous appalling and sometimes even shocking traits are still can be vividly marked out while speaking with modern American people. It’s amazing how much in common true Americans have with their described ancestors. The little lesson from all this that one can not judge a foreigner at once, it would be better to throw a glance at the history of his nation.