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Innocents Abroad - Traditions

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Especially in the part were he wants to be shaved, his reference to the barbaric side of the people is made very clear. My old, old dream of bliss vanished into thin air! [… ] I said, with withering irony, that it was sufficient to be skinned – I declined to be scalped. (Twain, 114/115) This description of the people in the Western world has a very different tone than the description of the landscape. While he generally suggests that the western part of Europe looks orderly and beautiful, in this part there is a little reference to barbaric actions as removing another person’s scalp.

Especially American people should notice this reference, because this scalping used to happen in Indian tribes. This reference to the barbaric side of the European world is in a way a justification for the lack of culture in America and stresses the sense of power and superiority of America. In the second, Eastern part of the book, the descriptions in general get a more negative and mocking tone.

In the next quote Twain describes the Turkey’s clothes and landscape. “But its attractiveness begins and ends with its picturesqueness.

From the time one starts ashore till he gets back again, he execrates it. [… ]Ashore, it was-well, it was an eternal circus. People were thicker than bees, in those narrow streets and the men were dressed in all the outrageous, outlandish, idolatrous, extravagant, thunder-and-lightning costumes that ever a tailor with the delirium tremens and seven devils could conseive of. ” (Twain, 358/359) The further Twain goes away from America and the values of the American society, the more critical his descriptions become.

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Railton even links Twain’s attitude to racial preconceptions. At this point it is important to keep in mind that most people in Turkey possessed the Islamic religion and had an Islamic lifestyle instead of the Christian religion in America. Turkey was in many ways the opposite of the American culture and belonged more to the eastern side of the world than to the western side. As I said before the East was portrayed as backward and uncivilized in the 19th century. With his description, Twain continues and expand this existing attitude.

Although, Twain suggest in his preface that he will describe Europe and the East with his own eyes instead of the eyes the people who travelled to those countries before him, with his descriptions towards the West and the East he confirms the cultural attitudes which already existed. Through his portray of the East and West he confirms the uncivilized and backwardness of the East and with his popular book he contributes further to this viewpoint. Only the western European descriptions can be seen as different from the existing cultural attitudes.

These little barbaric suggestions about western European people, provide evidence of the barbaric, backward side of European people and suggest a cultural argument for the New world to emerge. Innocents Abroad stresses a sense of power and superiority over America and justifies their emerging superpower.


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  2. Melegh, Attila. On the East-West Slope; globalization, nationalism, racism and discourses on the Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2006. Web. 27 August 2010. <http://books. google. nl/books? hl=nl&lr=&id=_pW65l5rZogC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=travel+empire+19th+century+east+west+moral+corrupt&ots=ORSmUxBz7E&sig=v3JJthG3Q67H3qnrVznazhfY8SU#v=onepage&q=corrupt&f=false> Obenzinger, Hilton. “American Palestine: Mar k Twain and the Touristic Comodification of the Holy Land. ” 117-129 <http://128. 36. 236. 77/workpaper/pdfs/MESV5-3. pdf> Railton, Stephen, “Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress. “
  3. University of Virginia Library. 1996. Web. 27 August 2010. <http://etext. lib., Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979. Twain, Mark. Innocents Abroad. San Francisco: American Publishing company, 1869. Web. 23 August 2010. <http://books. google. co. uk/books? id=XX-wAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=innocents+abroad+mark+twain&hl=nl&ei=79-GTPCCBIPBcffUuJ4I&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false>
  4. The History Place, “The U. S. Civil War 1861-1865. ” The History Place. (1996), at http://www. historyplace. com/civilwar/, accessed 27 August 2010.

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